07 January 2016

Noela reviews CALICO SPY by Margaret Brownley

Calico Spy
Calico Spy
by Margaret Brownley
Shiloh Run Press

Reviewed by Noela Nancarrow
5 Stars *****

A stellar spy mystery replete with laughs, love, and law-breakers!

Beneath the russet sky in Calico, Kansas, where tornadoes touch down, stockyard smells permeate the air, and all manner of people scurry back and forth to the trains—an undercover agent for Pinkerton is about to create her own whirlwind in the lives of the locals in this dusty and bustling town.

Two waitresses from the Harvey House Restaurant have tragically been murdered and it is Pinkerton agent Katie Madison’s mission to find this deranged killer before he can strike again. Foiling crime and hunting dangerous criminals, Katie can handle. Serving customers and learning cup codes as a Harvey Girl waitress when one is all thumbs, is another matter entirely! Flame-haired Katie has plenty of pluck and determination and won’t be intimidated by any of the staff, especially the Sheriff who has only contempt for the Pinkerton’s.

Harvey House Restaurant near train tracks

Branch Whitman, the sheriff of Calico, reluctantly collaborates with the Pink agent Katie although to do so is like a burr in his saddle. But what is he to do when he’s no closer to catching the killer either? The pretty investigator with the rebellious, dazzling red hair and cute, freckle-covered nose drives him crazy as she continues to put herself at risk. When a tornado and secrets from his past put Branch’s 8-yr-old son in grave jeopardy, he realizes he needs to work with Katie and God to not only catch the Harvey Girl killer but to try and save his son. Will Branch lose everything he loves, or is the Calico spy able to liberate both Branch and the town from the looming threats?

I’d probably make a lousy villain for I was held captive by this engaging and baffling mystery from the onset—and you couldn’t have paid me to escape! The author has masterfully combined this mystery with an electrifying romance, characters brimming with personality and chemistry, and frequent pops of genuine laugh-out-really-loud humor. Especially thought-provoking is the dilemma the hero faces when his faith is tested to the limits. I couldn’t help but wonder how I would fare in the same situation. Highly recommended!!


Disclosure: I was provided a copy of Calico Spy from NetGalley. I was not required to give a positive review.

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You can find this book for purchase at these and other places: Amazon; CBD; B&N; BAM

GIVEAWAY: Margaret Brownley is generously donating a copy of CALICO SPY - in your choice of format - to one person who leaves a comment below! Leave your e-mail to be eligible and as always, use (at) and (dot) to protect yourself against spammers.



97 comments:

  1. Noela, did you say spy and Harvey Girls?! Ooooo, I can't wait! Love your review, who wouldn't with "electrifying romance" and "brimming with personalities and characters?" Now that's my kind of read. Thank you for a salivating review!

    Annie
    justcommonly(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thank you ANNIE!! :-) It's an awesome combo isn't it... Spies, Harvey Girls, romance, and awesome characters.. Which is why I just HAVE to recommend it to you and everyone! It's definitely one to drool over!

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    2. I have to pop in here and say thank you Noela for the lovely, lovely review. Annie, I'm delighted you like the combination of Harvey girls and Pinkertons. It was fun putting the two together.

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    3. Noela, you sold me! I just have to read this some way or another!

      Thanks Margaret! I sure love the combination! I can imagine lots of sparks and engaging scenes! Can't wait!

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    4. Thank you and you're most welcome MARGARET! Thank you for writing my favourite kind of book!! :-)

      ANNIE, I can't wait for you to read it! All the best with your entry and you may just get to read it even sooner!

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  2. Oh my Noela. I love this kind of books. Would love to win Margaret's new book. Hello to all of you girls and wish each of you a wonderful New Year. I'm wishing to feel better this year. GOD bless you all.
    Maxie > mac262(at)me(dot)com <

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    1. Dear MAXIE, I'm praying for you to feel better this year too!! I wish you all the best in winning this wonderful book, it's guaranteed to give you plenty of smiles. God bless you our dear friend!

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    2. Maxie, happy New Year to you, too. Wishing you and everyone a healthy, happy 2016.

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  3. Great review Noela. I always enjoy Harvey Girls stories & this one sounds really good.
    Blessings, Tina
    tfrice(at)comcast(dot)net

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    1. Thanks TINA, I hope you get to read this fabulous story soon! I haven't heard too much about the Harvey Girls myself, so this was fascinating to me in that respect as well as the amazing story they found themselves in!

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    2. Hi Tina, I didn't know much about the Harvey Girls until I wrote this book. Fred Harvey is truly an unsung hero. He provided respectable employment to thousands of women at a time when few opportunities were available. Just thinking about this makes me almost want to forgive him for inventing "fast" food!

