Charli Rae Warren is back home in Hazel Rock, Texas, spending her time reading, collecting, and selling books—at least, the ones that don’t get eaten first by her father’s pet armadillo. Running the family bookstore is a demanding job, but solving murders on the side can be flat out dangerous . . .
The Book Barn is more than just a shop, it’s a part of the community—and Charli is keeping busy with a fundraising auction and the big rodeo event that’s come to town. That includes dealing with the Texas-sized egos of some celebrity cowboys, including Dalton Hibbs, a blond, blue-eyed bull rider who gets overly rowdy one night with the local hairdresser . . . and soon afterward, disappears into thin air.
Dalton’s brother also vanished seven years ago—and Charli is thrown about whether Dalton is a villain or a victim. After a close call with an assailant wielding a branding iron (that plays havoc with her hair), and some strange vandalism on her property, she’s going to have to team up with the sheriff to untangle this mystery, before she gets gored . . .
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A clever small town story that will provide a few hours respite and several laughs.
Initially I grabbed at the title based on the premise alone – I can’t resist a book-loving heroine, and with the pet pink armadillo, I was all in. And Princess the armadillo, with her penchant for eating books and generally being an armadillo was adorable. But, this is a story of Charli Rae and her return to her small Texas hometown to help her father run the Book Barn, the family business. Not having read the first in the series, I was grateful for the author’s ability to give a bit of background on the characters without overtaking the current story, and everyone is in the midst of preparing for the big town event, a rodeo with an auction that brings proceeds to help support aging and injured rodeo cowboys. Together with her best friend Scarlett, owner of the beauty shop, have been running classes for ‘book art’ to provide items for the auction.
The big day dawns and everything is moving along despite the usual hiccups, and her friend Scarlett is upset since Dalton (a bull-rider she’s had her eye on for a while) seems to have disappeared without a trace, leaving her feeling abandoned. But there is opportunity for worry as well since seven years earlier Dalton’s brother disappeared at the same event in the same way. Charli is incensed for her friend, and intrigued by the mystery – so she just dives in and starts looking. Soon, she’s in over her head, and everyone, including the local sherriff and her ex-boyfriend the mayor, is worried for her safety.
Twists, turns and laughs galore, Roberts infuses the story with plenty of unique characters who are all up in the local gossip, each with their own view of things and people. A solid friendship between Charli and Scarlett is clearly presented: while the two are supportive, loyal and above all, cleverly portrayed. Descriptions and presentations of scenes, people and moments are cleanly written and the mystery thread is perfectly twisty with plenty of options for suspects, tension and drama. A clever small town story that will provide a few hours respite and several laughs.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Sometimes you have to just accept you’re a Princess and move on. Such is the case for Charli Rae Warren in the latest Book Barn mystery, A Reference to Murder. Charli has been trying to get the town of Hazel Rock to quit calling her Princess since she moved back. In this novel she finally realizes the futility of that effort and lets herself be the Princess they’ve always thought her to be. Though the road certainly isn’t easy. It is her involvement in the local Cowboy Invitational Rodeo that finally sets her on this path and not surprisingly there is a body or two along the way. I’m really enjoying this cozy series by Kym Roberts. It’s got great characters, fun characters, and a barn bookstore (how can you go wrong with a bookstore?). As a Colorado girl, I loved the amount of detail Roberts included about the rodeo; it the Cowboy Invitational isn’t real, I really wish it was. If you are looking for a great escapist read, this is a good place to start. I know I can’t wait for the next installment in this fun series.
I voluntarily reviewed an ARC of this novel.