STEEPED TO DEATH by Gretchen Rue

Series: Witches’ Brew Mystery, #1
Publisher: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: September 6, 2022
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★¼


This was an enchanting start to a new mystery series! Main character Phoebe Winchester has just inherited a spooky gothic mansion and cozy tea/bookshop from her Aunt Eudora in Raven Creek, Washington. Yep, I spent a good portion of the book trying to figure out a way to jump inside. My dream! The descriptions of the brews and baked goods were to die for.

The mystery comes into play when a deceased man is found outside Phoebe’s store, possibly murdered as he was trying to break in. What was he after, and who wanted him dead? Phoebe also discovers that Eudora was a witch (that tidbit wasn’t just a town rumor!), and she may have inherited more than just an estate from her dear aunt.

This was an enjoyable read with a little magic, romance, and a solid mystery element. Plus a delightful cat named Bob! I can’t wait for the next book. If you love witchy/paranormal cozies be sure to pick this one up.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A SUMMER TO REMEMBER by Erika Montgomery

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publication Date: May 11, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ½


A SUMMER TO REMEMBER blends elements of family drama, mystery, and romance into a bittersweet story. Frankie is grieving the loss of her mother while trying to keep their Hollywood memorabilia store afloat. She comes across a couple of sealed letters, and a photograph of her mother with a pair of married movie stars taken a year before Frankie’s birth. Always curious about who her father was, Frankie heads across the country to Cape Cod where the photo was taken in hopes of finding clues to his identity.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I enjoyed the sense of place and the Hollywood nostalgia, and I was very curious about the family secrets surrounding Frankie’s father. The romance was lovely — two lost souls coming together. However, the pacing was slow, and I found the big reveal rather frustrating. It was unnecessary to keep this particular thing a secret for 30 years. If you can get past that hurdle, A SUMMER TO REMEMBER makes a great beach read that will leave you craving margaritas and fried clams, and wanting to dust off those old VHS movies.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

THE SAFE PLACE by Anna Downes

Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: July 14, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★¾


In THE SAFE PLACE, main character Emily’s life is a wreck. She’s broke, unemployed, and days away from being kicked out of her apartment. So when Scott, her former boss, offers her a position as caretaker at his estate in the South of France, she simply can’t say no.

In theory, the job sounds like paradise, but in reality, Emily finds things a bit off. Scott’s odd wife and child live there permanently, isolated, and with strange rules for Emily to follow. No internet! Emily is soon convinced that something isn’t right with this seemingly perfect family…

This was a fast-paced and suspenseful thriller, set in a gorgeous, summery location. Poor Emily! She was so naïve, but I suppose she had to be for the set up of the story to happen. Her gullibility did frustrate me though, especially towards the end. The author created a good amount of tension as the story progressed, and I was surprised when the final big twist was revealed. I was convinced things were going in a different direction!

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

IN ANOTHER LIGHT by A. J. Banner

The death of a look-alike stranger leads a grieving woman down a troubling path in this riveting novel by A. J. Banner, bestselling author of The Poison Garden.

Three years ago mortuary cosmetologist Phoebe Glassman lost her husband in a tragic accident. No longer the hopeful wife and mother she once was, Phoebe is disappearing into her grief and into the quietude of her job — restoring to the dead the illusion of life. Then the body of a woman named Pauline Steele arrives in the mortuary, and for Phoebe, everything changes.

Pauline is unmistakably Phoebe’s mirror image and bears an alarmingly familiar tattoo. Even more startling is that among Pauline’s effects is a faded photograph of Phoebe. Aided by an eccentric colleague, her curiosity sparked, Phoebe investigates her doppelgänger’s life and death — and uncovers surprising clues to a shared past.

Phoebe’s emotional journey soon leads to shocking revelations about those closest to her…and even herself. When she’s driven to the brink, how much of what she discovers can she trust?

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Publication Date: October 5, 2021
Source: Review copy from NetGalley

★★★★

What first drew me to this book was protagonist Phoebe Glassman’s job as a mortuary cosmetologist, someone who makes the decedent (new word for me!) look how they did in life. That’s something I could NOT do, but I find it fascinating. The funeral home where Phoebe works specializes in “green burials,” the eco-friendly alternative to traditional cemeteries, which is something else I’d recently discovered. Again, fascinating!

When the body of a woman looking exactly like Phoebe arrives at the mortuary, she ends up down a rabbit hole investigating this identical stranger’s past. This book is also about the heavy burden of her grief from losing her husband and daughter a few years earlier. IN ANOTHER LIGHT is a suspenseful mystery and journey of coming to terms with the past. It’s a very quick, engrossing, and emotional read.

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for providing a review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.