Desert Isle Keeper
Marriage and Murder
When I finished Marriage and Murder, I just wanted to turn back to page one and start the rollercoaster ride all over! So darn good!
This book should not be read as a stand-alone. It assumes you have read and are familiar with characters from The Winston Brothers series and the Knitting in the City series. (As does this review!) Marriage and Murder is the second of the Solving for Pie: Cletus and Jenn Mysteries series and picks up soon after the first book (Engagement and Espionage) ends. Jenn and Cletus are finally getting married. But first they have to survive a lavish engagement party, a wedding shower, a bachelor party and, good grief, Cletus just wants to be married already. But he loves Jenn, and since Jenn loves all these arrangements and parties, Cletus is willing to endure them too.
Cletus and Jenn’s engagement party (designed by Jenn’s mom Diane and Cletus’ sister Ashley) is just getting underway at the Donner Lodge when Jenn’s dad Kip Sylvester barges in and demands to be part of his daughter’s day. Readers of the series will remember that Kip is a total loser who cheated on Diane and verbally abused Jenn. He was also the villain of book one but unfortunately did not end up in jail. Instead, he storms the party with his mistress Elena Wilkinson. After some uncomfortable moments, Sheriff James and his deputies escort Kip and Elena away from the party. Jenn is upset so Cletus takes her away from the festivities and over to the Donner Bakery to have a quiet moment. But then…
Shots are fired in the parking lot and into the bakery and Cletus and Jenn run and hide in the pantry. A man and woman sneak into the bakery (seen by Cletus) and wash blood off their hands. Deputy Jackson James comes in through the bakery back door looking for Cletus and Jenn and the mysterious couple escapes through the front door. Jackson reports that Kip has been murdered, Elena is lying unconscious in the woods, and Jenn’s mother Diane is missing!
What follows is a rollicking whodunit full of twists and turns. And sex – lots of steamy sex! With Diane and Jenn being the top suspects in the murder, Cletus and Jenn have a lot of investigating to do and they get help from the full Winston clan and characters from the Knitting in the City series. It’s like an ‘all hands on deck’ mission, and thank goodness because Cletus has lost some of his mojo. His love and concern for Jenn are causing his usually brilliant brain to miss things:
Dead ends and missed details. What has happened to me? I used to be sharper than this. I used to be a katana and now I’d become a butter knife. Maybe even a spoon.
Lucky for Cletus, Jenn is a katana and this book shines the spotlight on her nimble thinking even under duress. I loved getting to know Jenn better in this book. She may be known as the Banana Cake Queen but in reality Jenn is a badass! It was also delightful to see her coming to understand herself as a sexual being – thanks to an hilarious talk with Siena and Shelly. Luckily Siena and Shelly set Jenn straight.
“Because it doesn’t change the fact that I’m lusting after him like a harlot instead of focusing on things that matter. What does that say about me?”
“That you are a harlot?” Shelly guessed.
Shelly’s confusion was obvious. “And?”
I glared at her. “Shelly.”
“I’m with Shelly on this.” Sienna tilted her wineglass toward Shelly. “Harlots have orgasms. Given the choice with the man I love – for me personally – I’m going to choose harlotry ten times out of ten.”
“No, y’all. I’m being disrespectful. I’m thinking of him like some sort of sex toy.”
“As you should.” Shelly nodded, like this was only right and just.
Cletus also shines in this book. His distinctive humor (“That woman is two drumsticks short of a picnic.”) and brilliant shenanigans fill the story. It was diverting to see Cletus coming to realize that he “was no longer omniscient”. I’m pretty sure that Cletus is omniscient and that this was a momentary hiccup. We’ve gotten glimpses of the romantic side of Cletus before, but this story puts his love for Jenn front and center and it’s beautifully written.
There’s much to love in this book! The mystery is satisfying, the dialogue is Penny-Reid-witty, the sex scenes are terrific, and the emotional ride is riveting. My twenty-something daughters were reading along with me and our text exchanges were full of ‘OMG I can’t believe that just happened’ and ‘no, no, no what’s next?!’ and ‘I am covered in goosebumps’. My autofill now fills in “Cletus” if I type “Cl”! Clearly we are fans.
Okay I’m almost done gushing, but here’s one last thing. For me, this book is a love letter to the Winston family. Ms. Reid shows us pieces of so many of their hearts here – Jethro and his feelings of repentance, Ashley and her grief over her mother’s death, Drew and his love for Ashley and the Winstons, and Billy. Oh, Billy. Thank God I know Billy will be alright because he just breaks my heart every time.
At the end of Marriage and Murder Jenn’s mom is still not back in Green Valley, we’ve gotten much more insight into Jackson James and Isaac (Twilight) Sylvester, and we know Cletus has a mystery informant in the Iron Wraiths. It’s amazing how each book not only gives us a great story, but somehow answers many questions but then poses new ones. I can’t wait to see what happens next.