Declan Kensington isn’t really in the mood for Christmas. His latest mystery book sales are tanking, his finances are in a dismal state, and his spirits are anything but festive. Perhaps spending the holidays alone at his family lakeside cabin in the small village of Maplewood, Vermont, will provide him much-needed peace and quiet. Then he might finally get to work on a new book and (hopefully) jumpstart his stalling writing career.
When he starts receiving anonymous letters threatening him to leave, Declan realizes his solitary writer’s retreat isn’t at all what he bargained for. And if the threats aren’t enough, a killer strikes, casting Declan in the role of the most likely suspect. Now it’s up to him and the handsome local Public Safety Commissioner Curtis Monroe to find out the truth before Declan spends Christmas (and the rest of his life) in jail. But as dead bodies pile up and dark secrets are revealed beneath Maplewood’s picture-perfect facade, Declan’s heart may yet be in more danger than his life…
Isabelle Adler writes M/M romance, sci-fi, adventure, and fantasy. She has been a voracious reader from the age of five and always dreamed of one day putting her own stories into writing. She loves traveling, art, and science, and finds inspiration in all of these. Her favorite genres include sci-fi, fantasy, and historical adventure. She also firmly believes in the unlimited powers of imagination and caffeine.
Hi, it’s me, the guy that complains about the love-interests in mystery books. Even though my complaints usually have very little bearing on the actual mystery plot, but if I don’t say anything I will combust into a ball of flame. So, I might as well continue the tradition with this book.
Detective (is he a detective?) Monroe is dismissive, inefficient, and useless, and it’s only made worse by the fact that he’s the love-interest. After Declan, the main character, receives a creepy message in his new cottage saying “get out while you can,” Monroe immediately says it’s probably just a prank and that he can’t do anything about it. I mean, the police department in this armpit of a town is literally two people and he can’t even look into it, not a peep!? It’s only when a rock is thrown through Declan’s window that he gets off his ass. And no, Declan, at no point do you “gotta hand it to him,” for investigating. By now it’s the least he could do.
Now look, if it seems like I’m holding a grudge against this guy because I’ve read a lot of cozy mysteries with this type of character, it’s only because I’m holding a grudge against this guy because I've read a lot of cozy mysteries and I’m tired of this type of character. I don’t know, my favorite type of mystery always has a dash of romance to it, but only when the main character is generally focused on the mystery and less on the romance. It’s really a delicate balance I’m afraid. Anyway, positive thoughts! POSITIVE THOUGHTS!! The writing and mystery itself were intriguing and exciting, but I just needed to get all that off my chest.
I was recently made aware that 'cozy mystery' was a genre, and I feel betrayed by all of my friends who never told me this vital piece of information. I love whodunnit type stories, but I also love romance and family relationships being present, as well as a cozy ambiance in the story. This subgenre contains all of that, and I am looking forward to exploring it more.
This book is set at christmas time in a lakeside cabin in a small town. When someone is murdered, our main character, Declan, newcomer to the town, is cast as a main suspect. The local Public Safety Commissioner, Curtis, is put on the case and as they spend more time with each other, Declan and Curtis' chemistry grows.
In the Winter Woods is my third novel by Isabelle Adler, an author who I have loved reading in the past. This is quite different to the rest, the only main similarity being that an m/m romance is at the forefront. I was expecting more focus on the romantic relationship, and a bit more steaminess considering my experience with her works- so was a little let down in that regard. However, I can acknowledge that for some, that will be a positive!
The atmosphere was definitely well done. It felt distinctly like a small town, and the winter setting was also at the forefront. Considering I read this in the peak of summer here in the Southern Hemisphere, I am impressed the Adler got me to feel the snowy weather and setting as well as she did.
However, for a cozy mystery- I didn't really love the mystery that much. I didn't necessarily find it predictable, but I just wasn't engaged with it all that much. I found myself more invested with the characters than the plot. I also found some actions taken by the characters (*cough* Declan *cough*) to be plain stupid for no reason other than furthering the plot.
Overall, I was satisfied with the conclusion of the story and how all the elements came together. I adored the aesthetic, and felt that the book really shined in that respect. However I would have preferred to see more of the romance, and have a more well rounded mystery.
