Akron Beacon Journal review

This review was printed in the Akron Beacon Journal June 24, 2018.

BOOK TALK: area authors and events Love tale set after Civil WarBest_ImpendingLoveandMadness_w12429_750

The Civil War is over, but there still is plenty of conflict in Cuyahoga Falls writer Laura Freeman’s Impending Love and Madness,

fifth book in a series about the six Beecher sisters of Darrow Falls, a Western Reserve canal town. Impending Love and War

began the series in 2014 with sister Courtney, an escaped slave and a lively courtroom scene. In succeeding books, the sisters travel to Washington City to nurse wounded soldiers and acquire beaus along the way. In Madness,

Jennifer and her husband, Logan, are joined by Cassandra and her hometown crush Zachary Ravenswood in a celebratory outing: They’re going to take in a play at Ford’s Theatre.

After the turmoil surrounding the Lincoln assassination dies down, the Ohioans prepare to return home. Zach is heir to an 800-acre horse farm and hopes it will provide financial security to allow him to marry Cass. While the men are waiting for their discharges to be official, the group scrounges up some surplus supplies and uses them to help a couple of Virginia families who lost their homes during the war. At first, the former Confederates are wary of the help; later, most of the onetime enemies are glad to put the war behind them, but a few remain openly hostile.

Discharge paperwork delays Zach’s return to his home, and he receives word that his grandfather has died and he now is the owner of the horse farm. When he arrives, he finds the house in disrepair, most of the staff gone and the accountant, Seymour, acting as if he owns the place. Seymour makes a pretense of grudgingly following the new owner’s orders, but in reality he may be planning something malevolent.

An afterword says that the final book in the series will be Impending Love and Promise;

it likely will concern finding a beau for Jules, the youngest Beecher sister. Impending Love and Madness

(352 pages, softcover) costs $16.99 from Wild Rose Press. Laura Freeman will appear at 10 a.m. Saturday [June 30] at Twinsburg Public Library, 10050 Ravenna Road, as part of Twinsburg’s “Our Living History Day.” Footnotes 

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“L” is for Lawless by Sue Grafton

“L” is for Lawless by Sue Grafton 1995

Kinsey’s friend Rosie is marrying Henry’s brother William and she’s going to be a IMG_1886bridesmaid. Henry ask a favor of Kinsey, which can’t turn out well. His friend Johnny has died and his grandson wants him to have a veteran’s funeral but the paperwork comes back saying he never served. Kinsey looks into it and runs into the same dead end. She looks around his apartment and an old friend Ray Rawson shows up. Soon after, Johnny’s place is broken into and his son Chester from Ohio is angry. He thinks Johnny was a spy or something. They find a key in a hidden safe. Chester hires her to find out what is going on. She visits Ray and guesses that Johnny was in prison instead of the military, but Ray won’t confirm. She sees a man in a Stetson at Johnny’s. Stetson and a pregnant girl get on a plane and Kinsey follows.

The story has a few surprises and Ray’s mother turns out to be the most entertaining of the characters. (Think grandma in the Stephanie Plum series).

Kinsey is surrounded by unscrupulous bad guys but never takes her predicament too seriously. Although she isn’t above lying and snooping, she doesn’t think to take some of the money to pay for airfare so she can get out of danger and go home. She also sends a jacket off to the dry cleaners with a “key” hidden in it and never panics about losing it. It has some good moments but seemed like an exercise in description, especially with the fire scene. Kinsey calls her newfound cousin for help, and it’s one step toward reconciliation. After seeing Ray’s family, any family would be an improvement.

“K” is for Killer by Sue Grafton

“K” is for Killer by Sue Grafton 1994

Janice Kepler comes to Kinsey to find out who murdered her daughter, Lorna, who was found decomposing in her cabin. Janice was sent a porn tape Lorna starred in.IMG_1888

Grafton’s descriptive phrases are more poetic and to the point as her writing evolved. While Grafton introduces a lot of new characters and spends time with them, most play minor roles in the story and the plot suffers. When Kinsey says she can’t find a motive, the reader is equally confused. The story has a lot of tentacles but not much punch by the end of the story. Grafton takes us down a lot of dead ends in this tale.

