Holly Blues by Susan Wittig Albert is the 18th book in the “China Bayles” mystery series. Publisher: Berkley (Penguin), April 2010

Life has been good to China Bayles, so she doesn’t mind welcoming her orphaned niece into the family. But she’s not happy when a Texas wind blows her husband’s ex-wife, mother of China’s stepson, into her herb shop. Sally is known to have a split personality and be in trouble with the law, but now she claims to be broke with nowhere else to turn. China isn’t sure if it’s because of the goodness of her heart of the scent of Christmas wreath’s hanging in her store, but she invites Sally to stay.

Despite her track record, Sally surprises the family by making an effort with hers on and forming an instant bond with China’s troubled niece. But Sally’s sob story doesn’t hold water, and China starts receiving menacing calls at the shop from an ex of Sally’s—and at her unlisted home number, too.

Sally has had plenty of bad-news beaus, but there seems to be an odd connection between this one and the murder of her parents, nearly a decade ago. China is full of questions—and doubtful she’s going to get any honest answers. With her P.I. husband out of town and two children in her care, it’s up to China to weed out whatever it is Sally’s running from before the truth catches up to them all.

The Christmas spirit is alive in China and it is evident when she falls for Sally’s lies and of course, trouble follows Sally and indirectly China and her family. This was an enjoyable story and I can’t wait to read the next one in the series. My rating: 4 stars

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