Paper Roses

paperRoses

Paper Roses (Texas Dreams #1) by Amanda Cabot

So I know some of you may be looking at this and thinking this doesn’t look like a mystery, it looks like a Western. Well it is, but as the plot revolves around two mysteries I decided it was okay to review for this blog. Besides sometimes a book can straddle genres.

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Sarah Dobbs has lost everything when her parents died. All she has left is her little sister, of which she can not take care of without some help. So she looks for an escape and starts writing letters to a man in Texas looking for a bride. As the two write, Sarah falls in love with Austin Caufield and his “paper roses” (the letters he writes).

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She decides to agree to marry him and journeys West. When she arrives in Texas she discovers things are not quite as she hoped. Her fiancé was murdered!

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To Austin’s brother Clay’s surprise, Sarah refuses to return East but live on the Caufield ranch with her sister.

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Clay feels as if he doesn’t have time for this. He is trying to keep his ranch going, assist the elderly town doctor, and solve who murdered his brother.

On the case!

On the case!

Sarah quickly finds a niche in the town, working in the mercantile and later as the schoolteacher. But she discovers that this cute Texas town has a lot of prejudices and problems between the Germans and the French, and it is really heating up the town.

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As Sarah and Clay start becoming friends Sarah is determined to help discover her fiancé’s killer. What they discover is that someone has a real vendetta against the Caulfield family; being behind Clay’s father’s injury, the death of his wife, and the murder of his brother.

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As the two’s relationship grows, it turns out Clay has a secret. He is the one who wrote the letters for Austin, pulling a Cyrano de Bergerac. Will he be able to admit the truth? Or will Sarah continue to be in love with who she thought his brother was?

I wonder...

I wonder…

While Clay and Sarah are occupied, someone is planning their next move to remove the Caulfield clan. Will they be able to stop them in time?

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Thoughts After Reading:

I thought this book was extremely good. I loved the characters, the storyline, and the mystery.

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In fact the person responsible for the crimes against the Caufield’s was a great twist.

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A great read!

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For more historical fiction, go to A Most Peculiar Circumstance

For more Christian books, go to Bake Until Golden

For more book reviews, go to The Cat Who Could Read Backwards

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A Study in Scarlet

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A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Thoughts Before Reading:

For those of you who don’t know, this month marks the 128th anniversary of this book. Published in July of 1888, these characters have found a way into all our hearts.

So Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite literary detectives.

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I’ve read almost all his stories, seen countless films and TV shows, and just all around enjoy his character. His massive intellect and keen observational skills are just so admirable, I can’t resist him.

So A Study in Scarlet is the first novel to have this brilliant detective. Many assume it is based on Edgar Allen Poe’s detective character that came out year’s before, Charles Dupin, but Doyle insisted that it was based on one of his professors.

So while the novel is split into two parts, in my opinion it is actually divided into three.

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Part I: Mr. Sherlock Holmes

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In this we are introduced to Dr. Watson. Shortly after he received his medical degree he was attached to the military as their assistant surgeon. He was sent off to India, where he was wounded and sent to a hospital. There he had even worse luck, catching a fever and becoming severely ill.

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After that he was sent home, honorable discharge, where he decided to move to London. Staying in a hotel he quickly burned through his money and found himself in need of cheaper lodgings.

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He runs into an old friend who tells him of an acquaintance that is also looking for a roommate, a Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

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We are first introduced to Sherlock Holmes doing an experiment in which he has found a way to prove how old blood is and whether a stain is blood or not. He also knows that Dr. Watson has recently returned from Afghanistan.

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Sherlock tells him about the rooms and when Dr. Watson and he look over the place and hear the rent price they find it most agreeable.

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Sherlock Holmes is not a difficult way to live with.  He is quiet, had his own habits he stays firmly by, has extensive energy when interested in something, but would have moments when he was hit by a “mood” and wouldn’t get up for months. Watson notices at times he looks like he is under a drug (opium) but Watson cannot believe such a man devoted to cleanliness could do such a thing.

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Sherlock knows nothing of contemporary events or anything that he feels does not relate to his studies. In fact Watson lists of everything he does and doesn’t know:

  1. Knowledge of Literature — Nil.
  2. Knowledge of Philosophy — Nil.
  3. Knowledge of Astronomy — Nil.
  4. Knowledge of Politics — Feeble
  5. Knowledge of Botany — Variable. Mostly poisons, nothing of practical gardening.
  6. Knowledge of Geology — Practical, but limited. Tells at a glance the different soils from each other.
  7. Knowledge of Chemistry — Profound.
  8. Knowledge of Anatomy — Accurate, but unsystematic.
  9. Knowledge of Sensation Literature — Immense. Knows every detail of ever horror perpetuated in the century.
  10. Plays the violin well.
  11. Is an excellent singlestick player, boxer, and swordsman.
  12. Has a good practical knowledge of British law.

