Five Belles Too Many (A Sarah Blair Mystery)
by Debra H. Goldstein
It is my delight to welcome Debra to Escape With Dollycas today!!
Storytelling, the Ides of March, and Reality TV
by Debra H. Goldstein
When I was in high school and read Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, it sparked an interest in the Ides of March. Originally a day to settle debts, it became a day or notoriety because of it being the date Julius Caesar was killed. Its significance is that it is believed to have changed the fate of the Romans.
As a writer of mysteries, I often think about how lives and plot lines change when there is a murder.
There is the act and whodunit. Based upon the Shakespeare play and movies, I always thought it was Brutus, but (accordingly to Wikipedia), at least sixty senators were party to the conspiracy and act of stabbing Julius Caesar to death. They hoped to overturn his policies, but they didn’t succeed. Instead, the Roman empire imploded.
In my books, murder is never random. It ties to a social issue, conflict between people, or a means to an end. As I create the details of the murder, I embrace its importance in setting the tone and establishing the movement of the story.
The murder also is a catalyst for how the characters behave. Some hide from its brutality, others dive into the why behind the crime, and of course, the protagonist tries to find out who did the dastardly deed and what the character’s motivation was. In the moment, there are characters who go into shock at the loss, individuals who have unkind things to say about the dead body, and those who observe the details for what’s out of place and find their minds filled with questions.
Some of the reactions are genuine, some fake, but all add to the characterization and move the plot along. Reality TV works the same way. For being unscripted, it has scenes that are well thought out in advance or edited to paint individuals as heroes or villains. In Five Belles Too Many, five finalists, including protagonist Sarah Blair’s mother, Maybelle, are vying for the perfect Southern wedding. The competition is being filmed for a New York television show. While there is spontaneity, there are also many pre-planned moments.
For example, there is a sequence where a tug of war will take place in a water filled land crater or mud bowl. Rather than wearing jeans, the female characters are dressed as hoop skirted Southern belles. The director encourages them to have certain reactions when they see the mud. Their speech, mannerisms, and even how each walks is semi-scripted, but when a character goes off script, it changes the outcome of the moment. From every character’s specific reaction, we learn new things about all of them, and we have a stimulus for a plot shift.
Whether you are learning secrets from behind the scenes of a television show or how Caesar died, you as a reader are being set up for both your own mood shift and that of each character. So, now that you know the way Caesar died, how do you think Cleopatra reacted? How would you write her next chapter-the one that began the day after the Ides of March?
Thank you, Debra, for visiting today!
Now keep reading for my thoughts about Five Belles Too Many.
About Five Belles Too Many
Five Belles Too Many (A Sarah Blair Mystery)
5th in the Series
Setting – Alabama
Kensington Cozies (June 28, 2022)
Mass Market Paperback : 336 pages
Digital ASIN : B09HRCV4TN
When Sarah Blair’s mother participates in a reality show competition for brides in Wheaton, Alabama, things get a little too real as a murderer crashes the wedding party . . .
Sometimes Sarah’s mother, Maybelle, can be higher maintenance than her Siamese cat RahRah. Maybelle and her friend, Mr. George Rogers, have been chosen to be one of five couples competing for a small-town “perfect” wedding and dream honeymoon on a Southern Belles reality show—and guess who has to be chaperone. Even more vexing, the producers have decided to put up the crew and participants at the restaurant/bed and breakfast owned by Sarah’s nemesis Jane Clark.
But when someone turns up dead with Jane kneeling by the body with blood on her hands, she goes from being Sarah’s chief rival to the police’s chief suspect. Neither Sarah nor her twin, Chef Emily Johnson, can stand Jane—still, they don’t think she’s a murderer. The producers vow the show must go on, but to protect their mother and the other contestants, Sarah vows to find the true killer before someone else gets eliminated . . .
Includes quick and easy recipes!
Sarah’s mother, Maybelle is a gem handled in small doses. In this fifth installment of the Sarah Blair Mystery Series, Maybelle and her friend George will be participants in a reality television show to win the “perfect” wedding and honeymoon of their dreams. They are the eldest of the five competing couples but they still need a chaperone and Sarah has been chosen for that task. To make matters worse, the crew, the contestants, and the chaperones have been booked to stay at Jane Clark’s B&B meaning Sarah will be spending a lot of time with her nemesis.