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    3. Yep about Fred Harvey! One day, I would like to check out the Harvey Girls museum I've about!

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    4. Yep about Fred Harvey! One day, I would like to check out the Harvey Girls museum I've about!

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  4. This book looks so good! I can't wait to read it! Hoping for a win!!!
    kathrynlvoss(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. KATE, Calico Spy is every bit as good as it looks too!! :-) All the best!

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  5. Noela, thank you so much for the outstanding review of "Calico Spy!" It is also fun to read other reviews by friends, Annie and TSR. I will be checking out Margaret's author bio to get to know her a bit better. If I don't win a copy, I will definitely be getting it for my Kindle library. It is going straight to the top of my "must read" list. Joyce * Heartwings email: joyce1510(d0t)jrg(at)gmail(d0t)com

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    1. Oh are you ever in for a treat, JOYCE!! :-) I have read all of Margaret's books that I know of, they are just brilliant and I know you will love them! All the best with your entry and happy reading!

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    2. Thank you, Joyce! I hope to get to know you better, too!

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  6. What a great review! I enjoyed the other books in this series - the perfect combo of romance, humor, & suspense. Would love to win a copy of Calico Spy.
    Pamelamorrisson@att.net

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    1. Thanks PAM, aren't they great?!! Your entry is in the hat so all the best!

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    2. Oh, Pam, I'm so glad you liked the other books in the series. It was a challenging series to write. It's not easy to solve crimes without the help of DNA, cameras, fingerprints and car chases, but those Pinkerton detectives did it!

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  7. NOELA, Another spectacular review! I don't know how I missed Book 2 and 3 in this series, but I would LOVE to win this one. Margaret's stories have captured me from the first of hers that I read. She is an amazing writer and storyteller!

    Love ya, Aussie girl!

    You KNOW where to find me ;)

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    1. Hi Anne, Noela writes the best reviews. I keep telling her she should be using her writing talent to write her own books! Thank you so much for your kind words. Happy New Year!

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    2. Aww thank you, you two sweethearts!! :-) I love and admire you both!!

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  8. What an beautifully written, enticing, and witty review, NOELA! I read a series long ago about the Harvey Girls, but I don't remember who the author was. :/ Which is just as well since we are highlighting the amazing Ms. Brownley on OWG today. ;) Love the cover, too!

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    1. Hi Diana, i love the cover, too. It's my favorite of the three. You can see the train out the window and the cup holds a valuable clue to the mystery, so there's lots going on. Best of all they got the hero and heroines right!

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    2. DIANA, thanks so much sweet friend. I sure learn a lot about your history with Margaret's books! I don't recall reading about the Harvey Girls before and I love the fact that he gave these girls the opportunities that many so needed!

      MARGARET, the cover is just perfect! You must have an amazing team working for you!!

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  9. This looks so good i sure want to win it

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    1. Hi Shirley, thank you for stopping by!

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    2. SHIRLEY, I'd love you to win it too! Do any of the blog ladies have your email? If not and you stop back, please leave it so I can enter you!

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  10. Would LOVE to win this book. I love everything about it, the author, Pinkerton detectives and Harvey Girls!!!!! Oh, in case I'm LUCKY enough to win this, I do prefer paperback, lol. Is that called positive thinking or what? lol

    wfnren at aol dot com

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    1. Hi Wendy, nothing like positive thinking, right?

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    2. Haha, all the best, WENDY!! :-)

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  11. The cover is gorgeous! Thank you for the awesome review, Noela!! If I wasn't already a fan before, you certainly sold me on this one. Her books are amongst my favorites and I was ecstatic when I found another one to give to my mom for Christmas. She loves them too.😉 Harvey Girls and spies you say? Count me in! Diana, perhaps the series you're thinking of is the one written by Tracie Peterson. Incidentally, before them, I had never even heard of the Harvey Girls. Thank you for the lovely giveaway. - Blessings, Julianna emeraldelena(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Julianna, I first learned about the Harvey Girls by watching an old Judy Garland movie. I believe it was called The Harvey Girls. Judy wore a great big white bow in her hair, but I read that Harvey weren't allowed to wear hair ornaments. That's why you won't find one on my heroine. The old Harvey House pictured above is in Barstow, California. It's now a museum and chamber of commerce, but it was perfect. The kitchen and dining room were still intact, and it served as a model for my story.

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    2. Thank you JULIANA! I looove these covers too!! Each and every one is absolutely perfect for the story. Juliana, I pass on my Margaret Brownley books to my mum as well, lol. She also loves them! Only I have to play catch up with the last few as I only have them on my Kindle! :-) I don't recall ever hearing about the Harvey Girls before Margaret's book, but I'll probably start seeing them around now that I'm aware of them. It's been fascinating learning about them, MARGARET. The Pinkerton's, too!

