Former TV celebrity host Kat Stanford is just days away from starting her dream antique business with her newly widowed mother Iris when she gets a huge shock. Iris has recklessly purchased a dilapidated carriage house, on an isolated country estate, Honeychurch Hall, several hundred miles from London. When Kat arrives at the house, she discovers that Iris has yet another surprise in store. Iris has been writing in secret for years and reluctantly reveals that she’s actually Krystalle Storm, the famous bestselling author of steamy bodice-rippers. The gentry upstairs and those below stairs at Honeychurch Hall regard the newcomers with suspicion and distrust. When the nanny goes missing, the loyal housekeeper ends up dead, and Iris is accused of the murder, Kat realizes she hardly knows her mother at all and wonders if she is—indeed—guilty. Although the six hundred year old estate has endured wars, corruption and Royal favors, it’s the scandals, secrets and lies of the last few decades that must remain buried at all costs. (From Netgalley.com)

Sissy: I really liked this book but I had some issues with it. I liked the setting, the backstory of the main character, Kat, all the secrets and intrigues and the hidden life of Kat’s mother Iris. My issues were that the story jumps around all over the place and I had a hard time keeping it all straight and I couldn’t visualize Honeychurch Estate and really needed a map.

Bubby: I’d like to blame your “issues” on your advanced age and senility, but I can’t. I happen to agree with you on all points. I have to say, however, that the plot is really excellent and the characters are so much fun that I enjoyed Murder At Honeychurch Hall anyway. I loved Iris. She is a total nutcase. Sissy, can’t you just picture our mother hiding in the back bedroom writing romance novels when no one was looking? I swear, I want to be Iris when I grow up. Irascible, eccentric and a famous writer who lives on an estate in England. Perfect.

Sissy: I don’t know about Mom writing “bodice rippers” but I certainly would get a kick out of finding out that she had a secret life while pretending to fit into the role of devoted wife and mother. One of my favorite things in this book was how Iris took every situation and tried to turn it into a scene for her book, much to Kat’s chagrin.

Bubby: Hey, maybe that’s what we should do. Our kids and their romantic issues and trials – suddenly become fodder for a best-selling novel. I can see it!

Sissy: My kids wouldn’t mind. They’d just say, “Hand over the money, Mom!” Back to the book, though. One thing that makes it interesting is that you never quite know who you like and who you can trust amongst the characters. Sometimes you think they are guilty or just unsavory people but then they’ll do something to change your mind and you never know until the end how it’s all going to shake out.

Bubby: As I’ve said before, I can often predict “whodunnit” by the middle of the book. Not this time. I had no idea until the bitter end, when suddenly all the tangled threads of the story came together and it finally all made sense. There was a total ah-ha moment for me at the end there. I still want to know more about Kat – her life as a tv star before the time period of this book and what’s going to happen with her now – and more about Iris’s strange and wonderful childhood, of which we only get a little glimpse.

Sissy: Ah, yes. Gypsies and traveling boxing troupes. Illicit relations between the upstairs and the downstairs –our author, Ms. Dennison has plumbed the depths of her imagination nicely. The one character I hated throughout the whole book was David, Kat’s married boyfriend. The outcome of that relationship our resident Miss Marple, aka Bubby, could see coming a mile away.

Bubby: Seriously? Does any intelligent woman really think that the married man she’s sleeping with is going to actually leave his wife and children and comfortable situation to be with her? Really? It’s like the biggest cliche out there. And yet it still happens every day. Wise up, women of the world! If he’s married, he’s not available! Even if he thinks he is.

Sissy: Well, to sum up, this is a highly imaginative (albeit somewhat confusing) mystery romp. If Ms. Dennison would provide an illustrated map of the grounds and a chart of relationships, perhaps my feeble mind could grasp it better. Nonetheless, I would love to read more about Kat and the indomitable Iris. 3.5 bubbles.

Bubby: A fun mystery read. 3.5 bubbles from me too.

Click HERE to buy Murder At Honeychurch Hall by Hannah Dennison at Amazon.com

© Bubble Bath Books 2014

We received this title from Netgalley in return for a fair and honest review.