Monday, February 9, 2015

Death of a Beauty Queen by Barbara Jean Coast | Blog Tour with Review and Interview


The Blurb

It’s the 1950’s in Santa Lucia, California, and the height of the social season. Time for the new Miss Santa Lucia, Nora Burbank, to display her loveliness at a high society fashion show produced by the city’s own fashionistas — Margot and Daphne, owners of Poppy Cove, the most elegant and “in” little dress shop in the county.

Nora steals the show in her designer gown and custom-made necklace created by local jeweler Isaac Mendelson, and used on the sly by his apprentice son-in-law, Efrem Goldberg. At the conclusion of the show, the young queen is allowed to keep her dress and a replica of the necklace for her own. But Monday morning, Efrem arrives in a panic at Poppy Cove to beg Margot and Daphne’s assistance in tracking down the real necklace, which he believes was inadvertently switched for the replica backstage. The girls get involved in Efrem’s dilemma and try to help him before Isaac’s any the wiser. But before that can happen, Miss Santa Lucia is found dead in her bed and the necklace is missing.

Who killed Nora Burbank? Is it someone jealous of her new royal position and all of its perks? Or did she just happen to be in the way when a thief attempted to steal her diamond-studded necklace? Did Nora have the real or the fake necklace, and how much did the thief and murderer know about it? But, of course, before the girls can find the killer, they’ll have to create several beautiful ensembles, calm numerous irate clients, and flirt with their ever-so-attentive boyfriends, before solving this mystery.

Death of a Beauty Queen by Barbara Jean Coast
Series: Poppy Cove Mysteries, #2
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Publisher: Cozy Cat Press 
Publication Date: May 9, 2014
Paperback: 220 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1939816436
eBook File Size: 353 KB
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Smashwords | KoboGoodreads

The Review

I just finished reading a really good book, y'all! Let me tell you a little about it. 

Death of a Beauty Queen is the second book in the Poppy Cove Mystery series, set in Santa Lucia, California. It takes place in 1957, and just over a month after the murder that was the subject of book one, Strangled by Silk. The earlier murder "still greatly affected the entire town."   
But now, in the course of a couple of months, two upstanding women of the community were gone. Not only gone, but murdered. She [Margot] had no idea what their little world was coming to, either.
Margot's realization that [as Bob Dylan will phrase it, in about 6 years] the times they are a-changin’  must be shared by many others in town. There's not quite as much fun in the visit to Santa Lucia this go-round. The Santa Lucians (?) don't seem to be as happy-go-lucky as before. 
[Daphne] It's just that this is so upsetting and another murder so close to home again has us all questioning everything. 

But don't despair. There's still some fun to be had!

After the fashion show, Daphne and her boyfriend Dan danced the night away at the Charity Ball. For their next date, Dan wants to "surprise her", so Daphne jumps to the conclusion that they're going dancing again. Daphne picks out a new dress from the shop, one that she can dance in. At first she chooses a black full-length formal gown with a snug halter-top bodice and full skirt — for her Wednesday night surprise date. At Margot's suggestion, Daphne selects a similar gown that is tea-length (only semi-formal). And is she ever surprised on date night, when Dan takes her to the Bowling Alley to go bowling! Daphne has never bowled in her life! Poor Daphne. Bowling can be hard enough for a beginner, without having to contend with your crinoline skirt flipping up, and "the girls" trying to slip sideways out of your halter-top! But, she's a good sport about it, and ends up actually enjoying herself. 

Here is a fun encounter at Poppy Cove, between Margot and Mr Anthony, the best hairstylist in town.
He stopped his aimless ranting in his tracks when he saw Margot, who was busy fixing a sash on the white blouse of a new client. "Oh dear, what happened here? Did we have a bad night? I can't believe you've been out in public like that! No matter, I'll fix it now." As always, he had a can of hairspray in one hand and a brush in the other.
.... "Mr Anthony, what are you doing?"
"Dear, it's for your own good. As always, you are impeccably dressed, right down to those fabulous new red shoes, but the back of your head, darling, well, that just won't do!" He began teasing out a small, flat spot at the back of Margot's brunette crown that wasn't as lively as the right side, alternating spritzes and brushstrokes. The hair faux pas was so slight that no one had even noticed it — before him, that is.

