A Christmas Guest

By Anne Perry

This novella redeems Charlotte’s venomous, spiteful, and thoroughly unlikable grandmother. In Half Moon Street we learned her terrible secret of abuse by her late husband which has colored her relationships through the years. Unfortunately, to my memory, she does not make an appearance in later books after the metamorphosis she experiences here. I hope that in future books we do see some more of her and how her change of heart affects those around her.

Anne Perry has keen insight into dark psychology, but some times she makes too great leaps in cause and effect. Her sentences and paragraphs are sometimes convoluted and hard to decipher. Luckily this is sporadic, and usually with a few rereadings one can usually follow what she was trying to convey. Now on to the next Christmas story! % stars out of 5**

May26, 2016

Stitches in Time

by Barbara Michaels

***Many Spoilers throughout****
While listening to this audio version of an old favorite, I remembered the plot vividly since my first reading which was probably decades ago. Rachel is finishing up her doctoral dissertation when she is drawn in to helping out at a vintage clothing shop – and is perhaps possessed by the spirit of a long-dead woman whose unparalleled skill at quilting conceals a darker history.

I closed Stitches in Time contemplating what I had finished and thought, “That was a great book.” I had remembered it being my least favorite of the so-called Georgetown Trilogy, from my first, and, I think, only read more than 2 decades ago. I remembered being surprised and dismayed at Kara’s personality change and less than blissful marriage with Mark after the seemingly happy ending of Shattered Silk. But upon this reread, I thought it added depth and character development, especially since they seemed to be back in love and in good humor at the end.

I’m a little disconcerted by all the hate for Rachel and Kara in some of the other reviews. Some readers seem to ignore the fact that Rachel is being negatively influenced by the quilt through almost 90% of the book. At first I was confused by what was happening, so smoothly integrated are the times when Rachel is being influenced by the entity from the past. The grip gets stronger and stronger, until we both fear for our heroine, but also fear what she is up to. When all is made clear and resolved, shouldn’t the reader like and be sympathetic to her? She even admits, towards the end, that she has been sulky and immature with her mother,which was a separate issue from the quilt. And Kara. She is very abrasive at the beginning. But I think she senses that something is wrong and is reacting accordingly. I too was disappointed by her attitude towards her husband Mark at the beginning, but all is well at the end, and she comes through with flying colors once Rachel and she confide in each other and become comrades in arms. I loved the development of their relationship and the insights we get into her personality. It made for one of Michael’s most satisfying and fully developed endings. (Sometimes her books end with just a hope and hint for the future and leave one wishing for an epilogue or at least one or two more pages.) I was also amazed and satisfied by the final reveal and the explanation for the whole mystery.

A word about Adam. Maybe I am forgetting some beloved appealing heroes, but Adam has got to be my favorite love interest in all of Barbara Michaels/Elizabeth Peters. Maybe in one of my Top ten of all authors. What a beautifully described and realized character. I always love an unconventional hero, and Adam is the ultimate. And I love how their love story plays out at the conclusion, when we catch up with the 3 couples months later. Very satisfying to see him finally loved and appreciated as he deserves.

Near the climax of the action, Rachel contemplates

“there was no such thing a coincidence or accident. Every event, however random in appearance formed part of a design too vast and too alien to be comprehended by limited human understanding. Events that were, on the surface, unimportant and meaningless-Rachel’s choice of thesis topic, Tony’s decision to respond to a call he should never have answered-these and a dozen other strands in the web led inexorably toward a nexus in time when the invisible hands of the weaver would draw the threads tight and complete the pattern. It had been predestined and foreordained….”

