Tag Archives: Heather Day Gilbert

Review: Trouble Brewing, by Heather Day Gilbert (Barks ‘n Beans 5)

Trouble Brewing, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2021)

When her friend Della suspects that an elderly homecare client was murdered, local sleuth Macy Hatfield sees the perfect way to scout out the dead woman’s suspect-laden family: The daughter and her husband run a country inn that’s offering a Halloween weekend getaway.

Leaving her faithful Great Dane, Coal, in the care of her brother, Bo, Macy and Della book a mini getaway. They both need one, and it’ll be fun. What could possibly go wrong?

Among the family, motive abounds. Add a creepy ghost-tour walk, an apparition on the grounds, bats, and a dead body, and Macy and Della may be in too deep. Because there’s nothing ghostly about the very human killer.

Favourite line:

It was the kind of sun-speckled October day that wrapped the autumn trees in a lazy golden cocoon. I’d been a child of the mountains since the day I was born, but this kind of weather forced everyone to sit up and acknowledge that West Virginia was called “almost heaven” for good reason. [chapter 1]

Don’t you just want to visit?

Trouble Brewing is book 5 in the Barks & Beans Café Mystery series, clean reads set in small-town West Virginia. Fans of the series will still have a chance to visit the café and enjoy the staff and the rescue dogs, but the bulk of the story takes place at Baxter Manor.

This is a series you can jump into anywhere, with each mystery self-contained. That said, there is a long-running plot thread from Bo’s former work in drug enforcement, and the characters are building relationships with one another and in the community.

Award-winning author Heather Day Gilbert’s books range from cozy mysteries to suspense to Viking historicals. For more about the author and her work, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Advance reader copy provided by the author. My review is voluntary and is my own opinion.]

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Review: Spilled Milk, by Heather Day Gilbert (Barks & Beans 4)

Spilled Milk, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2021)

A feel-good cozy mystery!

The Barks & Beans Café—small-town Lewisville’s place to gather for fantastic coffee and the chance to mingle with (and perhaps adopt) lovable dogs from the nearby animal shelter.

In the middle of plans for the café’s one-year anniversary, Macy Hatfield’s brother and business partner, Bo, is called away for “one last duty” for his former drug enforcement boss.

Macy can handle this on her own, right? Her loyal staff members, and her friend Summer from the animal shelter, are on board to help.

Except her best barista is suddenly a murder suspect. And her ex-husband slithers into town. And Bo’s cat is a nightmare houseguest.

Readers familiar with the series know Macy has a helping heart. She has to support Kylie and clear her name despite the girl’s distant attitude. And despite the rebellious younger sister Kylie is supporting.

If you’re new to the series you can start here, but it’d be more fun to start at the beginning with No Filter. Each story is self-contained, although there’s a long-term plot thread as well as developing relationships.

I like the characters—human and animal—and the light-hearted vibe even though the body count is rising. This is a mystery I could read at bedtime, be fully engaged in the story, and not risk bad dreams. I don’t know if “feel-good mystery” is a genre, but the label fits for this one. I was smiling when I finished.  

The Barks & Beans novels are clean, mainstream cozy mysteries set in small-town West Virginia. Spilled Milk is book four. Up next will be Trouble Brewing.

Author Heather Day Gilbert writes cozy mysteries, romantic suspense, and Viking historicals. Check out her website for more information: heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher. I was not required to write a review, and my opinions are my own.]

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Review: Fair Trade, by Heather Day Gilbert

Fair Trade, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2020)

This third instalment in The Barks & Beans Café Mystery Series sees brother and sister co-owners Bo and Macy Hatfield on location at the West Virginia state fair with a booth for iced coffee, snacks, and a few of the shelter dogs who make up the “barks” side of the name.

This time, Macy reconnects with an old school friend, now a country music star, who’s in town for a couple of concerts at the fair. Macy enjoys the chance to see behind the scenes in the band, but when there’s an attempt on her friend’s life the rest of the band suddenly look like suspects.