I have to be honest. The cover was what made me notice this book at first. It's absolutely stunning! This was a great read. I love cozy mysteries and this is text book cozy mystery. You have a lonely writer going to an empty cabin in the woods, all the small town charm with amazing secondary characters and a sexy cop, but not really cop. The mystery itself was also textbook but with enough twists and turns to make it interesting and refreshing. The romance of course left room for the mystery and I would've wanted a bit more of that part for it to be a full five star read. But overall this was really great.
Cozy mystery by Isabelle Adler. The arc is traditional: mystery writer moves to remote location and stumbles onto a murder. A town of quirky locals, including the bisexual law enforcement officer love interest. Around the midway point Adler throws in some nice twists which sets this one apart.
Isabelle Adler writes so nicely, and the book flows well - in fact I had a hard time putting it down. Hopefully, if this becomes a series Adler will continue to change up the plotlines, and keep it moving in a new and unique direction.
thank you to NetGalley and NineStar Press for an ARC of In The Winter Woods
Note: I was given a complimentary ARC of this work in exchange for an honest review.
All right, I'll admit it, I was absolutely overjoyed when I was offered the opportunity for an ARC of this book. I am a big fan of Isabelle Adler's work, and when someone puts the words "cozy mystery" and "Christmas-themed M/M romance" together, I am there in a flash. So, as soon as the file could download to my Kindle, I nestled in beside the fire with a cup of tea (and once I finished that, a glass of wine) and slipped into the world that Adler had created.
Declan Kensington has a problem. Money is getting tight, his last book didn't do so well, and he needs a place to hole up and try to fix all of that in one fell swoop of a bestselling novel. He decides the cabin his parents owned, up on Lake Champlain, would be the perfect spot to do just that. It also helped that it's the only spot he can afford, as Manhattan is a smidge above the pay level of an author whose last book seems to have flopped.
One of the best things about Declan's adventure really winds up being the people in the small town of Maplewood, Vermont, is the depth of character they all seem to have. Most of the readers will be familiar with other holiday romance books and shows, with their menagerie of colorful but ultimately two-dimensional townspeople. Adler, however, has given the town depth and life, and each person met feels very much a character in their own right, not just another part of the background noise. In achieving this, Adler truly transports the reader. We are there with Declan as he gets his first doses of small town life and hospitality, and we feel the genuine interest (or lack thereof) that each character shows on our leading man.
Then, enter the handsome Public Safety Commissioner, Curtis Monroe. Small town grown, but with experience of the big city, Monroe is another part of Maplewood that really shines. In some ways, it feels like he represents the small town life he has come to love so much. He's slow to anger, welcoming to an extent, and doesn't always come off as inviting to those outside of the town. It's also interesting to note the absence of a "police force" in this town, a change that felt welcome in a time where police now take up a conflicted space in the public eye. It adds to the comfort, but in some instances the tension, of the story.
And, of course, we have to add a dead body. What's a comfy whodunit without a dead body to kick off the fun? As we all know from experience, once something exciting comes to a sleepy town, it certainly can't be let go, especially by an author looking for inspiration for his next novel. What follows are a few close calls, some electric moments of tension and romance between Declan and Curtis, and a whole lot of mystery that kept me engaged for the entire day. Once I started, I couldn't put it down until I had finished.
All in all, I really enjoyed this read. It has all the hallmarks of a warm, cozy mystery, with excitement and adventure, but at the same time the comfort of warm fires, hot beverages, and quiet romance. If you plan on cozying up with a good read this snowy season, I cannot recommend In the Winter Wood highly enough.
More plot holes than a crocheted blanket. Plus insta-relationship, and the glorification of carb-dense foods. Pleasant enough, but the first victim of my 2021 determination to have fewer 3-star books in my life. If it ain't edging towards four, it's a 2-star read. YMMV.
This was my first time trying a cosy mystery. I picked this book up on a whim because I wanted something Christmassy but also something out of my comfort zone, and I saw several very positive ARC reviews. I really enjoyed this book, and I think I may have to try some more books in the genre in 2021! I didn't feel as invested as I would have liked, though, especially in the romance.
Cozy mysteries aren't my go-to genre, so if they're something you normally seek out keep that in mind:
I never got into this one, but it was solidly "fine" -- until the MC did something so ridiculously stupid at 37% that I would have DNF'd if I weren't reading this as an ARC! And he never got smarter. The man was just begging to be arrested or killed, and the only thing saving him from either was the fact that the love interest is so laid-back it crosses into unrealistic.
