Jean Harrington    

  Home | Author Bio | Excerpts | Reviews | Links | Contact 

Reviews for Murders by Design Mysteries

K. Branfield "Book Reviews & More by Kathy" for The Monet Murders

      Jean Harrington's The Monet Murders is an entertaining and engaging murder mystery. This second installment of the Murders by Design series takes place a few months after the end of Designed for Death. Following her discovery of a dead body in her clients' mansion, Deva Dunne is once again smack dab in the middle of an intriguing murder investigation.

      With the one year anniversary of her husband's death looming, Deva is making substantial progress working through her grief over his loss. Her fledging design business is picking up, but success is still far from certain. Deva has an uncanny knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and although Lt. Victor Rossi has warned her to keep out of the investigation, she cannot help but investigate the clues she uncovers.

      Neighbor Simon Yaeger is still a key player in Deva's life. His romantic interest in Deva has not waned and he unabashedly pursues her. Deva is unsure what her feelings for her charming neighbor are. When she discovers his connections to the murder victims, he is once again added to her suspect list.

      As if tracking down a killer is not enough to occupy her, Deva must also figure out why Lt. Rossi keeps popping into her thoughts at the most inopportune moments. With Lt. Rossi under orders to stay away from her, Deva finds herself missing the gruff but sexy detective.

      The Monet Murders is a superbly crafted novel that is full of unexpected twists and turns. Once again, Jean Harrington provides a lengthy suspect list and keeps her readers guessing the killer's identity. A fabulous read that leaves me eagerly anticipating Killer Kitchens, the next installment in the Murders by Design series.
Kari Anderson's Amazon review for Designed for Death

      There are many things that determine how I judge a book including characters, emotion, writing, overall design, creativity within the novel…those all make up pieces of my book blogging puzzle.

      From the beginning of this book, I fell in love with several characters. Deva is mourning the death of her husband and moved to Florida to get as far away from her previous life as possible. She has a knack for design and uses it to help her forget. Don’t we all do that from time to time? Get so into our work or a hobby that it helps us cope with hard feelings? But there are several characters in Deva’s life that help her feel a breath of fresh air. Although she is not there long, Treasure is a ray of transvestite hope, along with her former lover. Then there are multiple men in this book who are swoon-worthy, from the soon-to-be divorced upstairs neighbor to the Hawaiian shirt wearing investigator.

      The mystery in this book kept me turning the pages. I also have a hunch at some point as to who the killer is in books like these, but most of the time, the real suspect is merely a glimmer that doesn’t last long. That happened here. I thought I knew, then clues turned me in a different direction, but then I was back to where I started. The motive for the murder is what held me up. Definitely not what I thought it was going to be. Dang motives, tripping up my detective game.

      This book was filled with emotion. The pain that Deva has for the loss of her husband is heart breaking. Any married woman, or any woman in love can relate with how they would feel in this scenario. What would I do in this situation? Where would I go? Would I be able to work? Although this book was a murder mystery, with drama and suspense, it also was thought provoking. And there were also the nuggets of funny, that showed hope and brought out a part of Deva you hoped she wouldn’t lose in all her sadness.

      Good news, I felt like I grew close to Deva and want to see her grow and move forward, and also want to see which of her many suitors she chooses as her next love interest, and I think I’m going to have the chance to do that. On Jean Harrington’s website, it says this is the first in a series. Woo!

Philip K. Jason "Florida Weekly Newspaper" review for Designed for Death

     After "The Barefoot Queen" and "In the Lion's Mouth," two exciting and carefully researched Irish historical romances set during the Renaissance period, Jean Harrington has shifted gears to the here and now. The here in "Designed for Death" is the beachfront condo world of Naples; the now refers to the world of e-publishing as well as to the timeframe for the novel.

      The author's connection with Carina Press puts her inside the Harlequin empire. Carina is a division of Harlequin devoted to e-publishing on a large scale. Certain Carina Press titles may later be selected for print publication.

      "Designed for Death" takes place in and around the fictional but probable complex of Surfside, where recently widowed interior designer Devalera "Deva" Dunne has settled to restart her life. Little does she know what her new community has in store for her.

      Deva is attempting to re-establish her interior design career by helping Surfside's owner, Dick Parker, turn rental apartments into condos. She's also getting business from new condo owners who are looking to individualize their homes. One of these clients is a tall, striking woman named Treasure, once a regular at the Foxy Lady Lounge on Route 951. Deva and Treasure are getting along fine selecting the ingredients for the classic Hollywood decor Treasure desires. Before long, however, Deva finds Treasure murdered in the condo - a gruesome ending to a brief friendship.

      Not satisfied with Lt. Victor Rossi's official investigation, Deva begins her own sleuthing, much to the handsome policeman's dismay. Emotionally vulnerable after the loss of her husband, Deva is suspicious of the advances of several Surfside residents: (supposed) bachelor Simon Yeager, Neal Tomson and the married Mr. Parker, who is Deva's main source of income. Or could either of the bickering partners Chip and AudreyAnn be guilty of infidelity and murder? And what about Faye LaBelle, drag queen extraordinaire?