Lorna was a high-priced call girl who was making big dollars for retirement and independence. She meets vice cop Cheney Phillips and he seems dirty but not in this book. Dolan has had a heart attack and plays a minor role. Lorna was friends with disabled DJ Hector Morena and his dog, Beauty, who misses Lorna. He helps with a recording. Grafton introduces Lorna’s family: a concerned Janice, an indifferent father, Mace, and two ugly sisters Berlyn and Trinny who are jealous of Lorna. They know more than they should, and Kinsey tracks them down at the local bar where they’re trying to add excitement to their dull lives.

Kinsey takes a side trip to San Francisco to track down those involved in the porn video but it’s another dead end. Kinsey keeps seeing a man on a bike during her nighttime investigation. It is also a dead end.

The main story revolves around an oil company building a refinery, which is dropped in among the information at the beginning of the story. Grafton introduces Lorna’s part-time boss Roger Bonney, his jealous wife, the rich Clark Esselmann and his daughter, nurse Serena Bonney. Throw in a developer Stubby Stockton who livens up a rather dull board meeting but leaves the reader guessing what all the fuss is over. Esselmann, who is near death’s door, is only one vote on the board. Grafton doesn’t make it clear whether they were blackmailing Esselmann over his kinky sex with Lorna and didn’t like him changing his vote after a recent heart attack, which didn’t seem likely since Lorna was killed months before. I found myself scratching my head as I closed the cover. Feel free to explain your take on this mystery.

 

‘J’ is for judgment by Sue Grafton

‘J’ is for Judgment by Sue Grafton 1994

Grafton seems to be hitting her stride with this and the previous novel. Her writing shows a polish that makes reading quicker even though the plots are more IMG_1880complicated. This one has a nice surprise twist at the end.

Kinsey is approached by her former boss Mac Voorhies because a former employee saw Wendell Jaffe in Mexico. Wendell and his partner Carl Eckhert were part of a Ponzi scheme that stole millions from clients. Wendell faked his death off his yacht, The Captain Stanley Lord, and has been playing house with a rich widow Renata for five years. His wife Dana back home had him declared dead and filed for $500,000 in insurance from, you guess it, California Fidelity. They hire Kinsey to get to the bottom of it. She spies on Wendell and Renata but they leave before she can take a photo for proof. She also has to play a hooker to the man in the room next to Wendell, and he turns out to be a person of interest later on.

Kinsey gets to know Dana, her son Michael and his family and her son Brian, who is in a lot of trouble and could show up in a future book. She also befriends Renata. Carl now owns the Captain Stanley Lord and confesses there was $3 million hidden on it to keep investors from getting their money back.

Kinsey was “born to snoop” and is tempted when the occasion presents itself. She also makes friends with a lot of the women, returning to visit several times.

Grafton weaves plenty of twists and turns in the story about family secrets and betrayal. She also introduces Kinsey’s family she never knew about. Kinsey isn’t ready to meet her grandmother, aunts and cousins but I’m sure she will in the future.

 

‘I’ is for Innocent by Sue Grafton

‘I’ is for Innocent by Sue Grafton 1992

Big changes for Kinsey in this story. She was fired from California Fidelity Insurance IMG_1882and lost her adjoining office space. Now she’s working for attorney Lonnie Kingman and takes over the investigation of a case after Morley Shine dies of a heart attack. The files are a mess and she has to track down information and interview witnesses from the criminal case where David Barney is acquitted of the murder of his ex-wife Isabelle. Kingman is bringing civil charges against him.

For anyone who wants to understand the legal system and how it works, Grafton describes the process in this book and gives a good overview of what is going on before a trial. David looked like a good suspect. Isabelle was the one with the money, and he would lose financially in a divorce. He was obsessed with her and harassed her like a love-struck stalker, and a gun went missing at a party where all the suspects were present. Unfortunately, several witnesses place him too far from the crime scene to have done the shooting, and Kinsey has to find out who did the murder.

Grafton moves in two circles of suspects. Isabelle hurt her family and friends in one way or another. She also adds a subplot about a fatal hit and run that turns out to be the key to the murder. The other circle of suspects revolves around Morley and that holds several surprises.

This one has a surprise punch after a few jabs and was one of the best so far.

