Book Review: The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor

Hey, readers. Welcome to my first book review of 2023. I picked up a copy of this one over the Christmas holidays and couldn’t wait to delve into its pages.

My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor is the first book I’ve read by author Amy M. Reade. It’s an older title published several years ago, but it didn’t disappoint.

I’ll preface this review by saying if you’re expecting ghostly encounters, don’t. While there is a ghost mentioned, the lead character does not have first-hand interaction with her.

Recently divorced Carleigh Warner is hired by the family of her friend, Evie Peppernell to restore the family’s mansion near Charleston, South Carolina. She and her three-year-old daughter Lucy make the long drive from Chicago and prepare to stay in the area for several months.

Carleigh meets Evie’s family—her grandmother Cora Camille, her parents, two brothers Harlan and Heath, an aunt, and a long-time family employee, Phyllis. Not long after Evie begins the restorative work, things begin happening. Family matriarch Cora-Camille becomes ill. Evie receives a threatening phone call. Someone tries to run her over with their car.

Not everyone in the family agrees on the plans for the manor. Evie’s brother Harlan and her mother Vivian are in favor of allowing a group of investors to pay for the restoration, then turn the house and grounds into a bed and breakfast/venue/tourist attraction. Cora Camille considers leaving the property to the state of South Carolina with the provision the family is allowed to live in the main manor.

Phyllis, whose ancestor Sarah was a slave at the manor, often talks with her apparition. She informs Carleigh that Sarah is not in favor of the restoration, especially when Carleigh wants to restore the property’s old slave cabins. Phyllis is also superstitious. After a stray dog shows up at Heath’s home on the estate, she claims it’s bad luck and bad things will continue to happen until the dog is gone.

For a while, it appears Phyllis is right. Cora Camille dies of natural causes, but the coroner also finds traces of thallium in her system. Harlan is murdered. Carleigh’s ex-husband is mauled by an alligator during a hurricane after he snuck onto the property to spy on her. And someone sets out to sabotage Carleigh’s work. Who is responsible?

The author kept me guessing. I questioned several family members’ motives. In the end, I was totally surprised as to the murderer’s identity.

There’s also a burgeoning romance between Carleigh and Heath. I also liked the historical aspects of the book. While much of history is dark, I think it’s important that we don’t try to change or hide it but learn so that we won’t repeat the same mistakes.

Overall, this was an enjoyable four-star read, and I look forward to more from this author.

Book Review: Genuine Deceit

Happy first Tuesday of December! Another year is almost on the books. Can you believe it? I’m happy to say that I exceeded my Good Reads challenge for the year. More about that later this month, but today I want to share a review of another new to me author. I love it when a book grabs hold and doesn’t let go and I hope to see more publications by this author.

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The title alone says it all. How can deceit be genuine? Yet Reagan Asher soon learns that everything she held dear is not what it seems.

Upon learning of her grandmother’s brutal murder, Reagan returns to her hometown. Her friend Mattie enlists the help of her brother-in-law Aiden, a former Navy SEAL to look after Reagan while she’s in town.

When a second break-in occurs in her grandmother’s house, Reagan and Aiden set out to discover what the killer was after. The discovery of jewelry, worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, lead them across the country in an effort to learn who hid the jewelry and why.

Reagan is torn between her feelings for Aiden and her “boyfriend” who shows up unexpectedly. There are plenty of twists and turns that kept me in suspense until the end.

A great mystery that will keep you turning the pages until the surprising conclusion.

Book Review: Saddled Hearts

Hey, everyone. Jan Sikes is a friend and a fellow contributor at Story Empire. Like me, she lives in the Lone Star State, which is the setting of her White Rune series. I’ve enjoyed all three books, but in my opinion, she saved the best for last.

Jan will be a guest this Thursday, but I wanted to post my review seperately.

My Review:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Saddled Hearts is the third installment of the White Rune series, and hands-down it’s my favorite.

Colt Lane operates a sanctuary for horses on the Central Texas ranch he inherited from his grandfather. When a stranger named Jeremiah Tompkins shows up claiming he had won the ranch from Buck Lane years earlier in a card game, Colt believes something is amiss. He seeks advice from medium Sage Coventry.

Inexplicable things begin happening at the ranch including a pasture fire and contaminated hay. Believing Tompkins is responsible, Colt locates him where they have a public confrontation. Shortly afterward someone kills Tompkins, and Colt is arrested for his murder.

Sikes left plenty of red herrings to keep readers guessing at the killer’s identity while weaving in romance and family dynamics. Her descriptions of a Texas ranch were spot on. All these elements blended together for a page-turning read and a fantastic wrap up of the series.

Be sure to come back this Thursday to visit with Jan and learn more about Saddled Hearts.

Jagged Feathers – @jansikes3 #NewRelease #RomanticSuspense #WhiteRuneSeries

Hey, readers! I’m excited to welcome back friend and fellow author Jan Sikes today. She has a brand-new release, the second book of her White Rune Series. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while and have already picked up my copy.

Please welcome Jan to tell you all about it.

Thank you, Joan, for inviting me to your blog site today to talk about my new book, JAGGED FEATHERS! I appreciate your generosity.

Since you are a fellow Texan, I wanted to share this historic piece of the story with you and your followers. I don’t know if any of you are familiar with The Longhorn Ballroom and Motel in Dallas, Texas, but a part of my story takes place there.

(Photo courtesy of Jay Lafrance)

First a little history. The Longhorn Ballroom was built in the 1950s by an eccentric Dallas millionaire specifically for Bob Wills. It was said he wanted a stage large enough for Wills to ride his horse onto. It is unclear when the motel section was built, but altogether it is a large complex. It sold to Dewey Groom in the 1960s and ironically, my late husband and Groom were great friends. I have a photo of Rick presenting a pair of longhorns to Groom.

