by Joyce T. Strand
Release Date: November 11, 2014
2014 McCloughan and Schmeltz Publishing
Softcover Edition; 296 Pages
Genre: Fiction / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher and Book Marketing Services
3.5 / 5 Stars
Brynn Bancroft learns that a former employee who beat her nearly to death has returned to stalk her and her friend, Jillian Hillcrest, also a former victim. Recently divorced, Brynn turns to a new love interest only to encounter additional unwelcome issues. Meanwhile, short-timer Brynn, who has resigned from her Silicon Valley company, becomes bored fulfilling her remaining responsibilities there. She begins to prefer supporting the launch of her ex-husband's new hilltop winery while waiting to move to her next position. Between her stalker an dher new love interest, Brynn faces a series of life-changing events.
Hilltop Sunset is one of those novels that I wasn't too sure about when I started reading it, but one that I was glad I stuck with because I definitely enjoyed it more as I persevered through it, to the point where I actually really enjoyed the story at the end and liked the characters too.
I didn't realize at first that this novel was a spin-off from the Jillian Hillcrest mystery stories, and because I had not read them, I did feel at a disadvantage. The story begins right away with the sighting of the villain from the other story, and sets the tone for Hilltop Sunset, and because I was not familiar with the previous storyline, I had difficulty connecting with the fear and desperation the characters felt quite early on, and the impact definitely wasn't very strong. And to be quite honest, I wasn't a big fan of Brynn at the beginning; I thought she could use a lesson in empathy and sympathy towards others. Her singlemindedness might make her a great CEO, but it didn't endear her to colleagues or others who weren't always impressed with her ruthlessness and lack of sympathy to their plights. However, I do have to admit, she did grow on me considerably, and I enjoyed her introspection throughout the novel, and enjoyed her character development and her potential to be a really great character. And this is what kept me going in this novel, especially when the teenager Josh, and her brother joined the scene, and she was forced to contemplate aspects of her life that were not always so pleasant. I had to admire her grit and her ability to face her issues and problems.
The book was an easy read, and I did come to find it rather enjoyable once I got past the first third of the book. The plot was rather predictable and I don't really feel like there was a great mystery to it, but I did find many of the characters endearing and I developed a soft spot for Wayne, the man who runs the winery. And I did get caught up in the romance between Brynn and her ex-husband, and the third in the triangle, Todd. It's not my favourite kind of thing, but you could already see where things might be heading at this point anyways, so I just went with it and enjoyed the scenario.
Hilltop Sunset was an interesting start to a new mystery series. I wouldn't actually call the mystery intense as it was fairly mundane and predictable, but I thought the author did a good job setting things up for future novels and lots of fun. I am looking forward to seeing the characters develop, but I would also like to see a bit more of a mystery set in wine country now that Brynn has come to a decision, as the potential for some really good stuff is there. Brynn is one of those characters who does grow on you, and I am looking forward to seeing how she and her friends handle future adversity as I'm sure more adventures are in their future.
Joyce T. Strand is the author of who-done-it mysteries set in the San Francisco Silicon Valley and Napa-Sonoma wine regions of California.
Her most recent novel, HILLTOP SUNSET, is the first of a new series featuring protagonist Brynn Bancroft, a financial guru in transition to winemaker from corporate executive. Brynn Bancroft is a minor character in Strand’s novels ON MESSAGE, OPEN MEETINGS, and FAIR DISCLOSURE—three mysteries solved by Jillian Hillcrest, a publicist whose boss was Chief Financial Officer Brynn Bancroft.
Much like her protagonist Jillian Hillcrest, Strand headed corporate communications at several biotech and high-tech companies in California’s Silicon Valley for more than 25 years. Unlike Jillian, however, she did not encounter murder in her career. She focused on writing by-lined articles, press releases, white papers, and brochures to publicize her companies and their products.
Strand lives with her two cats and collection of cow statuary in Southern California, and seeks out and attends as many Broadway musicals and other stage plays as possible.
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