Death Below Stairs by Jennifer Ashley

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Victorian class lines are crossed when cook Kat Holloway is drawn into a murder that reaches all the way to the throne.

Highly sought-after young cook Kat Holloway takes a position in a Mayfair mansion and soon finds herself immersed in the odd household of Lord Rankin. Kat is unbothered by the family’s eccentricities as long as they stay away from her kitchen, but trouble finds its way below stairs when her young Irish assistant is murdered.

Intent on discovering who killed the helpless kitchen maid, Kat turns to the ever-capable Daniel McAdam, who is certainly much more than the charming delivery man he pretends to be. Along with the assistance of Lord Rankin’s unconventional sister-in-law and a mathematical genius, Kat and Daniel discover that the household murder was the barest tip of a plot rife with danger and treason—one that’s a threat to Queen Victoria herself.


Title: Death Below Stairs
Author: Jennifer Ashley
Series: Below Stairs Mystery
Pages: 106
Genre(s): Historical (Victorian)
Hot Buttons: /

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An absorbing, vibrant mystery

This book is the first book in the Kat Holloway Below Stairs Mystery series. The second book, Scandal Above Stairs, comes out in July 2018 although it’s not yet clear how long the series will continue after that.

I didn’t realise until I’d finished this book that it was actually the start of a series. (In fact, Kat Holloway first appeared in Ashley’s previous Soup├žon of Poison - now noted as a prequel to the series.) This irked me for about 5 minutes - I was really hoping for a conclusion to the wonderful relationship between Kat and Daniel - and that shows just how wonderful this book was. I staunchly avoid books where the relationship doesn’t conclude within the pages of the first book - and if I don’t realise it until the end - I don’t go on to read the rest. The beauty with this book is that the relationship is simmers deliciously in the background while all the murder, mystery and adventure is going on. I really want to read more of Kat and Daniel - partly for the mystery and partly because I really, really, really want them to end up together!

Kat was the kind of character that I imagine is very hard to write - and get right for the reader. She’s a bit snarky, a bit standoffish and likes her life, and her kitchen, just so. And I bloody loved her. She felt so real and I could feel her emotions - especially when she was trying to keep herself at an emotional distant from Daniel. With varying degrees of success!

The book is written purely from Kat’s point of view and in first person. We get to see things as they develop and get to know how Kat is feeling and reacts to things - probably another reason there is such a connection with her. Because of this, Daniel is as mysterious to the reader as he is to Kat. I had plenty of theories as to his back story and occupation (all theories left unfulfilled) but Kat had them too. She was a smart cookie and I loved that she was a strong, independent woman when it probably wasn’t acceptable to be one. Still, I think I loved Daniel as much as Kat obviously did and I want to know so much more about him. As an aside, the book isn’t filled with sex - in fact, there are only a few kisses. But as someone who prefers a little steam in their stories, I promise you you do not miss it.

The mystery element of the story is interesting, constantly moving and contains lots of elements that fit together - not neatly like you might expect - but messily and more true to life than I expected. I didn’t guess the “answer” to the mystery/ies but then I’m happy to let the characters do all the sleuthing and guess work!

But hands-down, hand on heart, the best thing about this book is the storytelling. From the very first page I was pulled right into 1880s London and Kat’s world. The story was so rich, vibrant and absorbing - it felt so wonderful to be pulled into the world of a good story. I was actually in Kat’s kitchen (and other locations around London and the south) as if I was there and Kat was relating her story to me.

This book wasn’t what I expected but it took me by surprise in the best possible way. I’m really looking forward to the next in the series and recommend this book to you whether you’re a diehard mystery fan or, like me, you are a romance reader looking for something a little different but just as captivating. A wonderful book - 5 stars.


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* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. *



The Below Stairs Mystery Series:
       

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A Week to Be Wild by JC Harroway

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She’ll play his game―but only by her rules!

Alex Lancaster is an adrenaline junkie. He’s also a sexy British billionaire who should come with his own warning signs. When Libby insists she is done with men who live on the edge, Alex coaxes her out of her comfort zone―professionally and very, very personally. Libby’s taking a high-stakes gamble, but the pay-off could win her everything…

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36406376-a-week-to-be-wild

Title: A Week to Be Wild
Author: JC Harroway
Series: -
Pages: 224
Genre(s): Mills & Boon Dare
Hot Buttons: Death of a Fiance, Ill Baby

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I was so excited when I saw that Mills & Boon were releasing a new line of books. Perhaps this would fill the hole that the recently defunct Blaze line created for me. Man, I loved those books of sexy, successful men and feisty, strong, take charge women. Looking back, I think that my excitement - and subsequently high expectations - were never going to be lived up to.

The book started off well. The writing style of J.C. Harroway flowed well, was fresh and really kept my interest and the pages turning.

Alex was a British billionaire who was also a little bit of a daredevil. But he had a heart of gold and it was just as easy for me to fall for him as it was for Libby. He was also never written as a stereotypical Englishman which pleased me no end. No ‘jolly good old chap’ for this hero. Can’t really say the same for - och, was it the wee Scottish assistant? - but he was barely there so I glossed over that part.

I also liked Libby (although I’m pretty sure Libby is a derivation of Elizabeth - not Olivia). I liked her sassiness, understood her motivations but…then her damned internal monologue just wouldn’t quit.

I have a very dirty mind and I do enjoy my filth - but even I was getting frustrated with Libby and her constant forays into sexual fantasies about Alex. How on earth had this girl managed to build a successful business when she couldn’t keep her mind off what she wanted to do to Alex - or what she wanted him to do to her? Her thoughts seemed more befitting a 12 year old boy and I felt a little dirty reading it and not in a good way.

About 50% of the book was build-up to the initial sex scene rather than a chance to get to know our main characters. I like a bit of sexual tension but half the book? That’s overkill and I got seriously bored.

And then came the second half of the book.

The story picked up. Alex and Libby really got into their relationship and their little games of oneupmanship - excitement inside and outside the bedroom. The pair had banter and you really started to believe in them and feel for them as a couple. They opened up to each other (and the reader) more and you got to understand their back stories, their quirks, their hangups and their baggage. And the sex was pretty darn sexy, too! Finally!

The ending, and happily ever after, was nicely done and it made me smile. It felt real and I liked the way that Libby acted and reacted to the whole situation. If she’d been the girl she was in the latter half of the book, during that first half, this would have been a 5 star book without a shadow of a doubt.

This was definitely a book of two halves for me. I would still recommend it if you like your billionaire romances, are a fan of Mills & Boon or are just looking to pass the time on a rainy afternoon. I’ll keep my eye out for the next from the Dare line as this book did show promise and I’m still hoping that this will be my new favourite line to make me forget all about Blaze. 3 stars.


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* I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. *





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