Book Spotlight: SCARLET FEVER by Rita Mae Brown

Scarlet Fever: A Novel (“Sister” Jane)

by Rita Mae Brown



About Scarlet Fever




Scarlet Fever: A Novel (“Sister” Jane)
Cozy Mystery
12th in Series
Ballantine Books (November 26, 2019)
Hardcover: 304 pages
ISBN-10: 0593130006
ISBN-13: 978-0593130001
Digital ASIN: B07P8J8KVM



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Winter blizzards bring a flurry of cases to solve in this riveting new foxhunting mystery featuring “Sister” Jane Arnold and her incorrigible hounds from New York Times bestselling author Rita Mae Brown.

Frigid February air has settled into the bones of the Blue Ridge Mountains, making for a slow foxhunting season, though “Sister” Jane Arnold’s enthusiasm is not so easily deterred. With the winter chill come tweed coats, blazing fireplaces—and perhaps another to share the warmth with, as the bold hunting scarlets worn by the men in Sister Jane’s hunting club make the hearts of women flutter—until someone’s stops entirely.

Harry Dunbar, a member of the Jefferson Hunt club with a penchant for antique furniture, is found with his skull cracked at the bottom of the stairs to a local store. There are no telltale signs of foul play—save for the priceless (and stolen) Erté fox ring in his pocket. Sister and her hounds set out to uncover the truth: was this simply an accident—a case of bad luck—or something much more sinister?

Steeped in the deep traditions of Virginia horse country and featuring a colorful cast of characters both two- and four-legged, Scarlet Fever is another spirited mystery from Rita Mae Brown.



About Rita Mae Brown


Rita Mae Brown is the bestselling author of the Sneaky Pie Brown mysteries; the Sister Jane series; the Runnymede novels, including Six of One and Cakewalk; A Nose for Justice and Murder Unleashed; Rubyfruit Jungle; and In Her Day; as well as many other books. An Emmy-nominated screenwriter and a poet, Brown lives in Afton, Virginia, and is a Master of Foxhounds and the huntsman.


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2017 Book #37: ALWAYS by Sarah Jio

Always by Sarah Jio 
ISBN: 9781101885024 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781101885031 (ebook)
ASIN: B01FC02OS8 (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Publication Date: February 7, 2016

From the New York Times bestselling author of Blackberry Winter and The Violets of March comes a gripping, poignant novel about the kind of love that never lets go, and the heart’s capacity to remember. 

While enjoying a romantic candlelit dinner with her fiance, Ryan, at one of Seattle’s chicest restaurants, Kailey Crane can’t believe her good fortune: She has a great job as a writer for the Herald and is now engaged to a guy who is perfect in nearly every way. As they leave the restaurant, Kailey spies a thin, bearded homeless man on the sidewalk. She approaches him to offer up her bag of leftovers, and is stunned when their eyes meet, then stricken to her very core: The man is the love of her life, Cade McAllister. 

When Kailey met Cade ten years ago, their attraction was immediate and intense everything connected and felt “right.” But it all ended suddenly, leaving Kailey devastated. Now the poor soul on the street is a faded version of her former beloved: His weathered and weary face is as handsome as Kailey remembers, but his mind has suffered in the intervening years. Over the next few weeks, Kailey helps Cade begin to piece his life together, something she initially keeps from Ryan. As she revisits her long-ago relationship, Kailey realizes that she must decide exactly what and whom she wants. 

Alternating between the past and the present, Always is a beautifully unfolding exploration of a woman faced with an impossible choice, a woman who discovers what she’s willing to save and what she will sacrifice for true love.



Kailey Crane is a thirty-something-year-old journalist engaged to a good man, Ryan Winston. They are in the midst of arranging for the upcoming wedding and life is good. Well, as good as can be expected when you’re engaged to someone involved in real estate and you’re writing an investigate piece about how developers are in the process of destroying a necessary social services institution, namely a homeless shelter. Kailey and Ryan have their differences, but they do love one another and are looking forward to building a life together. Ryan knows that Kailey has a past and that her past has involved a lover or two, but he’s willing to let the past stay in the past as long as they can build a future together. Everything is going well until the man from Kailey’s past returns and his disappearance and return are surrounded by a mystery. Can Kailey ignore the old love of her life in order to build a new life? Can she help the old love of her life without destroying her new love life? And more importantly than either of these questions, is that old love truly dead?

I’ve just got to say that I loved Always. I ripped through this story without interruption in one sitting on Sunday evening. This story touched me in so many ways, but primarily because I have a good friend from high school that suffered a traumatic brain injury as a result of a severe beating and his recovery has been long and hard. Ms. Jio has taken several sensitive subject matters, traumatic brain injury or TBI and homelessness and incorporated them into a story about loss and love. I enjoyed the twin storylines, as they provide the reader with a glimpse of Kailey’s early relationship with Cade and its development, as well as her current relationship with Ryan and the impact finding Cade has on it. I enjoyed all of the characters, the action, and the settings. Seriously, I loved this book and can foresee me rereading it over and over again. (Yes, it was just that good in my not-so-humble opinion.) Always is more than just a love story it is a story that pulls at the emotions as it asks what will and won’t we do for the sake of love. If you’ve read any of Ms. Jio’s writings then I encourage you to go out and grab a copy of Always to read. If you’ve never read anything by Ms. Jio then Always may be the perfect starter book. I will say this, set aside enough time to read uninterrupted and for those of you that get a little misty when reading emotionally laden books, grab some tissues. 

Disclaimer: I received a free digital advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


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2016 Book 204: FIRST COMES LOVE by Emily Giffin



First Comes Love by Emily Giffin
ISBN: 9780345546920 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345546937 (ebook)
ASIN: B014NZ4SXW (Kindle version)
Publication Date: June 28, 2016 
Publisher: Ballantine Books


In this dazzling new novel, Emily Giffin, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Something Borrowed, Where We Belong, and The One & Only introduces a pair of sisters who find themselves at a crossroads. Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing; Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes their family, their different responses to the event splinter their delicate bond. Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter ends up in her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands. On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately, Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.  As the anniversary of their tragedy looms and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them, but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover they need each other more than they knew . . . and that in the recipe for true happiness, love always comes first. Emotionally honest and utterly enthralling, First Comes Love is a story about family, friendship, and the courage to follow your own heart—wherever that may lead.


When we first meet the Garland family, they seem to be a happy family with three adult children and no major worries in the world. Then tragedy strikes and the family is torn apart rather than brought closer together. Sisters Josie and Meredith have taken totally different paths over the past fifteen years and both feel as if there is something missing in Emily Giffin’s latest, First Comes Love.

Josie Garland is the middle child and can’t live up to her eldest brother’s legacy of being super smart and kind. Her younger sister, Meredith, is making her own way in life by studying theater arts. When we meet Josie and Meredith, they are in their early twenties and still searching for their paths in lives. Their lives, indeed their entire family is turned upside down after the tragic death of their older brother in a car accident. Meredith graduates with a degree in Theater Arts but opts for law school. Josie graduates with a degree in education and becomes a first-grade teacher. Meredith winds up married to her brother’s best friend and the mother of a four-year-old. Josie is living with her best friend, her male best friend, and still single. As Josie gets closer to her 38th birthday, she decides to pursue motherhood even if it means being a single mother. Meredith is having her own mid-life crisis, and wonders if she made the right decision to marry her husband and if she should stay married. She doesn’t want more children and her husband wants at least two or three more. Both Josie and Meredith are dealing with a lot of stressors and sadly, they don’t have one another to turn to as they epitomize sibling rivalry even in their adult relationship. Just when it seems like their relationship might wind up getting better, a secret is revealed that might tear them apart forever.  