I really enjoyed my Great Escape to Santa Lucia. I had a nice visit with people I had "met" in Book One — townsfolk too, not just the girls at Poppy Cove. There are intriguing mysteries to solve  the theft and the murder — with red herrings, as well as clues for the observant readers. There are interesting personal developments for both Daphne and Margot. There is even a bit of a cliffhanger ending for one of them. I am very eager to read the book three, to find out what happens next!  Hurry up, Barbara Jean! Inquiring minds want to know!   

Note: My review copy of Death of a Beauty Queen came from my personal library.

The Author

About Barbara Jean Coast

Barbara Jean Coast is the pen name of authors Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff, both of whom reside in Kelowna, BC, Canada.  Barbara Jean, however, is a resident of Santa Lucia, California (eerily similar to Santa Barbara), where she enjoys long lunches, cocktail parties, fancy dinner dates with attractive and attentive gentlemen.  Her interests include Alfred Hitchcock movies, reading Carolyn Keene, music by popular musicians, such Frank Sinatra and Tony Bennett, shopping for new dresses, attending society events and always looking fabulous in kitten heels.  DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN is her second novel in the Poppy Cove Mystery Series.

Find her on the web at

Website | BlogFacebook | Twitter Amazon | Pinterest | Goodreads

About Andrea Taylor

Andrea always imagined herself being a supersleuth girl detective and writing adventurous stories, full of mystery and intrigue since she was old enough to hold a pencil.  She resides in Kelowna, BC, Canada, where she writes under the pen name of Barbara Jean Coast with her co-author friend, Heather Shkuratoff, and travels often to California to further develop the stories and escapades of the Poppy Cove Mystery Series.  Andrea has also published freelance articles about fashion, current events, and childcare, and is currently blogging on WordPress about creativity and poetry, as well as researching for her own literary novels.

About Heather Shkuratoff

As an avid mystery reader, Heather joined lifelong friend Andrea Taylor to create the Poppy Cove Mystery Series, written under the pen name of Barbara Jean Coast.  Growing up in a family of talented crafters and sewers, Heather developed her own skills to become a dressmaker and designer, which helps to give rich detail and character to their stories.  She lives in Kelowna, BC, Canada, but spends much time in California, researching for the novels and doing her best to live like Barbara Jean.

Interview with the Authors

I have two special guests in the studio today!  Please help me welcome Barbara Jean Coast, aka Andrea Taylor and Heather Shkuratoff.
Andrea and Heather: Hi Jane – nice to talk to you again! Thanks for interviewing us for your blog – we really appreciate it. 

  • What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
Andrea: I have read so many! They are very inviting and fun. I like the char-acters and sense of place they have. The stories, well, they make me feel cozy, with their small town friendliness, yet still a quirky touch.

Heather: I think I’ve always loved them ever since childhood – Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins. I also really enjoy the craft or artistic aspect that the main character usually has.

  • How did you come up with the titles?
Andrea and Heather: We never really had a title in mind when we started writing the individual books, the just showed up as we wrote them. A wording or event, such as when we wrote the headline for our Santa Lucia Times newspaper in the book, we liked the DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN phrase and it stuck.

  • Do you write in any other genres?

Andrea: I also write poetry and have two other manuscripts in progress – a historical novel and a fantasy/dystopian work.

  • Tell us about your series.

Andrea and Heather: Poppy Cove Mysteries are cozy novels set in the fictional town of Santa Lucia, loosely based on Santa Barbara in the late 50′s, early 60′s and revolves around the glamorous comings and goings of the social set of the town, with a little murder and mayhem thrown in for good measure. DEATH OF A BEAUTY QUEEN is the follow-up to STRANGLED BY SILK in the series. Our publisher is Cozy Cat Press.

  • Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
Heather: I had been milling around the idea of a cozy mystery set in a dressmaker/design atelier, to be set in a time when the skills were relevant, revered and yet commonplace in the average small town community. We also had spent a great deal of time in the Santa Barbara region and it spoke as “cozy” to us. Andrea had the idea of a couple of main heroines and we discussed the time of the 50’s/60’s and it went from there.

  • Do you have plans for future books, either in your current series or a new series?

Andrea and Heather: Yes, both! In the Poppy Cove series, we have about ten major plot lines that involve the people and times as they evolve and change. We also have a couple of other series we’re developing, including one set in the current time and region we live in, the Okanagan Valley.

  • Do you prefer to write books that are in a series, or stand-alone books?

