Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Cozy Mystery Blog Tour: Author Guest Post, Review & Giveaway: At the Drop of a Hat (Hat Shop Mystery #3) by Jenn McKinlay

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Library Lover’s Mysteries and Death of a Mad Hatter comes a tale of hat shop owners who put a cap on crime.


Cousins Scarlett Parker and Vivian Tremont’s fashionable London hat shop, Mim’s Whims, is visited by a new customer bearing an old hat box. Ariana Jackson is getting married and wants to restore her mother’s bridal hat and veil for the occasion. The elegant item was made by Scarlett and Vivian’s grandmother over thirty years ago, so Viv is delighted to take the job.

When Scarlett goes to Ariana's office to consult about the restoration cost, she finds her outside, standing over her boss’s dead body. Though Ariana claims to know nothing about his demise, the investigation unveils a motive for murder. Now, with the bride-to-be in custody and the wedding on hold, Scarlett and Viv must find the real killer before Ariana's future is boxed up for good.

I am a hat girl and always have been. No, sadly, not the fancy hats to which the British are partial. I think Americans are too obsessed with their hair to ever truly embrace the hat. Pity. Still, I love a good hat, and I own several fuzzy winter hats, floppy sun hats, utilitarian (ie. hide the unwashed rat's nest) baseball hats. 

My fascination with headwear was definitely a driving force in writing the London hat shop mysteries and because I love research this has been one of the best parts of the whole adventure. The history of millinery, famous milliners, the evolutioni of the hat, all of these things have contributed to the writing of the books. 

In AT THE DROP OF THE HAT, Viv and Scarlett are asked to mend a bridal hat made by their grandmother over thirty years before in the early nineteen eighties. It is an emotional moment for the girls to have something that their grandmother made and they are determined to fix the hat for the bride Ariana Jackson. 

Of course this part of the plot led me to research hats of the eighties which naturally guided me to Princess Diana and her famous milliner John Boyd. I read his bio, studied years and years of his hats and now follow him on social media. The man is simply a genius. 

Here's a quote from his website ( so you can see what I mean: 

"Making hats isn't just a romantic story of sitting there waiting for some great creation to come. Millinery is deception all the time. If a client's nose isn't straight you twist her hat brim slightly the opposite way to straighten it. If she's got two chins, you give her a face lift by tying a veil under one of them. The wearer doesn't deceive, I do it for them."  - John Boyd

See?  Certified artistic genius. And although I have a total fan girl crush on the eighty-nine year old Scotsman, John Boyd is just one of so many famous hat makers that fill the pages of fashion, art and history. Writing this series has been a pure joy because I have learned so much and because I get to spend hours turning the pages of old fashion magazines at my library, studying the fads and fashions of days gone by. 

But there's more than hat history involved in AT THE DROP OF A HAT. Things have been tense between Scarlett and Viv as Scarlett can't shake the feeling that Viv is hiding something for her. She hopes that working on Min's old hat together will bridge the distance between them. Viv is delighted to take on the job of restoring Ariana's hat. It means so much to her to refurbish one of Mim's original designs. Unfortunately, contacting Ariana with the estimated cost becomes difficult when she never answers her phone. 

Finally, Scarlett decides to go visit the young woman at her place of work and give her the work estimate in person. when she arrives at the solicitor's office in Kensington, she finds Ariana in the alley, standing over the body of her dead boss who looks to have fallen to his death. The police think the man was pushed, but Scarlett refuses to believe Ariana is the murderer. It is now up to Scarlett and Viv to find the real killer before Ariana's future is boxed up for good. 

Is Ariana a murderess? Do Viv and Scarlett manage to refurbish Mim's bridal hat to its original glory? What secret is Viv keeping from Scarlett? You'll just have to pick up a copy of AT THE DROP OF A HAT to find out. 

Happy Reading! 

When did I decide to become a writer? Funny story. True story. I was a teenager and went to see the movie Romancing the Stone. I don't know that I decided to be a writer so much as I decided to be Kathleen Turner. Yes, that would be quite a stretch for me, but living in an apartment in New York City, writing romance novels for a living seemed like a good gig and so the dream began. I did nothing with it for YEARS.