Sherlock is also a keen observer and tells Watson how he knew of his time in Afghanistan. He also shares about how he often helps the police solve crimes. And at that very moment, a Marine comes with a note that Sherlock is wanted.

Interesting

Interesting

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Part II: The Lauriston Garden Mystery

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Sherlock receives a note from Detective Gregson to come to Lauriston Gardens as they are at a loss to how the crime was committed and by who?

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Sherlock invites Watson to come along, and the duo are off. When they arrive on the scene, Sherlock surprises Watson as he doesn’t rush inside the house to search it, but spends a long time looking at everything, from the ground, to the sky, to the house’s outside, etc.  He notices that a cab has been there. but neither Gregson or Detective Lestrade or their men know anything about that.

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The victim is about 43 or 44. He is dressed well in a heavy broadcloth frock coat and waistcoat. . His hands were clenched and arms thrown abroad while his lower limbs were interlocked as though he went through a struggling death. A look of hatred on his face and blood everywhere, but no wound on the corpse. A woman’s wedding ring is also found, along with the word “RACHE” painted on the wall.

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The detectives believe the word to have been Rachel but cut off. Sherlock points out that the murderer was male, over six feet high, smoked a trichinopoly cigar, had a florid face, long fingernails on the right hand, killed the man by poison, and that rache is German for revenge.

Whoa

The two them head down to the first officer on the scene, John Rance. They learn from him that there was a drunk there that night, but they just sent him off. Sherlock berates the man as this drunk was clearly the murderer, a cabdriver which explains the cab marks left behind.

You let him get away!

You let him get away!

Sherlock sends out advertisements in the newspapers about a found wedding ring knowing that by using it, it will be the perfect bait for the trap.

Meanwhile, the detectives have discovered that their victim was acting ungentlemanly toward his landlady’s daughter. Her brother was on shore leave, and is known for a temper. They know the two got into it and to make it worse, just like in The Mystery of Edwin Drood, they discovered the brother with a bloody walking stick.

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Sherlock of course doesn’t believe that and is set on his way. To his surprise, he is approached by a woman saying it belongs to her daughter. Sherlock follows her, but looses her in the crowd. Is Sherlock wrong?

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Part III: The Country of Saints

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Here we get our killer’s backstory and reasons for poisoning these people. Back in Utah, John Ferriar’s wagons traveling west have been destroyed and everyone is dead except for him and a young girl, Lucy. With all gone, John adopts the young girl.

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As they are dying of thirst, they come upon some Mormons who allow them to join their group and save them from death. Over ten years layer, John’s farm has prospered and Lucy has grown into a fine, beautiful woman. All the young Mormon men want to add her to their families and John’s land to their own. But both John and Lucy don’t want to become ingrained with the Mormons, in fact Lucy falls for Jefferson Hope, silver miner and son of John Ferriar’s old friend.

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With the Mormons threatening the group, Hope and Ferriars hatch a plan to escape.

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However, the plain is foiled and Hope is left stranded in the desert. When he gets back to the area he discovers that both Ferriar and Lucy have died.

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He decides to avenge their death and tracks them down all the way to England to kill them.

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Thoughts After Reading:

I really loved the first two parts of the novel when we are introduced to Sherlock and his investigation.

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Amazingly well written and a definite winner.

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However, I didn’t really care for the Utah backstory. It was boring.

NO emotion = BORING!

The book would be better without it, but even with it it is still good.

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For more on classics, go to The Unsolvable Mystery: The Mystery of Edwin Drood

For more private investigators, go to Decked

The Book of Madness and Cures

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The Book of Madness and Cures: A Novel by Regina O’ Melveny

In 1590, Venetian woman, Dr. Gabriella Mondini, finds herself losing the very thing she absolutely holds dear, her ability to practice medicine.

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The men in the community had never been supportive of Gabriella, and with her father being gone for the past ten years they feel there is no one to monitor her and that they no longer have to do honor such a doctorship.

It's not fair.

It’s not fair.

Gabriells is furious, but knows what she must do. She must find her father, a feat that will be near impossible as she has no clue where he is.

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She has letters from his travels and search to complete The Book of Diseases, but even they do not hold a clear path.

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Aided by her friend and servant; the women set off in search of the other Dr. Mondini.

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Thoughts After Reading:

So I did not like this book.

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My biggest issue with it was the character of Gabriella.

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Now I understand that Gabriella is women in 16th century Venice and a doctor; but that doesn’t mean you have to make her character like a block of wood.

NO emotion = BORING!

NO emotion = BORING!

Everything was stilted and emotionless. This is not what you should do with a main character. We have to connect to them, feel for them, understand them, become a part of them and their lives; and I felt that this book did not do that at all. I couldn’t stand Gabriella.