‘H’ is for Homicide by Sue Grafton

‘H’ is for Homicide by Sue Grafton 1991

When I was half-way through this book, I realized I had read it before but only IMG_1859remember parts of it. Grafton departs from her usual story plot and places Kinsey undercover instead of investigating a crime. It starts with Parnell Perkins dead in the parking lot and a new boss, Gordon Titus. Someone is filing false claims and Kinsey tracks down Bibianna Diaz. She befriends her at a bar where she runs into an old classmate, Jimmy Tate, who was a cop but got into trouble. While eating, Bibi’s old boyfriend, Raymond Maldonado, who is head of the insurance fraud scam, sends his brother and his wife to bring Bibi back. Tate shoots the man, wounds the woman, and Bibi and Kinsey are arrested. She uses a fake ID of Hannah. Dolan asks her to go undercover and find evidence against Raymond.

Grafton wanted to have some fun with Kinsey. She gets to dress up and try on a street-wise girl personality, she gets to go to jail and make new friends, and she is held as a friendly hostage in Raymond’s apartment where a pit bull takes a fondness for her. She figures out where the files are and has plenty of names but hangs around longer than common sense dictates although Grafton tries to justify the delay. But what really doesn’t make sense is Dolan leaves her out to dry without any contact or help. She is on her own even though an LAPD cop is with the gang. Nobody seems to realize how dangerous Raymond is. The book is short, 200 pages, and could have used some different twists and turns. Dolan certainly owed her an apology and instead puts her on hold when she finally gets a phone in her hand and calls him. What???

 

‘G’ is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton

‘G’ is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton 1990

Grafton reveals more about private investigator Kinsey Millhone who is celebrating her 33rd birthday on May 5. A fellow Taurus. She is also 5 foot 6 inches and 118 IMG_1861pounds. I like her even more. Her apartment, which was blown up in ‘E’ is for Evidence has been rebuilt thanks to her wonderful neighbor Henry. She is hired to find Agnes, 83, the mother of Irene Gersh who lives in the desert. She also finds out a hitman has been hired to kill her because of her work to put Tyrone Patty in jail. The girl is popular. The two problems intersect when the hitman, with his 5-year-old son in tow, runs her VW off the road. This leads her to hire a bodyguard, Robert Dietz. Agnes keeps talking about falling chimneys and the Bronte sisters and escapes from the nursing home her daughter puts her in. The search leads them to the home for the elderly. The hitman shows up and Irene has a meltdown. A tea set her mother had in the desert also sets her off. In the midst of all this, California Fidelity has a retirement party, and Vera sets Kinsey up with a blind date, only to have Kinsey turn the tables on her so that she ends up with the doctor. Kinsey and Dietz discover their own chemistry. Agnes is found but dies of what the medical examiner calls “fright.” The hitman kidnapped his son, and Dietz contacts the mother. The hitman doesn’t kill for money. He likes it. While Kinsey is evading being shot by the hitman, she helps Irene figure out the secrets Agnes went to the grave with and why.

Kinsey spends most of this book black and blue and still manages to attract Dietz, who is so much like her, it’s a bet he’ll return in the future. This was a simpler story without too many suspects. Grafton revealed a little more about Kinsey’s personality and if you haven’t read any other books, reveals her parents were killed in an accident. Her aunt, who died 10 years ago, told her no sniveling. Her life was molded by those events.

 

Impending Love and Madness

Impending Love and Madness published May 30, 2018

Print or ebook historic romance novel “Impending Love and Madness” by Laura Freeman at http://goo.gl/0fBnFq and @wildrosepress or shop Amazon at https://goo.gl/B7lKMs

Blurb of Impending Love and MadnessBest_ImpendingLoveandMadness_w12429_750

Cass Beecher hopes Sergeant Zach Ravenswood will fall in love with her on an outing to Ford’s Theater, only to have their world turned upside down with President Lincoln’s assassination. Her romantic plans continue to be thwarted by family, friends, and a mysterious stranger. Can she save the man she loves from the enemies that plot to ruin him?

Zach thought with the war over, he could turn his attention to wooing the lovely Cassandra, but a fortune teller’s dire predictions begin to come true when a fire disfigures him, a nun poisons him, his uncle steals his inheritance, and he’s shot. Is he going mad or is everything not as it appears?

Excerpt:

“Mister Ravenswood is ill and isn’t receiving guests.”

“But we traveled all this way,” Cass said. “Isn’t there going to be a sale?”