I found First Comes Love to be a fast-paced and engrossing read. I was intrigued by the relationship between Josie and Meredith, as they both seemed to constantly find fault with one another no matter the situation. The relationship between these two sisters was probably more realistic than not, as not all siblings like each other even if they do love one another. As someone that has had to deal with the death of a sibling in adulthood, I was interested to see how the evolution/devolution of the family would play out. I liked both Josie and Meredith, especially Josie’s extroverted nature compared to Meredith’s introverted nature. Although Josie and Meredith don’t seem to get along due to their entrenched sibling rivalry, jealousy seems to be at the heart of their problems with each other. First Comes Loves spans only a few months in the adult lives of Josie and Meredith, but there’s a lot crammed into those few months. Ms. Giffin has crafted a story that provides tragedy, turmoil, drama, hints of romance, and a sense of hopefulness throughout it all. If you want to read a realistic story about siblings and family that has a hopeful ever after thread woven throughout, then you’ll definitely want to grab a copy of First Comes Love. I recommend waiting until you have the weekend to binge read this book because you won’t want to put it down.


Disclaimer: I received a print advanced reader copy of this book from the publisher. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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2016 Book #63: TRY NOT TO BREATHE by Holly Seddon

Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon
ISBN: 9781101885864 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781101885871 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780399567605 (audiobook)
ASIN: B00ZNE44F0 (Kindle edition)
Publication date: February 23, 2016  
Publisher: Ballantine Books


Amy Stevenson was the biggest news story of 1995. Only fifteen years old, Amy disappeared walking home from school one day and was found in a coma three days later. Her attacker was never identified and her angelic face was plastered across every paper and nightly news segment.

Fifteen years later, Amy lies in the hospital, surrounded by 90’s Britpop posters, forgotten by the world until reporter Alex Dale stumbles across her while researching a routine story on vegetative patients.

Remembering Amy’s story like it was yesterday, she feels compelled to solve the long-cold case.

The only problem is, Alex is just as lost as Amy—her alcoholism has cost her everything including her marriage and her professional reputation.

In the hopes that finding Amy’s attacker will be her own salvation as well, Alex embarks on a dangerous investigation, suspecting someone close to Amy.

Told in the present by an increasingly fragile Alex and in dream-like flashbacks by Amy as she floats in a fog of memories, dreams, and music from 1995, Try Not to Breathe unfolds layer by layer to a breathtaking conclusion.   



Alex Dale is a down-on-her-luck freelance journalist searching for a story. While researching an article about patients in a long-term care facility, she comes across Amy Stevenson. Amy was brutally attacked fifteen years and left for dead; she’s now in a vegetative state. Alex decides that Amy’s story might be just the ticket to get her back in the journalism game in Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon.

Alex is a thirty-year-old alcoholic. She’s lost her job, her husband, and all of her friends. The best Alex can hope for is writing an investigative article about Amy Stevenson with an eye on solving this cold case. In an effort to gain insight into this cold case, Alex contacts her ex-husband, a police officer, to obtain information from the police files. Alex begins to dig into Amy’s past and attempts to befriend Amy’s former boyfriend, her stepfather, her biological father, and her girlfriends. Her digging reveals that Amy may not have been raped but involved in a flirtation with someone other than her boyfriend, a flirtation that devolved into a physical attack after consensual sex. While Alex digs into the story and sits with Amy, Amy’s ex-boyfriend, Jacob, is dealing with a host of personal problems. Jacob is now married and his wife is expecting their first child. He’s never told her about his first girlfriend or the fact that he visits the hospital and sits with the long-term care patients. As a result of his lack of disclosure, his wife thinks he’s having an affair and kicks him out of their home. While Jacob deals with his personal issues, Alex thinks she’s managing her issues. She thinks that she can manage her addiction by limiting her drinking until after noon each day. She’s become incontinent and suffers from blackouts, insomnia, and paranoia. It isn’t until her doctor tells her that if she continues she’ll be dead within a year that she realizes she must make some changes. Will she have time to continue her investigation before her health problems become irreversible? Can Jacob confide the truth to his wife before it’s too late for his marriage? Is it possible that Alex and Jacob can finally discover the identity of Amy’s attacker?