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  12. The cover is beautiful! Haven't read any of this series yet, but these are definitely going on my TBR pile!

    lientjiehuman(at)yahoo(dot)com(dot)au

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    1. Oh LIENTJIE, this is such a fabulous series and one fully deserving of going on the top of your TBR pile!! :-)

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    2. Thank you, Lientijie! I just hope your TBR pile isn't as tall as mine.

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  13. This book sounds like it would be a lot of fun to read. Thank you for the chance to win a copy.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. It sure is a lot of fun, SUSAN, and I so hope you get to enjoy Calico Spy soon!!

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    2. Thank you for stopping by, Susan! Happy New Year.

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  14. Well if that cover didn't draw me in, your review did Noela! Just as that dark brooding look the sheriff is giving Katie draws me into the depths of his eyes...I'd not want to escape either...haha!! I'm already trying to cool my cheeks with a lacy fan....whew!

    teamob4 (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. TRIXI, I always LOVE the covers Margaret has on her books!! And particularly the handsome heroes that have these looks that convey the story and characters absolutely spot on! I'm so glad you enjoyed reading about Calico Spy, I know you will LOVE this book of Margaret's, Trixi! :-)

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    2. Hi Trixi, I kind of like that sheriff, too. Very manly looking. Some cover models tend to look too young for my taste. This one is just right.

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    3. Hi Margaret! You're right about cover models, sometimes the hero looks to young. Guess I never really thought about it until you pointed it out. Now that I've gotten older, I'd like to see more mature men on the covers. Seeing a 20 something is like looking at my 18yr old son....no thank you, lol!! Unless it's a YA book, give us older men (30+)...haha! ;-)

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  15. What a wonderful combination - Harvey Girls and Pinkerton! I can hardly wait to read this one :) Great review, Noela, as it made me want to read it even more!
    bettimace at gmail dot com

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    1. That's awesome BETTI, you will love it too!! :-) Margaret Brownley always includes such fascinating backdrops with lots of interesting tidbits of information. You feel like you get SO much more than just a great story!

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    2. Betti, I hope you enjoy the combination as much as I enjoyed putting them together.

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  16. A wonderful review thank you. I do enjoy a touch of humor in the books I read.

    marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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    1. Thank YOU Mary, and yes if you enjoy a touch of humor in your books, you're going to LOVE Calico Spy! :-)

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    2. Hi Mary, laughter has seen me through more problems than you can imagine. So for me, humor is an essential ingredient. Glad you agree.

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  17. Thank you, Noela, for your wonderful review. Margaret is a Cracker Jack writer and I would love to read this one for sure! Thank you for the opportunity!

    mauback55 at gmail dot com

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    1. Isn't she ever, MELANIE! :-) Thanks, and all the very best with your entry!!

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    2. oooh,oooh, you're making me blush, Melanie.

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  18. This sounds excellent! Spies, Harvey Girls, Pinkerton agents! Fun! Nancycooks4u(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. What more could you want eh, Nancy? ;) Definitely fun!!

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    2. Hi Nancy, I gather from your email addie you're a cook. So you might enjoy the food shenanigans in the book.

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  19. I really enjoy Margaret's books. Her blend of humor, romance, and action make for fun books to read. This one is especially appealing since it is set in Kansas, my home state. A few years ago, my book club read a book by Tracie Peterson that featured Harvey girls (Shelter of Hope). We took a field trip a Harvey House museum in Florence, Kansas. It's fun to find another book about Harvey girls and also Pinkerton agents.
    pmkellogg56[at]gmail[dot]com

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    1. Wow, thanks for sharing that Pam, that's fascinating... And I'm wishing I was in that book club with you!! Just love the idea of taking field trips to book places and learning about history. Pam, you SO need to read this book! :-)

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    2. Pam, that's really interesting. I never read Peterson's book. I'll have to check that out. Thank you for sharing.

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  20. Love her books!.
    Susan Snodgrass
    TSL9SNODGRASS(at)aol(dot)com.

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    1. Yep, they're pretty much all kinds of wonderful, SUSAN! :-)

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  21. NOELA! Thanks for the intriguing review. I love the idea of a female detective series. I'll be looking into this one soon.... ;)

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    1. CARYL, this female Pinkerton detective series was just brilliant! You're gonna love it!! :-) Hugs, and happy reading!!

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    2. Noela writes the best reviews! I love reading about female detectives, too. I don't know if I mentioned it, but Allan Pinkerton actually had a whole department of female agents working for him in the 1800s. Unfortunately, their records were destroyed in the Chicago fire so little is known about them.

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  22. I really like the cover of the book. As soon as I read your review of this book I knew I needed to add this book to my must read for 2016 list.

