Author Intro: C.A. Belmond
It’s no particular surprise to know that I do, unfortunately, judge books by their covers. Give me a beautiful cover and I will try so very, very hard to love your book. On the other hand, give me a bland cover and I may pass it by unless I have a compelling reason to seek it out.
Shades of Milk & Honey is a perfect example of that. I sort of vaguely meant to read it because it looked Jane Austen-y and had a great title, but I never quite got around to actually picking it up and finding out what the bloody book was about. Then Glamour in Glass came out and the cover caught my attention at once. When I discovered that it was a second book I darted over to the shelf and grabbed Shades of Milk & Honey, which I read in a day and a half. My lackluster response to the cover kept me from a book that I love just because it didn’t look… exciting I guess. Still very much something I would read, but not something I had to read RIGHT NOW, if that makes sense.
Titles are another place where you can snag me immediately or lose me pretty completely. Sorcery & Cecelia: or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot… how am I not going to pick that up? Or, Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog? That’s like catnip to me.
So, when I encountered a book with the title, A Rather Lovely Inheritance, which had a charming antique car on its cover I took it home. And was very glad that I did.
C.A. Belmond‘s books all center around Penelope Nichols (and yes, her parents call her Penny. And yes, she has red hair, “like a new penny”). Penny is an art historian who makes her living doing research and set design for made-for-tv historical movies; the sort of thing we had before we had Downton Abbey. Light on the accuracy, but heavy on the period setting and the romance. It’s a good job and Penny is good at it.
Her mother is a well known children’s book author who made her name writing about a Nancy Drew-like character named… Penny Nickles. The real Penny has been trying to get away from the girl detective image ever since.
That is, until her Great-Aunt Penelope passes away and leaves Penny a minor bequest. Penny’s inheritance includes Penelope’s beautiful antique car, which somehow seems to hold a mystery.
Penelope’s estate is further complicated by the fact that there is an English will and a French will, necessitating a trip to the French Riviera in the company of Penny’s solicitor cousin, Jeremy. The two cousins were once childhood friends, but time and the onset of adulthood have created distance between them.
Penny just wants to get the inheritance straightened out so she can go back to her life, but all is apparently not what it seems. Other family members seem terribly interested in Penny’s inheritance, and it isn’t long before Penny and Jeremy realize that to straighten things out in the present they are going to have to solve the mysteries left in Aunt Penelope’s past.
After the first book, Penny and Jeremy decide to set up a business together investigating unusual art historical mysteries. Their very first case involves a missing artifact that might have had ties to Beethoven. The third case takes them to France and a distant branch of Penny’s father’s family. The mystery there centers on a medieval tapestry. The fourth book has to do with proving that a house, once again connected to the family, should have landmark status and thus save it, and the village its adjacent to, from grasping developers looking to put up McMansions.
Penny and Jeremy get to travel enough that the reader gets a mini tour of western Europe while reading. The interaction between the characters is occasionally frustrating, they spend much of the second book not communicating very well, but as that’s a major plot-point I don’t find it nearly as irritating as if it were, say, a side plot in one of my regular romance novels. And, it’s just in the one book, so that’s refreshing; Belmond doesn’t trot out the trope over and over.
These are the quintessential beach-read for me. They’re light and fun, without being empty. They aren’t the literary equivalent of cotton candy, but neither are they a steak. I’d say they’re more along the lines of a chicken salad and fruit plate – there is plenty of opportunity to develop complex flavors, but nothing is overwhelming and it doesn’t sit heavily in your stomach when you’re done.