Book Review Tuesday: Means to Deceive by Alex Craigie, Between the Vines by Staci Troilo #bookish #bookreviews @stacitroilo

Warm and cozy window seat with cushions and a opened book, light through vintage shutters, rustic style home decor. Small cat on window seat, along with coffee cup by pillow, Words Book Review Tuesday superimposed over image

Hello, and Happy Tuesday! I’ve got two wonderful books to share today, both of which kept me flipping pages. One is a twisty slow-build suspense novel, the other a snappy, breezy romance novella with a villain you’ll love to hate. You can’t go wrong with either!

book cover for Means to Deceive shows a white daisy with part of the petals torn away


Rating: 5 out of 5.

This is an intricately plotted mystery/suspense book that builds from simmer to a slow boil. Gwen Meredith moves home to care for her elderly grandmother who suffers from dementia. Gwen has always viewed their relationship as strained, mostly due to a tragedy in Gwen’s past for which she harbors crushing guilt. The reader sees bits and pieces of that tragedy unfold a little at a time as Gwen periodically recalls the event, allowing layers to become exposed as though she is peeling a metaphorical onion. It is this past event, an episode that has shaped her life, that factors so brilliantly into the plot, particularly the ending.

Complicating matters, Gwen has crossed paths with two men who hold a grudge against her, each for different and alarming reasons. Her home life is disrupted when she becomes a target for harassment. The attacks grow in frequency and become frighteningly malicious. While the police are involved the culprit is never pinned down. Fortunately, Gwen has the benefit of an attentive older brother who moves in temporarily, and a new neighbor with whom she begins a tentative relationship. Gwen is a strong character, constantly standing up for herself to the chagrin of both brother and suitor, yet at the same time the past has burdened her with inner fragility she doesn’t allow to show.

Characters are realistically portrayed, reflecting all the ups and downs, doubts, and sacrifices that play out between them. Gwen’s relationship with her grandmother is thorny but a delight to read. I couldn’t help developing a soft spot in my heart for Granny. I also appreciated how Gwen’s relationship with Ben developed over time with plenty of hiccups along the way.

Red herrings and curve balls lead to a lot of second-guessing when it comes to the culprit. Although I did finger that person correctly (after waffling more than once) the motive left me dumbfounded. The ending was brilliant and wholly satisfying. A polished, well-written tale for fans of intelligent mysteries and slow-build suspense.


Book cover of Between the Vines shows silhouette of couple embracing, large bunch of grapes with leaves and vine in the background

Keystone Couples #3

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Elena is a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in love thanks to the jerks who have been sniffing around her door since high school. Aaron is her cousin Rick’s longtime friend, a cop who’s recently been dumped by his fiancée, Heather.

Heather is now engaged to Jarod, a one-time friend of Rick, until he tried to take advantage of Elena. Sound like a romantic merry-go-round? Oh, just wait until the complications/fun begins!

From the start, the underlying attraction between Elena and Aaron is clear, but several obstacles stand in their way—foremost, Heather, who decides she was hasty in leaving Aaron once she sees him take down a robbery suspect. This woman is the pinnacle of self-centered and shallow. Troilo writes her in such a way that the moment she appears in a scene, you cringe. Heather is a character you love to hate.

But all Troilo’s characters are well developed. Elena is a walking bundle of doubt buried under a core of outer strength. Aaron seesaws between exasperation and attentiveness. Poor guy has his work cut out for him, but bring out the pom-poms because you’ll be cheering for him and Elena from their very first spark of chemistry.

This is a fun novella with snappy dialogue, perfectly paced scenes, and breezy writing. It leaves you with a warm feeling and a happily-ever-after smile. All three Keystone Couples stories are superb, but I think this clever gem might just be my favorite.


125 thoughts on “Book Review Tuesday: Means to Deceive by Alex Craigie, Between the Vines by Staci Troilo #bookish #bookreviews @stacitroilo

  1. I read your review of Staci’s book and enjoyed what sounds like a fun read. My wife toyed with becoming a wedding planner as she likes to organize events.

    I had to bypass your review of Means to Deceive because that one is coming up soon for me in the next couple of weeks. One of my quirks is I don’t like to be influenced by others’ comments when I’m about to read a book.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Pete, I’m the same way with books and reviews. I’m sure you’re going to enjoy Means to Deceive.
      Staci’s book was wonderful. I was never a wedding planner but I used to plan and coordinate an annual corporate dinner function for over 150 people, and that always felt a bit like putting together a wedding reception! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I just reviewed one of Alex Craigie’s books – will add this one to the good old TBR, MC. I’m trying to finish The Lincoln Highway for a book club meeting and another book for Rosie. And edit my latest. Lots to do! But I so liked the first of Alex’s books that I will read this one!

    Liked by 3 people

    • Wow, you’ve got a lot going on, Noelle. Would you believe I just started editing my latest, too? Talk about timing, LOL.

      I remember your review of Alex’s other book. I know you’re going to enjoy this one. Oh, the TBR trauma! 😁

      Liked by 2 people

    • I can’t thank you enough for this, Noelle! Your review for Someone Close to Home was brilliant and I’m genuinely grateful for you taking the time to do this – especially when I know how much you have on your plate at the moment.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I always look forward to your reviews, Mae. Thank you for sharing. I just completed Staci’s novella and loved it. When I return home, I’ll write my 5-Star review. And I’m looking forward to reading Alex’s book. It sounds terrific!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m currently reading Means to Deceive Mae, and absolutely loving it. Great review, and thanks for not giving away any answers. I honestly don’t know who the guilty (guiltiest?) party is, and have changed my mind several times. But I do know Trish’s writing is excellent, and I’m totally drawn into the mystery of it all.

    And I have all three of Staci’s Keystone Novellas awaiting me. I was planning to binge read them, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll sneak them in between longer books, instead, one at a time, and that way I can get going on the series sooner. Looking forward to reading them all!

    Thanks for the reviews!! 😀 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Thank you so much for this review, Mae. I’m truly delighted with it and am so happy I expect you can see my grin from wherever you are! I read the first of Staci’s Keystone Couples, have Pour it On waiting for me and then I need to get Between the Vines. Thanks again! ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alex (Trish), I’m always delighted to share reviews of excellent books that kept me entertained. Both you and Staci really hit it out of the ballpark with your books. I know Staci will love hearing you have Pour it On already waiting and are looking forward to Between the Vines. Thanks for the wonderful read with Means to Deceive. You are an exceptional writer and have a new fan! 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

      • I might just stick this on the fridge to keep the happiness bubbling! Coming from a writer whose work I love, this recommendation really counts. ❤

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mae’s right, Trish. I’m delighted to hear you liked the first-in-series enough to continue on. Happy reading! I hope you enjoy the work.

        And I wish you much success with your release. I thought it sounded good before Mae reviewed it, but now I know for sure it’s a hit. Congratulations!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Great reviews, Mae. I also enjoyed Alex’s Means to Deceive. She writes wonderful slow burn mysteries/suspense stories. I’ve enjoyed them all. And congrats to Staci on another wonderful Keystone Couples novella. You got this one read quickly and it sounds great. I still have to read the second one, but I’ll get there. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Diana, Means to Deceive was my first book by Alex, but I know it won’t be my last. She definitely knows how to spin a tale.
      And I know you’re going to enjoy Staci’s novellas. They are such fun!
      Thanks for visiting and commenting! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

I love comments, so please scribble a thought or two!

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.