Monday, July 5, 2010

Review: Grace Under Pressure by Julie Hyzy

Grace Under Pressure (Manor of Murder Mystery Series, Book 1)
by Julie Hyzy
Release Date: June 1st, 2010
2010 Berkley Publishing Group
ISBN: 978-0-425-23521-8
Trade Paperback Edition: 310 Pages
Genre: Murder/Mystery
Source: Review Copy from Kaye Publishing

4 / 5 Stars

Everyone wants a piece of millionaire Bennett Marshfield, owner of Marshfield Manor, and letters are coming in daily fromthose claiming to be poor relations.  The elderly, reclusive heir trusts no one but his aged curator, Abe.  But when Abe is killed in a case of mistaken identity, the tide changes...

Although shaken by the murder, Grace Wheaten, whose lifelong dream has been to work at the manor, steps up to the challenge of assuming Abe's job.  But now some of the letters arriving for Bennett have taken a nasty turn, demanding millions - or else.  When an uninvited stalker shows up at the manor and at Grace's home, she and handsome groundskeeper Jack Embers must protect their dear old Marshfield.  But to do this, they'll have to investigate a botched Ponzi scheme, some torrid Wheaton family secrets - and sour grapes out for revenge...

My Thoughts
I really enjoyed Grace Under Pressure, the first book in her new series, Manor House Mysteries.  There was drama, a burgeoning romance, mystery, old family secrets, disgruntled relatives, secret rooms and staircases, disgruntled employees, and general mayhem that usually go with these types of murder mysteries.  All in all, all the kinds of things that I love and enjoy in a murder mystery romp that was fun to read and had me engaged right from the beginning.

Grace Wheaton is a heroine/character in whom I can identify.  She is determined, efficient in her job as Assistant Curator, organized, yet vulnerable and needy, something that I greatly admired.  I know that may seem silly, but I admire people who can fall apart, have their weak moments, then pull themselves together and get the job done.  I've always thought it shows great character in a person and I usually admire that; I don't have a lot of admiration for people who just quit and don't try.  There is definitely some romantic entaglement developing between Grace and Jack Embers and hopefully we'll see more of that as the series continues.  I am also curious as to the history of his name as Marshfield Manor is in Emberstowne, the place where both Grace and Jack live, and there was some teasing by the author as to the connection between Jack's last name and the name of the town, but no further explanations were given.  Hopefully this will also be cleared up in future books as I am really curious.

The plot itself moved very quickly from one event to another.  The story begins with a disturbance during tea time to the murder to one development after another.  I actually looked forward to the scenes between Grace and her assistant Frances, a busybody who loves to gossip, eavesdrop, is somewhat prickly, but provides some entertainment for the reader.  Grace's roommates were also very interesting, and I hope will become principal characters in future novels.  They did help out with some secondary plot lines in this story, but I was intrigued enough that I wanted to learn more about them and their story.  This definitely helps when you know there will be more than one book in a series.

Grace Under Pressure was an enjoyable first novel in a new series for Julie Hyzy.  While I did figure out who the murderer was fairly easily, there was enough interesting things going on around the murder that kept me intrigued and interested.  I am looking forward to the next book in this series and learning more about Grace and Jack and Marshfield Manor.


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