The fairground atmosphere took me back to fun childhood memories of rides, food, and exhibits. Favourite line:

It was a curious concoction of popcorn, hot dogs, and caramel, mingled with the very human scent of something I could only describe as undiluted excitement.

[Kindle location 719, Macy describing the scent of the fair]

I found the psychology especially interesting in this story, and of course Coal the Great Dane is a treat. I like how he’s always featured on the covers. Waffles the clueless shelter dog is back, as well of course as the likeable siblings and their staff and friends. And there’s a surprise cameo appearance by someone fans will recognize from another Heather Day Gilbert series.

Another thing I appreciate about this series is the overarching plot threads that link the books. Not that a reader couldn’t start here and be happy, but continuity-wise it’s better to start at the beginning and watch it all unfold. Each story is complete on its own, but as well as developing relationships there’s the shadowy background villain who keeps inserting himself into Macy’s life.

Fair Trade is a quick, clean cozy mystery that may have you wishing for a chance to take in your own local fair.

Award-winning author Heather Day Gilbert writes cozy mysteries, suspense and romantic suspense, and Viking historicals. For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Advance review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: Iced Over, by Heather Day Gilbert

Iced Over, Barks & Beans Cafe Mystery Series book 2, by Heather Day Gilbert

Iced Over, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2020)

An accident on an icy road leaves one armoured car driver dead and the other in a coma—and a surprising amount of people looking for money stolen from the scene.

Macy Hatfield, co-owner of Barks & Beans with her brother Bo, discovers the injured man is uncle to one of their employees at the café and brother to one of her friends from church. Macy’s protective streak kicks in, and her curiosity isn’t far behind.

This is a light-hearted series, with no graphic scenes or profanity. The characters attend church, but that’s the only overt faith content you’ll see.

Being light doesn’t mean fluffy, though. While on the one hand we have Waffles, the adorable-but-clueless shelter dog who can’t behave, on the other we have teenaged Ethan (the injured man’s nephew) on regular dialysis and needing a kidney transplant. And we have stolen cash in West Virginia, but also international criminals with a wider agenda.

I enjoy being able to read mystery and suspense without getting tense or worried. The Barks & Beans series fits that bill nicely, and I like the characters—both human and animal. For the cat-lovers among us, Bo has a delightful kitten named Stormy.

Dog-wise, we have Coal, Macy’s Great Dane, and the various shelter dogs delivered to the café each day in hopes of finding a café patron who’ll adopt them. The food and drinks that come out of this café make it a place I’d definitely like to visit, and I’d like to visit with the dogs too.

Favourite lines:

Sometimes, in the empty spaces, it was almost like my heart was beating too loudly, shouting for someone else to hear it. [Macy thinking about living alone in a large house, Kindle location353]

I was about to raise his interest in buzzing off from Barks & Beans for good. “I understand,” I said, offering that honeyed smile of the South that meant you had another thing coming. [Macy again (the whole book is in her point of view), Kindle location 779]

Heather Day Gilbert writes cozy mysteries, romantic suspense, and Viking historical fiction, both clean mainstream and Christian. Iced Over is book 2 in The Barks and Beans Café Mystery Series. Book 3, Fair Trade, releases fall 2020. For more about the author and her work, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]

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Review: No Filter, by Heather Day Gilbert

No Filter,by Heather Day Gilbert  Barks & Beans Cafe Mystery Series, Book 1 | #cleanreads #cozymystery

No Filter, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2020)

Mystery readers will love the sister and brother duo—and Coal, the Great Dane—in Heather Day Gilbert’s new Barks & Beans Café Mystery Series.

Newly-single Macy Hatfield is lured home to the West Virginia town of Lewisburg when her brother Bo moves back to open his own business—The Barks & Beans Café. It’s a trendy, upscale coffee shop with a difference: there’s an attached space where patrons can get their pet fix by visiting with dogs from the local shelter.