Before I go any further, I have to say this, Read This Book! Yes, I know I routinely tell you to read books. What can I say other than I’ve been fortunate to read a host of excellent books this year and Try Not to Breathe by Holly Seddon definitely falls into that category. No, I’m not going to compare this to other hot mystery-suspense or psychological suspense reads that have come out over the past few years. I will say that Ms. Seddon has crafted a hauntingly beautiful story about two women that are suffering long-term adverse effects of poor decisions that I enjoyed from the first word to the very last. Amy’s decision was to cheat on her boyfriend and trust someone based on his looks alone. (Amy was young and is by no means responsible for her attack. The older guy is wholly responsible for his actions toward Amy.) Alex’s decision was to continue drinking after losing everything that was important in her life. I enjoyed the different perspectives gained as the story is told by Amy, Jacob, and Alex. I can’t tell you any more without spoiling the story, but if you enjoy psychological suspense reads then you’ll definitely want to add Try Not to Breathe to your TBR list. Even if you’re not sure about psychological suspense reads, you’ll still want to add Try Not to Breathe to your TBR list. Make sure you have a few hours to read because this story is going to suck you in. 


Disclaimer: I received a digital copy of this book for review purposes from the publisher via NetGalley. I was not paid, required, or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



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Book 186: RUIN FALLS Review



Ruin Falls by Jenny Milchman
ISBN: 9780345549075 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9780345549082 (ebook)
ASIN: B00G8EKYTY  (Kindle edition)
Publication date: April 22, 2014
Publisher: Ballantine Books


Liz Daniels has every reason to be happy about setting off on a rare family vacation, leaving behind her remote home in the Adirondack Mountains for a while. Instead, she feels uneasy. Her children, eight-year-old Reid and six-year-old Ally, have met their paternal grandparents only a handful of times. But Liz’s husband, Paul, has decided that, despite a strained relationship with his mother and father, they should visit the farm in western New York where he spent his childhood. On their way to the farm, the family stops at a hotel for the night. In the morning, when Liz goes to check on her sleeping children, all her anxiety comes roaring back: Ally and Reed are nowhere to be found. Blind panic slides into ice-cold terror as the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of the kids. Soon, Paul and Liz are being interviewed by police, an Amber Alert is issued, and detectives are called in. Frantic worry and helplessness threaten to overtake Liz’s mind—but in a sudden, gut-wrenching instant she realizes that it was no stranger who slipped into the hotel room that night. Someone she trusted completely has betrayed her. Though she knows that Ally and Reid are safe, Liz will stop at nothing to find them and get them back. From her guarded in-laws’ unwelcoming farmhouse to the deep woods of her own hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.


Liz and Paul Daniels seem to have it all: a beautiful family a wonderful marriage, and similar life goals. They have a large beautiful home in the country, Paul has a job he loves teaching at a local college, and Liz has a small, thriving boutique business growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs. They both feel that they need to do their part in reducing their carbon footprint, drive a hybrid vehicle, and want to do their very best to ensure their children aren’t physically polluted by GMO foods, preservatives, etc. All seems well when the Daniels’ family sets off to visit Paul’s parents in western New York. After a day’s drive, fraught with reckless drivers, Paul agrees to allow the family to spend the night at a hotel on the road. Disaster strikes as Liz wakes up the next morning to find that her children are gone. Just when the horror of the children being abducted sinks in, Paul disappears. What could make her loving husband abduct their children? Where could they possibly have gone? 

Ruin Falls spotlights one of a parent’s worst nightmares, their children being abducted. Liz knows that the police aren’t taking her seriously and since she hasn’t found any clues at Paul’s parents’ farm she heads back home. Tired, anxious, and stressed to the max, Liz embarks on a quest to find the truth. Her search overlaps with other tales of spousal abuse, overbearing parents, and sheer madness. The more Liz learns, the more questions she finds need to be answered, but can she uncover all of the answers before her children are gone forever?

I found Ruin Falls to be a fast-paced read. Each family’s story provides vital clues into what is happening. I don’t think of Ruin Falls as a mystery so much as a suspense thriller. Liz endures quite a bit in her search for her children and it is this endurance and the inherent obstacles that add to the overall build of tension within the story. Ms. Milchman has created another mesmerizing tale of family dysfunction with very realistic, multidimensional characters that will grab you from the very beginning. If you enjoy suspense thrillers with a family element, then Ruin Falls is the perfect book for you. I look forward to reading more from Ms. Milchman in the future.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free for review purposes from the publisher via Edelweiss. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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