And I have no doubt that won't bother some readers, but it drove me insane!
The romance also managed to straddle both Glacial Slow-Burn and Insta-Commitment at the same time, and that's never a combo I can wrap my head around.
If none of those things bother you, and you're looking for a Christmas-themed cozy, go for it. If you require realism or intelligent MCs, I wouldn't recommend it.
**This book was provided for free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley**
3.5 stars (hello yes this is the most delayed RTC ever, welcome, welcome...) This story read like an episode of one of your favourite murder/monster-of-the-week tv series, where y'know, sometimes it's not always gold, but you've binging the whole series multiple times because its just so dang comforting and adorable. Well now, add a m|m romance to that murder mystery and you've got In the Winter Woods. This. Was. Adorable. But not, thankfully, cheesy. It actually had some kinda creepy moments every time Declan received an ominous new death threat, as well as a great use of humour that wasn't on the nose, or a TOO predictable plot (I mean, I figured it out a chapter before you're supposed to so I can't be too harsh). And speaking of our two leads... I have never so easily had such a clear picture in mind of not only the main characters, but of all the secondary characters and the town, as I have with this book. If you've ever watched Haven (which you should), this cute little secluded town felt a lot like that, but... well... in the woods.
Declan was snarky and cute - a little naive I guess considering he was supposed to have written a dozen action/crime stories, but I'll let it slide coz he wasn't ridiculously dumb about it. (I feel like I get some bonus points considering Daniel Maslany plays a detective on Murdoch Mysteries, yes...????? :3 )
Ok, now Curtis. CURTIS. HAHAHAHAHA I feel like he was just MEANT to be seen as Chris Evans, I mean practically all of his descriptions make him out to be a Steve Rogers kinda guy, and lemme tell you – I sure as hell aint complaining. HE EVEN WORE A SWEATER AT THE CHRISTMAS MARKETS. C'MON...!!!!
Anyway yeah idk go read it now, or read it at Christmas for extra cozy vibes coz it's definitely worth it. Y'know what, I'm changing my review. 4 wholesome, Christmas gingerbread stars..!
Awwwww daym! I needed a break from lesfic and what better to do than to read a small town cozy gay murder mystery. This was such a cute and wonderfully awkward read with just the right amount of feels.
Declan is so cute and awkward and we are in his head the whole time and it is wonderful. I fell in love with him just as much as he fell hard for the cool yet OMG sexy Commissioner Curtis Monroe.
Fellow travelers, this book has it all. The whole small-town web of interlocking interests and scandals, tons of suspicious activity and fun red herrings, plus a really cute and sweet gay romance happening through all the murder and corruption.
Declan is awkward and super cute. The way he thinks about things is hard-hitting at times and heart wrenching at others. The angst is pretty much non-existent and gives a smooth, engaging read. As for the sexiness of this read, it’s small and doesn’t go far. Still, I liked how the relationship unfolded. This story kept me guessing until the climax and had a satisfying and sweet resolution.
The only thing I can suggest to improve this is have an American editor scour this for Britishisms. The worst offenders are in the first few chapters, but there was a lot of Declan saying “Right” instead of “Yeah” or “Okay” and the fact that the shovel used for removing snow and actually bludgeoning people to death are actually really different from each other.
Still, I really enjoyed this read and it hit all the happy buttons for both the mystery and romance novel lover in me. I kind of wish for a smutty epilogue with Declan and his favorite law-enforcement Commissioner, but I can only hope.
My rating: 4.9 stars
I received this book courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley and am voluntarily leaving an honest review.
The first thing that caught my eye with this book is the cover. It is beautiful and so cozy, it immediately made me want to read this book. Adler is a new author for me and the story sounded like one I’d enjoy. I love mysteries and cozy mysteries are some of my favorites.
This story is set in a small, idealistic town in Vermont at Christmas. Declan is a writer with a bad case of writers block and a need for a new idea to help his career. He comes to Maplewood to stay at his family’s vacation cabin hoping to be struck with inspiration. What he encounters is more writers block and being wrapped up in a murder.
In the midst of all of this he meets the towns public safety commissioner, Curtis Monroe. When they first meet it starts off on the wrong foot and when Declan is a suspect in the murder it doesn’t endear him to Monroe. The more they get to know each other though a camaraderie of sorts forms as well as an attraction.