“A gale?” The old woman looked at the sky and pointed at a dark cloud. “It looks like rain.”

“We were asking about the horse sale!” Ethan shouted.

“The sale is on Saturday. You should return then.” She pushed the door closed. The clank of a bolt locking the entrance echoed from inside.

“Well, I never.” Cass stared at the wooden barrier, willing it to open. “We’re here to see Zach! If he’s ill, I can help!” Her shouts were unanswered.

“Come on.” Ethan pulled her away and helped her into the buggy.

She turned. A curtain moved. Someone was watching them.

Harry took the reins and glanced at the sky. “She was right about a storm. We better hurry to the village. We can try again tomorrow.”

Ethan relaxed against the back seat. “Any of you buying that fairytale the old witch was telling?”

“No, but what can we do?” Harry asked. “We’ve been thrown out of the castle.”

“Old witch,” Cass repeated Ethan’s description.

Harry slowed the horse. “Are you all right, Miss Cassie? You look pale.”

“Don’t you remember the fortune teller’s prediction? I think Zach is in trouble, and he needs our help.”

Ethan leaned forward. “How do you propose we sneak past the crazy doorkeeper?”

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton 1989

Grafton leaves her garage home when Royce Fowler hires her to prove his son BaileyIMG_1855 didn’t kill his girlfriend, Jean Timberlake 17 years ago. Bailey escaped from prison a year after he confessed but was arrested under his alias. Royce has a sick wife, Oribelle, who runs the family hotel while complaining about her ailments. Their daughter Ann has quit her job as counselor at the high school to care for her ailing parents but they are driving her insane. Grafton goes back and forth from the present situation to the past crime as she introduces characters who were involved with Jean, who was pregnant when she was killed and looking for her biological father.

Bailey maintains his innocence but during his hearing, his best friend Tap shoots up the courtroom with a shotgun loaded with rocksalt, and Bailey escapes, hiding out. Tap is shot by police leaving his young wife with four children and another on the way. Tap and Bailey were into robberies and had $42,000 stashed with Jean, which has disappeared.

Grafton keeps the reader guessing by adding a preacher, spa owner, and principal who had relationships with Jean. She also throws in a crazy spa owner’s wife who beats Kinsey with a tennis racket. Kinsey whacks her in the nose. Grafton is adding humor to her heroine’s personality. Kinsey also is carrying her new gun but doesn’t use it. Grafton gives us the reason, but the reader can see that Grafton wants Kinsey to be in peril and have to use her wits to get out of trouble. The characters had fuller backstories and the emotional assault on characters was as intense as the physical damage. Kinsey grows in her compassion for Henry, her landlord, from the experience.

For writers, Grafton groups her suspects and makes it easier to identify them as she adds clues and complicates the plot.

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton

‘F’ is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton 1989

Grafton leaves her garage home when Royce Fowler hires her to prove his son BaileyIMG_1855 didn’t kill his girlfriend, Jean Timberlake 17 years ago. Bailey escaped from prison a year after he confessed but was arrested under his alias. Royce has a sick wife, Oribelle, who runs the family hotel while complaining about her ailments. Their daughter Ann has quit her job as counselor at the high school to care for her ailing parents but they are driving her insane. Grafton goes back and forth from the present situation to the past crime as she introduces characters who were involved with Jean, who was pregnant when she was killed and looking for her biological father.

Bailey maintains his innocence but during his hearing, his best friend Tap shoots up the courtroom with a shotgun loaded with rocksalt, and Bailey escapes, hiding out. Tap is shot by police leaving his young wife with four children and another on the way. Tap and Bailey were into robberies and had $42,000 stashed with Jean, which has disappeared.

Grafton keeps the reader guessing by adding a preacher, spa owner, and principal who had relationships with Jean. She also throws in a crazy spa owner’s wife who beats Kinsey with a tennis racket. Kinsey whacks her in the nose. Grafton is adding humor to her heroine’s personality. Kinsey also is carrying her new gun but doesn’t use it. Grafton gives us the reason, but the reader can see that Grafton wants Kinsey to be in peril and have to use her wits to get out of trouble. The characters had fuller backstories and the emotional assault on characters was as intense as the physical damage. Kinsey grows in her compassion for Henry, her landlord, from the experience.