      The book's notable scenes include Deva's visit to the Foxy Lady Lounge, where she picks up pieces of information and witnesses the colorful performance of drag queen Hedda Lettuce. Another is Treasure's funeral, more like an Irish wake, in which good memories and high spirits help friends and acquaintances cope with their loss.

      As Deva's investigation advances, she is always butting heads with Rossi. There are signs that he might be attracted to her and that his gruff warnings for her to leave the police work to him are motivated by something other than professional policy or pride.

      Aside from the expected twists and turns of a well-developed mystery story, "Designed for Death" has other special attractions. The novel makes use of Deva's training to present an abundance of nicely handled details about interior design. This focus provides an interesting way of creating insights into character, as people's taste in design reveals a lot about them.

      For readers who know Naples well, references to several eateries - Mel's Diner, St. George and two nearly adjacent places, one an Irish Pub and the other named Island Grill - make for enjoyable "ah-hah" moments of recognition. Ms. Harrington’s portrayal of the Naples ambience is one of this book's many charms.

      Not so very charming, but equally effective in building tension, is the way the author integrates awareness of the approaching hurricane season, eventually leading to a climax involving the terrors of a storm named Caroline that pins Deva down while Treasure's murderer moves to put an end to Deva's sleuthing. All through "Designed for Death" we learn much about Deva's background, her relationship with her late husband and, in the unfolding present, her manner of coping with that enormous loss. One would expect that the author would not have drawn such an elaborate portrait had she not intended to put Deva to work in future novels. Meanwhile, enjoy this one.

      (Since this review first appeared, the author has learned Designed for Death will be published in print form in December 2012 as a part of Harlequin's Worldwide Mystery Library.)

Reviews of 'IN THE LION'S MOUTH'

FT. MYERS MAGAZINE, Jean Harrington's New World Order
by Philip K. Jason

      WHAT NAPLES AUTHOR Jean Harrington does so well is provide a fully-textured sense of place. IN THE LION'S MOUTH (Highland Press) is set in Ireland, England, and the colonies of Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the late 1660s. As we follow Harrington�s colorful characters, we encounter the details of clothing, diet and food preparation, rural and urban dwelling places, weaponry, and sailing vessels. We can't be sure that Harrington is accurate, but she does create verisimilitude. The abundance of consistent detail makes the world she builds credible. Her characters inhabit it plausibly, and as we believe in them, we believe in their experiences and vicariously share the sensory dimensions of their lives. On these grounds alone, In the Lion's Mouth is worthy of commendation.

     However, much else is accomplished. Harrington dazzles us with the lure of the New World - its vast expanse, its promises of freedom, self-reliance, and opportunity. She also gives us the historical realities of European encroachment on the lands of others, pettiness and greed, and the long arm of English rule. Against this background, Harrington continues the story of Grace O'Malley and Owen O'Donnell, whom readers first met in The Barefoot Queen. The plight of these two lovers, now married, grows out of the English exploitation of the Irish and particularly the English usurpation of Irish ancestral lands. The haughty and villainous Lord Rushmount is the local landholder in Grace's and Owen's corner of Ireland. Grace, like her father before her, has defied him in many ways. When family and friends were perishing from lack of food, Grace took it upon herself to become a deer poacher and thus a criminal. It's one thing for a young woman to be at the mercy of a tyrant; it's something more when that tyrant is obsessed with that shapely woman's beauty and fire. Grace's copper-red hair is the symbol of her fiery spirit, both of which Rushmount is driven to possess. Grace has rebuffed his advances and given herself to the handsome, though crippled, Owen. Like Grace, Owen seeks justice for his people. But he and his wife are outlaws, or at least enemies of authority, who must escape Rushmount's mixture of lust, wrath, and vengeance. They must put Ireland, friends, and family behind them.

     As they journey from home to Galway, Cork City, and Dublin, hoping to book passage across the Atlantic, Grace and Owen are regularly threatened by Rushmount. They discover that Liverpool is the closest place to embark on such a journey, and though they don't wish to spend time in England (the 'Lion' of the title), it seems a necessity. They are delayed there for many months, during which Rushmount puts Grace in a compromising position that she feels she must not reveal to Owen.

     Harrington's narration of the Atlantic crossing aboard the 'Seafarer' is masterful. Her verbal art breathes life into the character of the vessel, the living conditions, the ravages of bad food and severe storms, the ebbs and flows of despair and determination, and the ecstatic and bewildering arrival of the young couple to Newport harbor. Of course, the demonic Rushmount is there as well, having made the crossing to serve as a Tax Collector for His Majesty.