The property changed hands many times and currently belongs to Dallas Developer, Jay LaFrance. I saw an episode of “Queen of the South” that was set at the Longhorn motel and it gave me the idea to include it in my story as well.


The exit sign came up, and her gut clenched. She (Nakina) was getting close. A mixture of anger, danger, and fear for what lay ahead snaked itself around her, almost cutting off her breath.

A glance in her rearview mirror assured her that Vann was with Bridger directly behind her, in a dark-colored van with tinted windows. The rest of the team were invisible but already assembled and in their places, waiting.

The sign for the motel loomed ahead long before she reached it. She didn’t realize this was part of a complex. A statue of a giant longhorn steer faced the street and advertised the Longhorn Ballroom and Motel.

When she turned in the entrance, her heart raced. This was it. This had to be successful. There was no other outcome she would consider.

A blue feather floated down and landed on her windshield.

“Thank you,” she whispered. “Grandmother, stay with me. Help me.”

In an instant, her insides stopped shaking, replaced by steely determination.

As instructed, she parked in front of room 110, left the engine running, and car door open.

After a deep breath, she squared her shoulders, strode to the door, and knocked loudly.

No one answered. She knocked again, reaching out with her senses to feel any vibrations on the other side of the door. They had to be there. The rune tingled against her breast. 

She knocked a third time, apprehension crawling up her spine.

Finally, the door cracked open.

A man with a long scar running from his temple down his cheek growled. “You alone, puta?”

She nodded.

He opened the door wider, and she leaned forward attempting to peer inside.

“Get in here.”

She took a step backward, shook her head, and her voice dripped ice. “No. Bring my sister out, and I’ll give you what you want, but I’m not coming inside.”

The man poked his head out farther and scanned the area. “No one followed you? Where’s the gringo?” He grabbed her arm and tried to pull her inside.

Holding onto the door frame, she attached a death grip. “He’s not here. I did as I was told. Bring my sister out and let go of me.”

“Shit! You are some kind of loco, puta. You think I’m just going to hand your sister over without getting what I want?” He released her arm.

“No.” She reached into the side pocket of the duffel bag slung over her shoulder. “Here’s the key. Give me my sister, and you’ll get the rest.”

The man jerked the key from her hand, and the skull on the end of the keychain glittered in bright Texas sunlight.

“You better not be bullshitting. You will regret it.”

The door closed, and scuffling sounds came from inside.

When he reappeared, a wide-eyed Adele stood beside him, tape over her mouth and her hands tied behind her back.

Were you familiar with The Longhorn Ballroom and Motel? Have you ever been there? I attended several events there in the last five years, but I don’t know if it is still operating as I haven’t seen anything about it in a long time.


Vann Noble did his duty. He served his country and returned a shell of a man, wounded inside and out. With a missing limb and battling PTSD, he seeks healing in an isolated cabin outside a small Texas town with a stray dog that sees beyond his master’s scars. If only the white rune’s magic can bring a happily ever after to a man as broken as Vann.  

On the run from hired killers and struggling to make sense of her unexplained deadly mission, Nakina Bird seeks refuge in Vann’s cabin. She has secrets. Secrets that can get them all killed.

A ticking clock and long odds of living or dying, create jarring risks.

Will these two not only survive, but find an unexpected love along the way? Or, will evil forces win and destroy them both?










Book Review: You Can Run

The past few weeks, I’ve concentrated more on writing so my reading time has been limited. I requested an advanced reader copy of You Can Run from Net Galley after reading a friend’s review. I’m thrilled to have been approved for it. The book releases on January 25, 2022


Laurel Snow wouldn’t call hunting a serial killer a vacation, but with a pile of dead bodies unearthed near her Genesis Valley, WA, hometown, she’ll take what she can get. Yet something about this case stirs her in unexpected ways. Like the startling connection she feels to Dr. Abigail Caine, a fiercely intelligent witness with a disturbing knack for making Laurel feel like she has something on her. Then there’s Laurel’s attraction to Huck Rivers, the fish and wildlife officer guiding her to the crime scene—and into the wilderness . . .
A former soldier and a trained sniper, Huck seems to have his own secrets, not least of which are his whereabouts the night yet another woman disappears. And when the body is dumped where Laurel can’t help but find it, she knows this cat and mouse game is deeply personal . . .
Once in the heart of darkness with Huck, Laurel must negotiate her conflicting feelings for him, her complex rapport with Abigail—and her mission to find a serial killer among a growing list of suspects and a danger that’s far too close to home. So close in fact, Laurel fears she will never find her way back to the woman she once was . . .

My Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mystery and Suspense is my favorite genre to read, especially when there’s a touch of romance, so you can bet I was excited to read Rebecca Zanetti’s You Can Run.

FBI Agent Laurel Snow receives a phone call from her mother stating her uncle is a suspect in the deaths of several women. Laurel requests to be assigned to the case and returns to her hometown of Genesis Valley, Washington.

Once there, she meets Fish and Wildlife officer Huck Rivers. Laurel is a genius, having finished high school at the age of eleven. Huck is a loner who works primarily in search and rescue missions. He has his own demons from the past to deal with.

The two of them are teamed together to find a serial killer. As you can imagine, sparks fly (in more ways than one).

I like the author’s development of the main characters. Secondary characters are equally intriguing, and I kept trying to guess the killer’s identity up to the end. The story is set in the winter when the climate is brutal and that adds to the suspense.

You Can Run reaches a satisfying conclusion and leaves the story open for future books in the series. I for one look forward to reading more about Laurel and Huck.

Five stars for this one, and I count it as one of my favorite reads this year. Thanks to Net Galley and Kensington Books for an advanced reader copy.