Andrea: I really like working on a series together. Planning and working out the details for multiple volumes as at team is very helpful. It feels right to work on a bigger scope with someone, to create and map it all out. It helps keep the details consistent.
I do have to say I like working by myself on the standalone novels. Those started in my own head, whereas the cozies were a collaborative effort from day one. They were jointly created from the first idea.

  • Can you tell us about any books or series that you may have in the planning stage?
Andrea and Heather: The next one (the third) in the series reveals the past of one of our major characters and the reactions of the people, the situation and how everyone sees themselves. We have a couple of title ideas, but not ready to commit one to paper yet!

  • Do you have a favorite character in this book? If so, who and why?

Andrea: At the moment, Dirk Roberts! The whole ‘local celebrity’ thing, the star that go eclipsed and the wife that ran away with the boy toy. Dirk’s a has been that never was, I guess I have a bit of a soft spot for him.

Heather: Twittery Loretta Simpson is speaking to me at the moment, with her nose for news and her go-to call of action response. We recently started thinking about her past, future, who she is, how she came to Santa Lucia and why….

  • What is the best part of being an author?
Andrea and Heather: That we can tell the stories that run around in our heads! It gets crowded up there. Also, it’s so wonderful when we hear from readers who really enjoy visiting our worlds. It’s great to know they love Santa Lucia as much as they do, that others really get a sense of pleasure from our words.

  • When and why did you begin writing?

Andrea: As soon as I could hold a pencil. I was always making up stories and poems, creating imaginary worlds and friends as a child. It never stopped.

Heather: In my teens. I was journaling and writing out my thoughts, free form stories and musings, expressing ideas and concepts.

  • What books by other authors have influenced your life?

Andrea: Quite a few of the classics. The Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, in particular. My first book report was on THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE. I think it was the wide scope of imagination that showed me that you could create new worlds on paper and make it seem real.

Heather: The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder were a big influence on me. My mother grew up on a farm and I remember things she would tell me. I think my dad was a little like Charles, in a good way. He loved all his girls, and I remember him singing and playing guitar and harmonica, especially on the winter nights when there was time as the orchard was resting for the new season.

  • Which writer would you consider to be an influence?

Andrea and Heather: As for cozies, there are a few. Carola Dunn, Rhys Bowen, Susan Wittig Albert, Agatha Christie, Laura Childs, Donna Andrews – so many more, it feels a shame to leave anyone out! We like how they really create believable characters, yet with some very distinct personalities, and especially in the case of Dunn, Bowen and Albert, where they set their series in different time periods showed us that it could be done, and they are fine examples of it done well.

  • What are you currently reading?

Andrea: OSCAR AND LUCINDA by Peter Carey, BLOOD LANCE BY Jeri Westerson and DEATHBED AND BREAKFAST by Bart J. Gilbertson.

Heather: TOMORROW THERE WILL BE APRICOTS by Jessica Soffer, GUNPOWDER PLOT by Carola Dunn and BINGOED by Patricia Rockwell.

  • Do you have any hobbies other than reading?

Andrea: I like doing collage, baking, walking and swimming to name a few.

Heather: Sewing’s still a very big thing for me, cooking, light hikes, and watching mystery series, especially British ones.

  • Are there any new authors who have captured your interest?

Andrea: Eleanor Catton, Steven Galloway, Lauren Owen

Heather: Susan Gregg Gilmore (she’s got three novels out, but new to me last year), Alexander Grecian, Audrey Niffenegger

  • If you could have a dinner party and invite four authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite, and why?

Andrea: Alexander McCall Smith – he’s such a great storyteller, Tracy Chevalier – I like how she looks at things, Michael Chabon – he’s intelligent and witty and Virginia Woolf – the way she makes people think.

Heather: Agatha Christie – for her gentle, yet diabolical mind, Fannie Flagg – she delights me, Whitney Otto – the way she looks at the world and Carl Hiaasen – well, because he knows some amazing critter people and he’s fun!

  • What four items do you always have in your fridge or pantry?
Andrea: Oatmeal, wine, apples and chocolate!

Heather: Wine, ice cream, coffee and cheese.

  • Is there anything else you would like my readers to know?

Andrea and Heather: How grateful we are that we have the opportunity to meet them on your blog, Jane (and thanks of course to you, too). Also that we have so many more tales to tell about our Santa Lucia Social Set and you’re all welcome any time to come and stay awhile.


Follow the tour! 
Four of the participating blogs have Giveaways, 
of an eBook of Death of a Beauty Queen, one prize at each blog!

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