I find this pretty powerful stuff. There is a suggestion that the quilt and it’s maker are still influencing the 3 couples still, only now in a good way. For example, Mark’s loving concern regarding Kara’s pregnancy, causes him to look with suspicion upon Mrs. Grossmuller(from Shattered Silk! Hi, Mrs. Grossmuller!), who uncannily included beautiful vintage baby clothes in her last delivery. Kara wonders if her friends had told Mark about the “quilt business.” Since the normally super-rational and skeptical Mark had said something about the “evil eye”. Several other happy circumstances are discussed, and Kara mentions the hair which was part of forensic evidence to convict Rocky. “Hair again,” Kara murmured. “Ironic these coincidences…”It’s like justice on the family is still being fashioned by the unseen entity. Finally the last line in the novel describing the plot where they laid the quilt to rest: “ Out in the garden purple and golden crocuses and the small blue flowers called “glory-of-the-snow” covered a certain spot like living patchwork.” All is now right with the world. A fitting and lovely conclusion to the Georgetown trilogy and people that live there. **5 out of 5 stars**

August 28, 2017

The Mother of All Christmases

By Milly Johnson

July 30,2019

‘I’m pregnant,’ she blurted out because the words were too big to keep in. It wasn’t what she meant to say, which was Joe, can I have a private word with you, but somehow the delivered words raced past the intended ones queueing in her voice box.

‘And your Granny Ferrell is your family,’ Jacques threw back at her. ‘Talk about the enemy within.’ It was a bullseye point. Eve’s Granny Ferrell was the most wicked old bag on the planet. She made the Antichrist look like Anne of Green Gables.

I’ve read 4 1/2 Milly Johnson books so far and I’ve learned to expect certain things. You will both laugh and giggle throughout. At the end, you will sigh with satisfaction. With some you will cry, with some you will be scared, with some you will stand up and cheer, and with some, you will be angry. With The Mother of all Christmases you will do all of those. I agree with Bookworman who I credit with introducing me to this wonderful English author that it is one of her best. Milly Johnson, where have you been the last 10 years of my life? I don’t understand why she is not more well known in the United States!

One of the extra bonuses of her books is that you meet and catch up with characters from previous novels. this book probably incorporates more of this than the previous ones I have read. A few I have met before, and some, I can’t wait to meet in future books. **5 out 5 stars**

August 2, 2019

A Winter Flame

By Milly Johnson

A Winter Flame has The bones of a Hallmark Christmas movie. Emotionally closed up due to her fiance getting killed on Christmas 5 years prior, our heroine channels all of her energy into her successful business, distancing her friends and family, and leaving her personal life on the shelf. Lo and Behold, she inherits a Christmas Theme Park from a beloved aunt which she is forced to co-own and develop with a handsome quirky and mysterious stranger whom she suspects of nefarious motives. Of course, need I say that all is not as it seems, and we all know how this will end?

Populated with a few characters from another novel, it puts a bow on one of the romances with a beautiful wedding. This one has the humor and entertaining pop culture references of the previous 4 novels I’ve read, but not as angsty or serious as some. It is also not as hilarious as some either. Our heroine, Eve, will make you want to choke her: she really is stubbornly blind to what is so obvious and reaches crazy conclusions based on evidence that should have pointed her to the light. But that’s what was intended! Anyway, I really liked the lightness of it. It was a fun book, with a few emotional scenes and a few surprises as well.**4 out of 5 stars**

June 12, 2019

Envious Casca

by Georgette Heyer

‘I always go to church on Christmas Day,’ replied Maud. ‘And on Sundays, too.’ ‘One had not realised that there were still people who did!’ said Roydon, with the air of one interested in the habits of aborigines. This was felt to be an observation in such bad taste that Mathilda at once offered to accompany Maud, and Stephen – although not going to these lengths – ranged himself on Maud’s side by telling the dramatist to shut up, and get on with his breakfast.

One of her very best mysteries and a Christmas one at that. It is a very clever locked-room murder. Clues to the how and who were there, particularly in the establishment of the alibi. Hemingway was right to figuratively kick himself for not suspecting the killer earlier. Of course, as I have read it several times previously, I knew who the murderer was, so I enjoyed seeing the setup and Heyer’s methods from that perspective. Most of the characters came from Heyer’s big bag of stock stereotypes, which she does so well. Honestly, I think every one of her “types” populate this novel. The two original characters were Joseph and his wife, Maud. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like either one of them. Enjoyed the humor and the little romance as well. I think the last paragraph is one of her best and funniest endings. I won’t include it as it would be a spoiler and wouldn’t make a ton of sense unless you have read the book. **4 out of 5 stars**

August 23, 2018