Yahoo! I’m starting this series and new author (to me) with Book 1!
The first novel in Mollie Cox Bryan’s brand new mystery series, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains, will keep you guessing until the cows come home . . .
Christmas is a time for new beginnings, so after her big breakup, Brynn MacAlister takes the gouda with the bad. With her three Red Devon cows, she settles in bucolic Shenandoah Springs, eager for a new life as an organic micro-dairy farmer and cheese-maker. Then her dear cow Petunia’s bellows set the whole town on edge. But it isn’t until Brynn’s neighbor, Nancy, dies in a mysterious fire that her feelings about small town life begin to curdle . . .
It seems some folks were not happy with Nancy’s plan to renovate the Old Glebe Church. But is a fear of change a motivation for murder? As a newcomer, Brynn can’t ignore the strange events happening just on the other side of her frosty pasture—and soon on her very own farm. Suddenly Christmas doesn’t feel so festive as everyone demands she muzzle sweet Petunia, and Brynn is wondering if someone wants to silence her—for good . .
Protagonist Brynn MacAlister has ended up in bucolic Shenandoah Springs on a small micro-dairy farm with emphasis on artisanal cheeses without the fiancé planned with the move. (He turned out to be a two-timing jerk.) Her grandmother had passed away giving her the wherewithal to purchase the property complete with main house (formerly a B&B), guest house, and barn. She has brought with her three Red Devon dairy cows, Petunia, Marigold, and Buttercup. Unfortunately, Petunia gave birth to a stillborn calf and is in severe mourning.
Brynn is getting to know the people of the tiny town in Virginia and as always, some are more friendly than others. She wants to network as she’ll be trying to sell her cheese locally, but it is with her close neighbor, Nancy, with whom she finds the most common interests. Nancy is also a recent transplant and wants to rehab the other side of the field, formerly a church. Unfortunately, there is a fire and Nancy succumbs to smoke inhalation and the injuries suffered. It is part of Nancy’s family that includes two boys who will stay in Brynn’s guest home, helping with chores as they are on Christmas break.
The two outstanding support characters, Schuyler and Willow, are great and I’d love to see their characters grow within the series. And Wes sounds like he’ll be a great asset, young, smart, enthusiastic, and media capable. The descriptions of the area make it sound so beautiful, although I can imagine the bone-chilling cold during the Christmas season and the thought of going out to milk Petunia, get them fed, muck the barn, and provide some kind of heating system doesn’t get me enthused enough to move.
Also greatly appreciated getting to know more about the cheese-making process and the artisan varieties–who doesn’t love cheese? As always, with any of these crafts, there are definitions of the industry language with cleanliness standards high on the list. I can remember being invited to the home of a couple also in the Jazz Mass Choir during rehearsals for a European choir tour wherein her dessert was a plate of special cheeses, including Brie, crackers, and grapes, and I’ve never been able to find a Brie that could equal. (Believe me, I’ve looked.)
So with only the whispered words from Nancy prior to her death to go on, Brynn begins to investigate. But that seems to start a round of warnings and things get creepy. She does attain a dog, Freckles, although Freckles seems to be just a tad hit and miss on the watchdog thing.
The well-plotted and atmospheric storyline moves at a fairly decent pace, although there is more than sufficient repeats of main points that will not let you forget exactly why she was there trying to do this alone (perhaps it was a mistake), who was trying to get her to move, and why. Brynn waffles, although under the circumstances, probably anyone would. Still, it sounded like the idyllic setting. There are red herrings, yes, but more than ample hints of the who, whether or not we understood the why until the conclusion.
I love it when I get to start a promising new series with Book 1 and this one appears to be off and running with a strong debut. I’m looking forward to more fleshing in Brynn, but love the support characters, human as well as animal.
I was granted this digital download by the publisher and NetGalley and greatly appreciated the opportunity to read and review. Recommended for cozy mystery fans, particularly of the culinary sort. I suspect a few of the ingredients will grace your shopping list (as it will mine).
Genre: Cozy Culinary Mystery, Cozy Animal Mystery, Amateur Sleuth
- ASIN: B07MH9XYHY
Print Length: 336 pages
Publication Date: September 24, 2019
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Christmas Cow Bells
Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars
The Author: Mollie Cox Bryan writes cozy mysteries with edge and romances with slow, sweet burn. The first book in her new mystery series, “Cora Crafts Mysteries.” is DEATH AMONG THE DOILIES, which was selected as “Fresh Fiction Not to Miss” and is a 2017 Finalist for the Daphne du Maurier Award. The second book, NO CHARM INTENDED, was named a Summer 2017 Top 10 Beach Read by Woman’s World. She also wrote the Agatha-award nominated Cumberland Creek Mysteries. Several of the books in that series were short-listed for the Virginia Library People’s Choice Award. She’s also penned a historical fiction: MEMORY OF LIGHT: AN AFTERMATH OF GETTYSBURG and historical romance: TEMPTING WILL MCGLASHEN. She makes her home at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the Shenandoah Valley, Va.
©2019 V Williams