Where I got the book: by winning an author giveaway. Release date is June 7, 2011.
Grace Interrupted is the second in Julie Hyzy's Manor House Mystery series, set in a large manor house which is one of the main attractions in a town that lives for tourism. The heroine, Grace Wheaton, appears to have just about got her act together as the new manager of Marshfield Manor when the arrival of a large group of Civil War re-enactors throws a spanner in the works. The murder of one of their number implicates Grace's love interest Jack, and Grace has to rely on some of her former antagonists to help sniff out the clues that could clear his name.
Meeting Julie Hyzy early this year was my first introduction to her line of cozy mysteries, and I haven't yet read the first in the Manor House series. But it was easy enough to pick up the gist of the characters: Grace has returned to her childhood home after a troubled past, and is trying to make her new life in her mother's tumbledown old house work, with the help of two roommates and the support of her boss, Bennett (who is interested in Grace, but not for romantic reasons). Her romance with Jack is at the will-they-won't-they stage, and relations with some of the people she met in the first book (Grace Under Pressure) are equally shaky. Plenty of room for growth in a series that looks quite promising.
I enjoyed Hyzy's breezy command of dialogue and skill in quick character sketches. The novel moves along at a good pace, and although I didn't warm immediately to Grace, I really enjoyed some of the other characters. Grace seemed a bit two-dimensional to me: her past troubles were hinted at, but she didn't show a whole lot of vulnerability in this book. Perhaps I need to read the first novel in the series.
I found the Civil War re-enactors very interesting: I've seen re-enactors at work (play?) and was captured by the details about the levels of realism--or not--that can be achieved. I would have liked to have seen more about the realities of running a large tourist attraction with multiple events going on.
The climax of the action was excellent; the pace picked up very nicely, the identity of the culprit was not outrageously obvious, and the overall result was satisfying. There were some plot threads--including the ongoing romance--that pointed forward to some fun developments as the series progresses.
The overall taste of the novel, if I can describe it that way, was of a well-stacked sandwich paired with a glass of fresh, fruity wine--nothing heavy there, but a good, everyday literary meal to refresh me after a hard day's work. This is the kind of escapist story that I enjoy reading when I'm ready to relax, yet still want to engage my mind just enough to keep it ticking over. I think I'll persevere with Grace and see how things develop.
Oh yes, and there was a cat. I'm not one of those people who goes all soft over pets in novels, but the animal-lovers out there will enjoy the furry plotline.