About the Book
Genre: Cozy Mystery, #2 in A Merry Muffin Mystery Series
Publisher: Berkley Prime Crime Mystery
Release Date: July 2014
Synopsis from Goodreads...
Muffin maker Merry Wynter hopes to find a buyer for the castle she’s recently inherited. But when she throws a party to draw interest, she finds someone who’s bought the farm instead…
Merry’s career as a New York City stylist has crumbled, but her passion for muffins has helped her rise upstate in Autumn Vale. Everyone in town loves the tasty treats. Still, she would like to return to her glamorous life. Besides, the upkeep of Wynter Castle is expensive, and Merry’s cup isn’t exactly overflowing.
So in order to bring some prospective buyers into the mix, Merry whisks together a spooky soiree and decorates the castle with dashes of fabric and a sprinkling of spider webs. Friends new and old are invited, and everyone has a blast. But as the revelers empty out, Merry notices one partygoer who isn’t leaving—or breathing. Now Merry must hurry to unmask a killer before her perfect plans turn into a recipe for disaster…
Merry Wynter works hard at fixing up the castle in upstate New York that she inherited from her uncle. The plan is for her to sell it and then start her life over again. Her plans are thwarted when a long lost relative arrives claiming he has rights to the castle, too. For now, they work together to restore the castle to its former glory, but Merry fully intends to look into her relative’s claim.
With the Halloween season fast approaching, Merry decides to host a huge costume party with the hopes that someone will be interested in making an offer on the castle. It’s an “invitation only” event but she begins to notice some uninvited guests. Then, she stumbles upon a guest who isn’t moving at all. In fact, he’s dead. It’s the second murder to occur at the castle in just a few short months.
When a close friend is accused of the murder, Merry takes it upon herself to find out who the real culprit is. Not only for her friend’s sake, but she doesn’t want her castle noted for its murders.
Merry is an interesting, strong character. Although she’s been widowed for seven years, she still desperately misses her husband, she does find herself interested in the local sheriff Virgil Grace. What I like about this relationship is that it’s a slow moving one. Both characters have had relationships in the past and aren’t looking to rush into anything. I think this is more realistic than some fiction romances that I’ve seen jump right into bed five minutes after meeting. This is going at a nice pace that gives readers a chance to get to know both characters. I do wish Merry would put more faith in Virgil’s ability as a lawman, though, but most cozy heroines don’t trust them to solve the mystery. That’s why we have a story :)
The rest of the characters are very well developed. I especially like Merry’s best friend Pish. He’s a great confidant for her.
It’s an intriguing mystery that keeps you guessing to the end. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, you learn that you didn’t. The author gives you all the clues needed to solve the murder, but it’s not an easy resolution.
It’s a quick read and I’m happy to see it doesn’t suffer from the “sophomore slump”, which often happens with the second book of a series. This one picks up right where the first one left off, but you don’t have to read the first one to read this book. Information from the first book is sprinkled throughout this story so readers aren’t lost. I’m definitely looking forward to the third in the series.
For reading challenges:
2014 Foodies Reading Challenge
2014 My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge
FTC Disclosure: The author provided me with a copy of this book to review for this blog tour. This did not influence my thoughts and opinions in any way. All opinions expressed are my own.
Author Guest Post
America’s Legacy of Castles
By: Victoria Hamilton
When I think of castles I think of England; I think of Highclere, where Downton Abbey is filmed, or Warwick Castle, one of the most famous and most visited.
But it is also true that the United States has a vast array of castles, some that go unnoticed because they’re out of the way, and some that are near ruins because there’s no one to care for them. For some reason—I can’t even really explain how the idea came to me other than, who doesn’t want to live in a castle?—I decided to make one such place, fictional Wynter Castle in upstate New York the site of my Merry Muffin Mysteries.
In case you didn’t know: my protagonist, Merry Wynter, once a stylist and then an unemployed gofer on the outs in the fashion industry, inherited from her great uncle, the eccentric Melvyn Wynter, Wynter Castle in upstate New York. In doing research I became fascinated with Beardslee Castle, a lovely spot that is now used for weddings and fine dining, and fashioned some of Wynter Castle’s history after that place. But I soon departed from the look of Beardslee, and actually fashioned the two-turreted look of Wynter Castle after a Southwestern Ontario landmark, the Middlesex County Courthouse in London, Ontario, which is itself fashioned after Malahide Castle, in Ireland.
The history of castle building in the United States is fascinating. While in England castles often date to the middle ages, in the United States, of course, castles are generally from the nineteenth century, built not by nobility but by that most American of gentlemen, the industrial baron who made his fortune building mills, railways, or steel factories. It’s odd, perhaps, that those industrial barons built mock-ups of the structures owned by the British nobility, though members of that class would have snubbed the pretensions of such a rustic but wealthy fellow if they met at a party. Unless, of course, the peer needed to repair his fortunes with American money, and so wanted to marry his daughter off to him, as happened so often in the Gilded Age.
If you’re interested, visit the websites of some of the more spectacular of American Castles, many of which are now inns, wedding venues, or tourist destinations.
Beardslee Castle, Little Falls, New York
Berkeley Castle, Berkeley Springs, West Virginia
Oheka Castle, Long Island, New York
Winnekenni Castle, Haverhill, Massachusetts
And feel free to read Muffin but Murder, Book 2 of the Merry Muffin Mysteries, and visit Wynter Castle, built by Merry’s mill baron ancestor Lazarus Wynter, imagining what YOU would do if you inherited an honest-to-goodness American Castle!
Now you have a chance to win a copy of Muffin but Murder by Victoria Hamilton. Thanks to Berkley, I have one paperback to giveaway to one lucky winner.
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The giveaway begins on July 2nd (midnight est) and ends on July 9th(midnight est).
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