Bo’s the coffee guy, and Macy’s the dog lover. Together, they run this business in what was their beloved Aunt Athaleen’s home. Bo is ex-military, which will come in handy when the mystery part of the story starts.

Apparently cafés like this do exist, and I think they sound fun (for dogs or for cats). The café staff are an eclectic and interesting group, as are the clientele, and the café treats sound tempting.

When Macy adopts a Great Dane after his owner’s murder, she’s drawn into the mystery surrounding the death.

No Filter is a clean cozy mystery and a fun read, and I’m fond of Coal, the Great Dane. Macy and Bo have a really strong sibling relationship. It’s good to see support instead of bickering. I like their banter and the way each has the other’s back. They need to, since otherwise they’re on their own. Each one carries wounds from previous relationships as well as the longer-standing trauma of their parents’ deaths many years earlier.

Favourite line (Macy talking to Bo):

I rolled my eyes. “I can take care of myself. Case in point, I was at the scene of a murder tonight and I didn’t get killed.” [Kindle location 1834]

No Filter is book 1 in the Barks & Beans Café Mystery Series. The novel is complete on its own, with some suspense and relationship threads that lead into later books. Readers who enjoy No Filter will want to order the sequel, Iced Over, releasing July 2020. For more about author Heather Day Gilbert and her other books (mysteries, suspense, and Viking historicals) visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher; opinions are my own.]

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Review: Belinda Blake and the Birds of a Feather, by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Birds of a Feather, by Heather Day Gilbert (Lyrical Underground Books, 2020)

Homing pigeons are less dangerous than the wolves she had as a previous assignment, but Belinda Blake still finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation—this time in her hometown of Larches Corner in Upstate New York. And is there a connection between the present investigation and the previous death of a young college student?

Along with the mystery, Belinda is still trying to choose between her rich landlord Stone Carrington the fifth, and her childhood neighbour, rock-solid farmer Jonas Hawthorne.

Appealing characters, intriguing mysteries, and exotic pets. What’s not to like? I’ve enjoyed each book in the series, but this one gets my vote for most unexpected solution.

For more about Heather Day Gilbert and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[I received a complimentary copy of this book via NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.]

Review: Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing, by Heather Day Gilbert (Lyrical Press, 2019)

You might think that after pet-sitting a ball python, Belinda Blake can handle anything, but she’s not too sure about wolves. Yes, it’s a rehabilitation sanctuary, and yes, they seem friendly, but they’re still wild animals. With sharp teeth.

When someone is found dead and bloody in one of the wolf pens, common sense tells her to bail on her contract and take the consequences. But the wolf preserve is short-staffed and she doesn’t want to let the owner down.

Once she begins to suspect someone staged the “wolf attack” to shut down the preserve, she’s determined to stay.

I’m enjoying this series for the mysteries, but also for the characters. Belinda is a computer gamer and book-lover, transplanted from a rural environment into a wealthy neighbourhood. Jonas, one of her friends from home, looks promising as a love interest, although her landlord’s absent son caught her attention in book one. And Red, the chauffeur/bodyguard on the estate where she rents a carriage house, is an interesting background character.

For the literary and theme-inclined, there are some interesting correlations between Belinda’s story and the novel her long-distance book club is discussing. The Great Gatsby is not a book I know well, so I missed some of the effect.

Favourite lines:

“…it was beyond me how I would feed raw eat to wolves without looking like an oversized, tasty morsel myself.” [Kindle location 260]

And when one of the other characters laments the need to lean so much on others, Belinda observes:

“Sometimes leaning is the only way to stay upright.” [Kindle location 1566]

Definitely recommended for cozy mystery fans!

Heather Day Gilbert is an award-winning author of Viking historical fiction and contemporary suspense as well as the Belinda Blake, Exotic Pet Sitter cozy mystery series. Belinda Blake and the Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing is book 2 in the series. For more about the author, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by NetGalley and Kensington Books. Opinions are my own.]

