With that in mind, I joined in for the Christmas Spirit readathon over at Seasons of Reading which lasted two weeks.(SOR blogger Michelle Miller hosts a longer version at her other site). My goal was three books and I managed to finish two of them in time, not too bad,I think!
First up was The Twelve Clues of Christmas by Rhys Bowen, part of the Her Royal Spyness series. Set in December of 1933, our heroine Lady Georgiana Rannoch,aka Georgie, is not looking forward to the holidays as she's stuck at her Scottish homestead with her dismal sister-in-law Fig and the rest of Fig's equally awful relations are due to arrive at any moment.
Fortunately, Georgie finds an advertisement for assistant hostess to a house party in the village of Tiddleton-under-Lovey in Devonshire, where Georgie's flighty mother also happens to be staying with Noel Coward. Arranging for her beloved grandfather to be there also, she packs up post haste and heads out for Tiddleton with the hapless yet sweet personal maid Queenie in tow.
Once there, she finds that the lady of the house, Lady Hawse-Gorsley, is in dire need of help as this holiday party is being held for paying guests(due to the low finances of the estate from the Depression) and wants to please them as much as possible with an old fashioned English Christmas.
Georgie is more than delighted to help out and at first, things go well despite the early arrival of the American family confused by British customs and the latter appearance of a haughty dowager countess who could give a certain Downton Abbey resident a run for her money in the snark department:
All is going well for Georgie, especially when one of the party guests happens to be Darcy O'Mara, the charming yet impoverished nobleman who may or may not be a spy. Turns out he's related to the Hawse-Gorsleys and is just as pleased to see her there.
However, a bizarre string of crimes that include murder seem to crop up on a daily basis and many of the locals are blaming the Lovey Curse, a legend that had a witch burned at the stake vowing revenge from beyond at the holidays.
Yet, Georgie suspects that these deadly occurrences are from a more firmly based in the real world menace , not to mention that a strange pattern based on a beloved Christmas song seems to be linking these lethal events together. With the help of Darcy, her retired police officer grandfather and even a hint from Noel Coward and her mum, Georgie sets out to stop the killer before New Year's Day approaches.
The story is quite fun, with a mix of humor and holiday cheer plus a dash of quaint English village charm that carries the narrative along nicely. Georgie is truly a leading lady worth following with her friends old and new here and the mystery is rather challenging to solve.
After the story, a "English Christmas Companion" is included that explains many of the traditional British holiday games and activities(recipes are also given for plum pudding and such seasonal treats). It's a welcome touch indeed. If you like a good English themed holiday mystery,particularly set in a small country town, The Twelve Clues of Christmas is your golden ticket to ride:
For the holidays, Hannah is hard at work getting all of the recipes ready for a local cookbook to be published and the final taste tests are to be held at a Christmas celebration at the Lake Eden community center. Hannah's less than culinary inclined mother Delores is even offering an antique cake knife with a Christmas tree shaped handle to be used at the buffet table.
That knife happens to wind up in a most unexpected place before the night is over as Hannah discovers it embedded in the bosom of Brandi Wyen Dubinski, the brand new wife of divorced resident Martin.
With a huge snowstorm keeping everyone trapped in the center, including such suspects as Martin's ex-wife and former in-laws, Hannah seems to have her work cut out for her but is this going to be as simple as pie to solve? The actual story is more of a novella, as the full Lake Eden cookbook is included here, which is fine for a light holiday read.
Despite the sugar cookies mentioned in the title, brownies actually become a plot point here as Hannah bakes a batch of jalapeno flavored ones for Mike that intended as sweet revenge. Seems that Mike has been making eyes at another lady(who turns up in the Fudge Cupcake Murder and appears in a later book) and even suggesting that her brownies are worthy of being sold at Hannah's Cookie Jar bakery, a romantic no-no if there ever was one!
While Mike and Hannah do resolve their differences, Norman is still in the picture(in more ways than one) and scores plenty of brownie points with me,particularly after pointing out to Mike that Hannah can drive a huge car very well in such bad weather. I do know that there is a brownie themed title in this series but for now, this cookie caper was a sweet enough treat:
Hopefully, I will be allowed to renew it at the library and have it read by Christmas Eve, as I do like Crime Rib and it's savory smart sleuth Erin Murphy. The atmosphere of the Montana town of Jewel Bay is just as appetizing and I so look forward to reading more about this fictional foodie community.
Happy Holiday Reading to everyone who took part in this Christmas Spirit readathon and this seasonal story time was as much fun as a Christmas cookie swap party. If nothing else, it's a good time to revv up your emotional engines for the true delights of the season: