A Review: Anything But Civil

Last week I finished Anna Loan-Wilsey’s Anything But Civil. It is the second in a mystery series featuring traveling secretary Hattie Davish. I won a copy of the book at a Facebook “tea party.” The author mailed it to me and was kind enough to inscribe the front of the book with a lovely message.

Anything But Civil cover 2   Anything But Civil note

 

Here’s a quick synopsis: Ms. Davish is secretary to Sir Arthur Windom-Greene, an Englishman with a love of American history. He is working on a biography of General Cornelius Starrett, a war hero from Galena, Illinois.

Sir Arthur and Hattie travel to Galena to meet General Starrett and to interview him, as well as to visit other places in Galena of interest to Civil War scholars, including the home of Ulysses S. Grant. While in Galena, Sir Arthur and Hattie have the dubious honor of meeting General Starrett’s son, Captain Henry Starrett, a blustering hothead with a grudge against a member of the community who was branded a traitor during the Civil War by some citizens of the town.

It’s not long before Hattie finds herself dragged into a murder mystery involving old wounds that reach back in time to the War. Convinced that Captain Starrett has something to do with strange and violent events that occur in town, Hattie must walk a delicate line between investigating the mystery, staying focused on her work for Sir Arthur, and not getting herself hurt or killed in the process.

Oh, and Sir Arthur is a suspect in the murder. And it’s Christmastime. And Hattie also has to decorate Sir Arthur’s house, plan menus for the holiday, and buy and wrap gifts from herself and Sir Arthur. She has a lot on her plate, to say the least.

My verdict: I loved the book.

Anna Loan-Wilsey does a great job of intertwining the story lines and the characters, and the amount of research (on not only the Civil War, but also on the town of Galena, the clothing of that period in history, the holiday customs of that era, and the rules of social interactions during that time) that obviously went into this historical cozy is staggering. I was very impressed. I did guess the identity of the killer, but not until the very end, about a paragraph before the answer was revealed. Just like Hattie, I kept running lists of the possible suspects and red herrings. The book was a fun read, and I recommend it to anyone who likes historical fiction or historical cozies.

I haven’t yet read the first book in the Hattie Davish mystery series, A Lack of Temperance, but you can be sure I’m going to. Anything But Civil, though it’s the second book in the series, can be easily understood without reading the first book, but I’d love to learn more about Hattie’s background.

Incidentally, the third book in the series is called A Deceptive Homecoming, but it hasn’t been released yet. I’m looking forward to it!

Until next week,

Amy

 

Blog Hopping!

This week’s blog is coming a little early. I’m participating in a blog-hop at the invitation of Joyce Ann Brown, author of some very fun cozy mystery stories. I recommend a visit to her blog at http://www.retirementchoicescozymystery.wordpress.com.

So here are my answers to the burning questions:

1. What am I working on now?

I am currently working on my second novel, with a tentative title of Low Country Twilight. It’s the story of a restoration specialist who moves from Chicago to South Carolina with her little girl to restore an old plantation manor. While there, she discovers that the members of the household have hidden vices and secrets, and she slowly gets drawn into a web of suspicion and distrust that affect her job and her future happiness. I am enjoying the story and my goal is to have it finished by Easter. It is due to the publisher on June 1st, so I will have between April 20th and June 1st to revise and rewrite.

2. How is my writing different from others of the same genre?

My books are considered women’s fiction with a strong sense of suspense and setting. I like to write about places I know well, and I hope that the love I have for the places I write about shows in my stories. Though my books are in the genre of romantic suspense, they contain light, sweet romance and suspense that is not too violent or gory. I like to write the types of books that I read.

3. Why do I write what I do?

That’s easy, and I have already given the short answer: I write what I like to read. Growing up, one of my favorite authors was Phyllis A. Whitney, author of a huge number of romantic suspense books and my personal hero. She was a prolific author who wrote past age 100, and her protagonists were always strong women who dealt with adversity head-on and came out stronger for it.

This is not to say that I don’t love other genres, too. I am a huge fan of historical fiction and biographies. I also love thrillers. If you read some of the older posts on my blog, you’ll see that I simply love books, and my favorites run the gamut from Jane Austen to Ernest Hemingway to M.C. Beaton.

4. How does your writing process work?

I have addressed this issue in past blog posts, too. I like to plot out my stories long before I start writing them. I make up my characters and their personal histories. I like to plot out the scenes before I stitch them together. I draw pictures of the places where the action occurs. I research, research, research. I get an entire story written down before I start revising. I keep a list of things that I know need extra attention on the second pass-through, but I don’t do any rewriting until the story is completed.

I love every single minute of the writing process, whether it’s research, plotting, writing the first draft, revising and editing, writing the final draft, writing any draft in between, doing copy edits, or doing page proofs.

This blog hop didn’t ask, but I figured I’d plug my first book anyways, which is coming out in July 2014 by Kensington Publishing. It’s called Secrets of Hallstead House. It is the story of a young woman who moves from Manhattan to a secluded home in the Thousand Islands to take a job as the private nurse to an elderly woman. While there, she discovers that the people who live on the island harbor dangerous secrets that she was never meant to learn. She must face those secrets if she is to stay alive and find happiness.

I invite you to visit my website at http://www.amymreade.com or to follow my blog and leave comments on the things you read. I usually post on Tuesdays on subjects ranging from writing to reading to volunteering to things to do for fun.

I also invite you to stop by again to see who I’ve tagged next in the blog hop!

Until next week,

Amy