I went to Southern Conn State Univ, where I studied English Literature and Library Science and worked at a bar called Toad's Place. I then took a full time job working as a librarian in Cromwell, CT. Still, I wrote nothing. Full time work was not conducive to writing time. I knew I needed to live in a place where I could afford to live, working part-time.

So, I packed up all of my crap and my cat and moved 3,000 miles across the country to Arizona and then I started writing -- romances. Hmmm. They were pretty bad, but I learned a lot along the way about POV, character development and plotting, etc. I took a wide variety of part-time jobs, convinced that it was all temporary because one day I would be a published writer.

While I was pursuing this dream with some pretty impressive (also called psychopathic) single-mindedness, I had my heart broken a few times and I broke a few along the way. I found my soul mate (in a library - for real) and married him. I had a gorgeous baby boy.

And then the call came! A lovely woman called from Harlequin and wanted to buy a book I had submitted a year (yes, a WHOLE year) before. She said, "We want to buy your book." I looked at the bundle of joy in my arms and asked, "What book?" She said, "Hmm. Usually people scream about now." I said, "I can't. It'd wake the baby." This was my first lesson in perspective and what is truly important in life, my family, but I still wanted to be a writer.

I signed a contract and went on to write for a couple of Harlequin's romantic comedy lines. I learned so much and I joined a group of writers who quickly became friends that I still talk to pretty much every day. I had another gorgeous baby boy.

The writing was hard for me and I learned that I was not a romance writer so much as a mystery writer. I'm just better at killing people than I am at making them fall in love. Knowing this, my husband sleeps really well at night, really! Bwa ha ha.

So, I started over. I wrote several mysteries. I submitted to agents and publishers. No one loved the whole package. They loved my characters and hated my plot or vice versa. It was agony. Then a lone voice, an agent, decided she thought I was a genius (always a good sign).

She signed me and now I had a buddy to suffer the rejection with me. It still hurt. We kept trying. It went on for two years. And then we sold! In 2008, I agreed to write a decoupage mystery series, then I submitted an idea for a cupcake bakery mystery series and it sold. Sadly, my original agent left to pursue new and different dreams of her own.

I stayed with my agency, liking her partner very much. I knew it was a good match when I submitted an idea for a library lover's series and my new agent loved it and sold it.

You'd think I'd rest now. You know, take a chill pill and just enjoy the ride. Yeah, I'm not built that way. After so many years of hours hunched over my keyboard, banging out stories, years spent checking my mail box and my email inbox for good news, I don't think I'll rest until I really feel like I've achieved what I set out to do. And so, I agreed to write the bargain hunters series and most recently, I sold another idea for a mystery series set in London that looks like it will be a blast to write! This will be my fifth mystery series. Wow. I am very excited!

Is it enough yet? I don't think so. So far, two of my series have landed on the New York Times best seller's list. Awesome, but still, there's something just outside my reach. I guess I'll know what it is when it's in my grasp. Maybe it is something only time can give me. I don't know.

In the meantime, I am writing up a storm in the corner of my kitchen in my house in the desert. While my house, which is filled to bursting with kids, pets and my husband's guitars, is not the New York City apartment I dreamed of as a teen, I wouldn't trade it or the life I am living for anything!

Jenn McKinlay is a fantastic storyteller.  She writes a wonderful mystery with great, strong characters in a setting that's easy to get lost in.  I love it when she puts out a new book, no matter the series.  But the Hat Shop books are always so much fun!

This book was funny. In a chuckle under your breath AND a laugh out loud kind of funny.  Scarlett and Vivian are delightfully charming, and their hat shop is superb.  It's a perfect escape in this story (because who doesn't love hats?!).  The mystery was true to this series - hinting at few clues until you near the end, where the action picks up and the truth becomes evident.

Overall, this book was a great addition to the series.  It's always fun to visit with Scarlett and Vivian, and I'm looking forward to them and their hats in the next installment.

Rating: 4.5 stars

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  All conclusions reached are my own. 

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holdenj said...

She is a fantastic storyteller! I have enjoyed all of her series.

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