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Review: Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, an Exotic Pet-Sitter Mystery by Heather Day Gilbert

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert (Lyrical Underground Books, 2019)

Fun start to a new series. Belinda Blake rents a carriage house on the luxurious Carrington estate, but she’s a casual country girl at heart. Her relaxed clothing and gamer tee-shirts don’t exactly match the designer shoes on the corpse she finds in the garden.

The Carringtons’ son, Stone the fifth, persuades Belinda to help him investigate because the dead woman was his friend. But is the charming heir using Belinda to hide his guilt?

Between the mystery, the challenges of pet-sitting a large tropical snake, and Belinda’s sense of humour, the pages fly past. And although this is a light-toned cozy mystery, there are some thoughtful observations of human nature. Nothing’s simple, and not much is as it seems.

The book includes a sneak peek at the second installment in the series. Belinda’s next pet-sitting assignment? Wolves. I’ll be in line to read it when it releases.

Heather Day Gilbert is an award-winning author of Viking historical fiction and contemporary suspense as well as the Belinda Blake, Exotic Pet Sitter cozy mystery series. For more about the author, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley.]

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Review: Guilt by Association, by Heather Day Gilbert

Guilt by Association, by Heather Day Gilbert. Murder in the Mountains book 3Guilt by Association, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2017)

When Tess Spencer reluctantly goes to help her ex-con mother hunt for a new home and a dead body turns up behind her mother’s trailer, she has no choice but to stay and clear her mother’s name – even though she’s afraid her mom might be involved.

Along with the mystery, this is a novel with layers of heart. It exposes the tragedy of the drugs that really do run rampant in the areas where the novel is set – and in so many other parts of North America and the world. It touches briefly on child abuse and foster care.

And it shows Tess, away from home and missing her husband and young daughter, comparing the mother-in-law who mothers her with her biological mother who’s let her down more times than she can count.

Lest that sound like a depressing read, it’s anything but. The mystery is engaging and fast-paced, there are delightfully quirky characters, there are heart-warming moments and hope.

Fans of the series will be pleased and/or intrigued to see Axel again, albeit briefly. We need another Axel story, I think, and more resolution with Tess and her parents.

Heather Day Gilbert is a Grace Award winner and bests-selling author of contemporary mysteries and Viking historicals. Guilt by Association is book 3 in her A Murder in the Mountains series, set in the mountains of West Virginia. For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Advance review copy provided by the author.]

Review: Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert

Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert | Hemlock Creek Suspense book 2Undercut, by Heather Day Gilbert (WoodHaven Press, 2017)

Her sister and brother used to follow their FBI father to the shooting range, but Molly McClure has always been different. She’d rather dress in pretty clothes and arrange her hair.

Truth told, she didn’t sound like my kind of character. But it didn’t take long for Molly to impress me, and she certainly carries the heroine role with courage. What I admire about Molly is that she knows what she wants, and instead of going to the extreme of either passive hinting or aggressive pressure, she takes an honest, direct approach.

This is a romantic suspense story, where Molly and PTSD-scarred ex-military sniper Zane Boone, now turned lumberjack, each carry a previous attraction to the other. When they meet again, she’s not pushy, but she’s sure not sitting back pining. She meets him as a confident equal, and while there are doubts, there’s not the angst we too often see.

The suspense comes because Zane is convinced someone’s stalking him. He’s very much in alert mode, and it shows in his reactions.

For a novella-length story (132 pages), Undercut packs a lot of action and emotional content. It’s book 2 in the Hemlock Creek Suspense series. Book 1 was Molly’s sister Katie’s story, so I assume book 3 will feature their brother, Brandon.

Undercut first released in the ebook box set, Kill Zone, and is now available on its own in print and digital formats.

Heather Day Gilbert always delivers a good read with strong characters, whether she’s writing about Vikings (God’s Daughter and Forest Child) or contemporary suspense (the Murder in the Mountains series and the Hemlock Creek Suspense series). For more about the author and her books, visit heatherdaygilbert.com.

[Review copy provided by the author.]