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For more mysteries set in Italy, go to The Italian Wife

For more historical fiction novels, go to The Midwife’s Tale

For more not in a series mystery, go to Where Are You Now?

For more mysteries, go to Carrot Cake Murder

At the Corner of King Street

At the Corner of King Street

At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor

At the Corner of King Street, by Mary Ellen Taylor, follows two threads: Sarah Shire-Goodwin, Scottish immigrant settling in the new colony of Virginia; and Addie Morgan, a women trying to distance herself from her family and the disease that destroyed it.

Addie Morgan’s family is cursed.

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The women in her family tend to carry traits for mental diseases, or “carry the curse” as it has been called for centuries. Addie was lucky enough to be passed over, but both her mother and older sister suffer from being bipolar. Addie has always taken care of everybody, but when her sister causes her to crash her car and nearly kills the two of them, Addie has had enough. She leaves Alexandria, Virginia; the Shire Family Salvage Company; and heads off to anywhere else.

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She finds herself working as a picker in a vineyard, later becoming the bookkeeper, and ultimately second-in-command. Here she feels she finally has a normal life with her job and her boyfriend, the vineyard owner. Everything is going perfect, until she receives a call from her sister Janet, and is sent back into the cyclone of her former life.

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After the car accident, Janet took off leaving her husband and son. Since then she has been doing drugs, drinking, and not taking her medication. She also is pregnant, and when Addie arrives on the scene, Janet has just given birth to a baby girl. Addie hopes that the baby can quickly be found a foster home so that she can return to her new life, but soon discovers that nothing in life is ever that simple.

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While Janet is committed to thirty days of a doctor’s care, Addie stays in Alexandria taking care of the new baby, and the family business. Here she meets up with an old friend, Margaret and the two stumble onto a mystery strife with superstition. In the homes they are salvaging, Addie and Margaret discover three witch bottles, a protective charm from the 18th century made to ward off a supposed witch named Faith. As they look deeper into this, they discover that this mystery is connected to Addie’s distant relative Sarah Goodwin along with the problems in the present. Addie soon finds out that the past is never far behind.

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Thoughts after reading:

I really enjoyed this novel. I liked the way that Mary Ellen Taylor made all of her characters multi-dimensional, just as complicated and interesting as they would be if they existed in real life. First we have the character of Addie who has had to grow up fast, being the one to care for her mother and sister because of their illness. After her mother’s death and her sister nearly killing her, Addie has had enough and wants to get far away in the hopes of having a normal life. When she is called back to the chaos of it all, she at first doesn’t want to help her sister or care for her sister’s baby. Addie is selfish for wanting to live her own life and not care for her family members, but it is a selfishness that has evolved from years of trying to make things better, to only have things fall even more apart. I appreciated that the author was willing to make the character not so saintly or eager to pitch in, but showing the reality of how much of a burden this disease is to the people who have it and for their family members.

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Eventually, Addie does decide to care for her niece and her reintegration into her Aunt Grace’s home, as well as trying to mend the broken relationship between her ex-brother-in-law Zeb and nephew Eric, were extremely well done. While some novels would have quickly had everyone pull together for “the good of the child”, the author had this repairing of familial bonds done slowly. Addie still has feelings of betrayal from her Aunt Grace not rescuing her from her mother’s care and the chaotic life they had lead. She also has a lot of guilt from choosing not to be a part of her nephew’s life and not fully preparing Zeb for the reality of what living with Janet is like. Aunt Grace is angry with Addie for having left her alone to work on the family, but is also angry with herself for not having the courage to mother the girls and remove them from her sister’s care. Zeb has spent many years angry with his ex-wife, but has lived a contented life raising their son. Now he has to deal with his resentment and bitterness at Janet for abandoning their family and once again throwing his world off kilter. Not only does the author make these slow transitions, but not all of these issues are resolved by the end of the book, the family still taking it one step at a time.

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I also loved the secondary character, Margaret, the sassy, free-spirited, historian. She has been working in the family bakery while trying to find another job, and becomes Addie’s partner in salvaging and unraveling the mystery of the witch’s bottles. As a fellow historian, Magaret’s excitement and wit made her extremely endearing and relatable. I hope to see more of her in the future; maybe even her own book or series? Here’s hoping!

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The mystery was done very well. At first I disliked the journal entries from Sarah Goodwin that are placed in front of every chapter, but as the book went on and the lives of Sarah and Faith tied closer and closer to Addie and her family, they became extremely enjoyable. The final conclusion to the mystery and the novel was powerful and led to a perfect ending.

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All in all I really enjoyed this novel, giving it a five out of five star rating.

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I look forward to reading past and future novels of Mary Ellen Taylor and her tales of Alexandria.

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For the previous mystery book review, go to Fatally Frosted 

For more stand-alone mysteries, go to The Dollhouse Murders