The reality show takes a devastating turn when Jane is found kneeling next to the dead body of the show’s director, her hands covered in blood. While Sarah does not trust Jane farther than she can throw her she doesn’t believe she is a murderer. The show becomes somewhat of a free for all as the producers try to keep filming. Sarah uses that to her advantage as she tries to protect everyone and catch the real killer before someone else gets voted off the island permanently, I mean gets killed.
Again Ms. Goldstein has packed these pages with a story that grabs a hold and hangs on tight.
Her characters and their continued development is so strong. Sarah seems to be almost in constant motion except for the little bit of time she takes to give her Siamese cat RahRah and her rescue dog, Fluffy a little bit of love. Her boss, Harlan has a big legal case coming up so he needs her in the office. She wants to help out at the restaurants she owns with her sister too. But the reality show and her job of chaperoning her mother is much more time-consuming than she could even imagine and that was before the murder happened. Maybelle is high maintenance but it seems George knows how to take care of her. They do make a cute couple. I was thrilled to see Emily, Marcus, and Southwinds get the recognition they deserved and that restaurant was used much more than originally contracted. Harlan also steps in to help anywhere he can and Cliff is back as the show’s general contractor. All these characters feel so genuine and their interactions and dialogues read very true to life.
We meet several new characters in the contestants and crew of the reality show. All these new characters are cleverly crafted. Many are pretty sketchy or hiding something which is great for a reality show. Drama drives up those ratings, which is why some of the drama is totally scripted but I really loved when anyone went off-script.
The plot was very interesting and not just because of the murder mysteries. The behind-the-scenes look at a reality show was entertaining with the crazy competitions and the decisions made that weren’t usually on the up and up. The method of death was unexpected but I was surprised because I had recently seen it used on a television show. I think the author implemented it better than the tv show did because I was kept guessing right up until the very end. Ms. Goldstein did an excellent job of twisting things up so the reveal was very dramatic.
After the case was wrapped up there was a very heartwarming ending.
Every trip to Alabama to visit Sarah, her family, and her friends has been a Perfect Escape and all seem to end too soon. As soon as I turn the final page I can’t wait to return. So while I know Six _________ Too Many will probably not be released for a year, this girl can hope. Thank you, Deborah J. Goldstein. Five Belles Too Many was a delightfully entertaining story that I totally enjoyed.
To get maximum enjoyment I do recommend reading this series in order but the author has written this story to stand on its own.
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About Debra H. Goldstein
Many, Four Cuts Too Many, Three Treats Too Many, Two Bites Too Manyand One Taste Too Many). Her novels and short stories received an IPPY award and have been named Agatha, Anthony, Derringer, and Silver Falchion finalists. Debra served on the national boards of Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America and was president of the Guppy and SEMWA chapters. Find out more about Debra at https://www.DebraHGoldstein.com
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Great Escapes Praise for Five Belles Too Many (A Sarah Blair Mystery)
by Debra H. Goldstein
I enjoyed Five Belles Too Many. Sarah Blair is one of those really nice, shy people that takes a bit to warm up to you. Sarah makes an excellent sleuth as people talk to her. Ms. Goldstein has a way of sucking you into the Wheaton community.
~Barones’ Book Trove
FIVE BELLES TOO MANY is a fun look at reality TV, Southern manners, and murder. A colorful cast of characters combined with an intricately plotted story and an ending full of surprises make for a delightful mystery.
~Cozy Up With Kathy
Full of a wide range of characters we get a mystery that will keep you guessing as they try to figure it out in time making for quite the fun read. A great choice for fans of cozies. I really liked it so I give it 4/5 stars.
~Books a Plenty Book Reviews
I love this cozy mystery series for its genuine characters and relationships. Who wouldn’t want to be at Sarah’s side as she investigates a murder and hurdles family, friend and romantic relationship issues? Five Belles Too Many is highly recommended to both cozy mystery and reality television fans. 5 stars and a favorite!
~Diane Reviews Books
Skillful writing, great plot, and recipes too! Whether you’re a fan of reality tv or not, you will be a fan of FIVE BELLS TOO MANY
~Lisa K’s Book Review
This is, in a sense, a very cerebral series, so it’s a good read for those who like their sleuths to reason through the clues to eventually unmask the killer.
~Mysteries with Character
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of this book. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”