     Finally, Grace and Owen reach their desired destination, the combined colonies of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation. Harrington involves them with her versions of the historical Roger Williams, founder of these colonies, and Canonchet, the legendary Narragansett chief. Harrington's treatment of these relationships emphasizes Williams' respect for the Native Americans and his insistence that their lands may not be taken: they must be fairly paid for. Jean Harrington imagines that a man with Williams' philosophical pedigree would fully honor the concept of religious freedom and offer the utmost hospitality to the Irish Catholic newcomers.

     Before reaching Providence, the young couple meets Absalom, the Narragansett leader who is an adopted son both of Canonchet and Williams. His upbringing has shaped him to be the ideal bridge between the two peoples, leaving him at the same time a man divided. He is also the Noble Savage par excellence, extremely helpful to Grace and Owen in their land clearing, planting, and other pursuits in their new environment. Absalom, however, is no exception to the rule that a man with a pulse will fall for (and maybe from) Grace.

     The strains on the marriage, the delights and hardships of Providence, the contrasts developed among Owen, Rushmount (always nearby), and Absalom propel the later chapters of the novel through many suspenseful twists and turns.

     Like any good writer of historical fiction, this former college teacher of literature and writing is a good researcher. Using the internet, Harrington found information on the chronologies of English rulers, key historical events and issues in successive reigns, period dress, the evolution of Irish law, and much else.

     She writes, One of the most interesting research sites was the Narragansett Indian web site. It was a mine of information about sachem succession, planting, food preparation, clothing, house construction, marriage customs, tribal lore. For basic information, or to check facts found on the web, I often turned to the library for verification. For example, a book on jewelry design there helped me to describe how Owen might have crafted the ring he gives to Grace. And believe it or not, the children's section of the library with its illustrated cutaway line drawings of sailing vessels made the internal workings of an ocean-going ship of the period clear to this land lubber.

     Since most of the available material on clothing and furnishing concerns the aristocracy, Harrington needed to dig deeper to glean similar information about the peasant class. She sought out tales of descendants and Irish buffs who had much to tell of their forebears' hardships.


Merrimon Book Review, February 2008

     "Owen O'Donnell is a great hero --- disabled by an accident yet strong and sexy, a wounded soul yet defiant and smart. In Grace's character, like others, Jean Harrington fills in the shades of grey, not presenting the reader with a black and white character but a fallible heroine. Lord Rushmount is a villain ---- a man easy to hate for his brutality. The author did a great job at showing how evil and self-centered the passions are that inflame his heart. If you want a light romance, this is not the one to read. There are sad and devastating events here, and yet Jean Harrington provides a magnificent catharsis, one that reaches across time, place and perhaps even generations. THE BAREFOOT QUEEN has an exquisite spiritual and historical happily ever after ending, a romance of daring hearts and a beautiful ending born out of the pain and hardship but one full of future hope."


     "I absolutely could not put this book down! It's been ages since a book made me laugh, cry, and run through the entire gamut of emotions. I rooted for the heroine, cursed at the evil deeds of the English lord, and gasped with shock when the unthinkable happened. The author did an absolutely spectacular job of bringing 1665 Ireland alive with vivid descriptions and a historically accurate portrayal of class divisions. I will warn you, however, that the story was quite graphic in a few areas. This only added to its believability because tenant farming in the 1600s was basically indentured servitude. This definitely earns a place on my keeper shelf!"

     "Best of all there will be a sequel to this book in 2008 with "IN THE LION'S MOUTH." I can hardly wait for Grace's newest adventure!"

Crave More Reviews Five Star Pick of the Week

     "Ms. Harrington's THE BAREFOOT QUEEN is a superb historical with a lushly painted setting. I adored Grace for her courage and the cleverness with which she sets out to make Owen see her love for him. The bond between Grace and Owen is tenderly portrayed and their love had me rooting for them right up until the last page. Ms. Harrington's THE BAREFOOT QUEEN is a treasure in the historical romance genre you'll want to read for yourself!"

BOOK BEAT, Naples Sun Times

     "Jean Harrington has been a stalwart member of the Southwest Florida chapter of Romance Writers of America for many years. In fact, she served two terms as president. The glow of success has shown brightly on many members of this productive chapter. Now it is Harrington's turn to shine. This Naples resident (since 1993) has come up with a rip-roaring, feisty heroine in her first novel, "THE BAREFOOT QUEEN." Fiery Grace O'Malley should have a long life ahead of her in fiction. Great granddaughter of a pirate queen who once "savaged the whole English fleet," young Grace has inherited her ancestor's rebellious streak and courage, as well as her Irish pride. Jean Harrington has done a fine job of bringing knotty historical issues down to the flesh and blood lives of individuals. And with Grace O'Malley, a young woman whose adventures often find her lifting her skirts to her knees or getting them tangled in her legs or washing away the blood of butchered deer, she has devised a vital spirit ready to challenge any influential young actress prepared to buy the film rights."

     Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy. A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this "Dr. Phil" chairs the annual Naples Writers' Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.

Jean Harrington © 2007-2013. All rights reserved.