    This book has everything I like to read - mystery, humor, romance. I watched a movie once featuring Harvey girls. Prior to that I had never heard about them. What a trailblazer Mr. Harvey was providing women the opportunity to be employed in a respectable occupation.

    I have heard about Pinkerton agents before but never female Pinkerton agents. What a great idea combining the two jobs!

    I really enjoy historical fiction so this is definitely the book for me. Thank you so much for this giveaway. If I should win I would like a paperback version of the book.

    phoneticpanda(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thank you KATHY, I'm so glad you came by to read the review! I really hope you get to read Calico Spy soon... I know it'll be one of your favorites of 2016 as it will be mine! :-) Throughout this series of Undercover Ladies, Margaret Brownley shares a wealth of fascinating information on Pinkerton Detectives, including the history of women Pinkertons. And of course, in Calico Spy you can glean much about the Harvey Girls, including Mr Harvey himself!

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    2. Thank you, Kathy. I found Mr. Harvey to be a fascinating man. He was also quite handsome. I'm always careful about putting real people in books, but I couldn't resist writing about him.

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  24. SOunds like a good read. cheetahthecat1986ATgmailDOTcom

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    1. Hi Kim, thank you for stopping by! Good luck.

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    2. It's an amazing read, KIM, thank you for coming by to read about it!

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  25. Sounds fascinating. Love Mary's books. Thank you, Noela.
    leliamae54(at)aol(dot)com

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    1. Calico Spy really is fascinating on so many levels, LUCY! :-) I know you meant to say Margaret, lol.

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  26. Love spy stories and western. I think this sounds like a great read! Lorenzc@Huntel.COM com

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    1. Mystery and westerns made a great combination!

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    2. And don't forget Romance, guys!! ;) All the best CJ, it's a fabulous read!

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  27. What a fun read!!! I LOVE Pinkerton novels and I've recently read another by Brownley that involved the Pinkerton Agency. I look forward to getting my hands on a copy.
    sweets_719(at)hotmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks A.M. I'm so glad you like Pinkerton novels.

      Calico Spy is the fourth Pinkerton book I've written. The first book was Gunpowder Tea, the third book in my Last Chance Ranch series. Readers keep asking if I'll do more. I don't know; I might!

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    2. Me too, A.M., they make for such a fascinating read! Love to go back in time to meet some of those Pinkerton's... Wouldn't that be cool, MARGARET? Gunpowder Tea was one of my all-time favorites btw! :-)

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  28. Aww, what a winner "Calico Spy" must be, Noela - your compelling review definitely sold me!! The book surely has something to entice all readers - humor, suspense/mystery, romance, history, etc.. I've wanted to learn more about both female Pinkerton agents and Harvey Girls - I'm definitely putting "Calico Spy" on my TBR list!! Thank you!!

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    1. It really is BONNIE and I know you will LOVE this (and other) book of Margaret's! This wonderful book Calico Spy is also the perfect avenue for learning more about Pinkerton agents and the Harvey Girls for you!! :-)

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  29. I would love to win a free book. I read your novella Pony Express this Christmas and it was awesome! My email is ddamronsmbc at gmail dot com.

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    1. 'Ddamronsmbc', you are in the draw! Wasn't Pony Express fantastic?!! Margaret Brownley sure knows how to write compelling and entertaining stories and I promise you'll love this one just as much! :-)

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    2. The Pony Express story was fun to write, especially the love-sick mule.

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  30. I just read the first two books in this series (I literally finished the second book three hours ago) and absolutely loved them!! After I finished book one, I gave it to my mom to read while I read book two. I think she enjoyed it just as much as I did. I love the idea of female Pinkertons (ever watch the show "The Pinkertons" about Kate Warne and Will Pinkerton?). I can't wait to read this newest one.

    mallori(dot)norris(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Mallori, I'm so glad you liked my books. Thank you and tell your mother thanks, too. I did watch that show. I don't think it's on anymore is it?

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    2. That's pretty cool to hear you'd just finished reading Margaret's previous books, MALLORI. You're all set to read this now! :-) I don't know about this show... I wonder if I'll be able to view it online somehow. Sounds interesting!

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  31. I haven't started this series, yet, but they have so many of the elements that I love in my reading. Most especially romance and comedy.

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    1. Sounds like they're right up your alley then, TERILL. :-) All the best!!

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  32. Hi Terrill, I do hope you enjoy the series. Thank you for stopping by.

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  33. I enjoyed Gunpower Tea, another unassuming Pinkerton lady who blended in ~ or tried to :D ~ would love to get acquainted with Katie and her learned cup codes. Kathleen ~ Lane Hill House lanehillhouse[at]centurylink[dot]net

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