This has all the makings of a cozy mystery and it was well written. I enjoyed the story and the mystery as well as the relationship that developed. Being a cozy mystery the relationship takes a backseat to the murders but everything wraps up beautifully.
I will be looking into more of Isabelle Adler’s books. I thought this was such a great read and a wonderful introduction to her writing.
**I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley for review
DNF @ 61%. I’m afraid I was unconvinced by both the mystery aspect and the romance aspect. The former relied on several characters being too stupid to live, while the latter was both slow and insta, which I didn’t think was possible. The writing was good though, so I might something else by this author if the premise grabbed me.
I don't read a lot of holiday-themed books, but I couldn't pass this one up. I'm a fan of Isabelle Adler's writing and was thrilled to see this book!
Declan is a mystery writer, but he's come up against writer's block and a real lack of vision for his stories. His last book wasn't a success, and he heads out to his parent's old cabin for some rest, relaxation and a quiet environment to write. The small town he arrives in is just as he remembers, and Maplewood's residents are quirky and interesting.
Things don't go quite as Declan expects! First of all, he receives some threatening messages at the cabin telling him that he needs to go away "Or else". This leads the way for Declan to get engage the services of Public Safety Commissioner Curtis Monroe. As soon as there's a dead body involved, things get complicated for Declan ... and a little disturbing. He puts his mystery-writer skills to work to try and solve the case in Maplewood. Of course, he shouldn't be involved in the solving of any crimes at all and Curtis attempts to keep distance between them.
This isn't an in-your-face romance - and I loved that about it! Declan is interested in Curtis when he meets him, but this is a slow-burn romance with a reason! Because Curtis is working on a case, he vows to keep things professional between him and Declan. I enjoyed his sense of right or wrong and the fact that he wanted to keep Declan from even the perception of conflict of interest.
Declan is a very interesting character. He's still grieving the loss of his parents and Isabelle does a great job of exploring that. Declan's grief isn't just about the loss of his parents... it's about the loss of "family". He will never be part of a whole family again.... and he's on the run. He's honest about his shortcomings... at least, he's honest with himself. I liked spending some time in. his head.
Isabelle has hit a pitch-perfect balance of the elements in this book. There is some romance and there's an intriguing mystery with a bit of danger. The small town is full of interesting supporting characters, and the descriptions of the lovely winter landscape made me long for a snowy retreat.
This is definitely one to add to your list for the holidays!
This was a delightful story that left me feeling all warm & fuzzy inside (despite the, you know, murder...)
Declan is highly relatable (even if - or especially because - he makes a few questionable choices) & I found myself rooting for him & Curtis from the start.
The pacing manages to balance out the murder mystery elements with the more domestic scenes, meaning the story keeps moving whilst also giving us a chance to get to know these characters & spend time with them.
Definitely recommend for anyone looking for a cosy mystery to read this Christmas!
When searching for Christmas books, I stumbled upon this book and...well let’s be real, it was the cover that lured me in. When I saw that it’s none of your usual cheesy, cute Christmas romance but in fact a queer Christmas murder mystery I was immediately hyped. Dead body’s turning up instead of reading about people making romantic Christmas stuff: I am here for it. It’s a rather short book with about 250 pages but it was absolutely enough to tell a gripping story about murder in a small village. I really liked the protagonists, constantly procrastinating, so relatable. Afraid, but still so brave. And falling head over heels for the small town cop. Up until about 70% in I had not a single clue who the killer was, but I suspected everybody in the meantime! I loved the ending, not too dramatic but still shocking. The only thing that could have been better was a secret that was too obvious, because of a conversation right at the beginning of the book. So for me it sadly didn’t come as a surprise. But all in all I really liked this, it was a quick and fun read and a cool twist for a Christmas story!
cozy mysteries are unironically starting to become one of my favorite genres (surely a comfort one) and i would read them way more often if only there were more that are queer. the m/m relationship here doesn't really add anything to the plot, i'm just glad it was there — also declan is an adorable mc, i saw a lot of myself in him (my insecurities, my writing process, my fruitiness). he and his love interest curtis have great chemistry and the way they start to woo over each other felt a little cringy at times but also well constructed for such a short book.
it's not the thriller of the century but i'm happy i chose it over thousands of hallmark-type rom-coms. i can't with just sugar and spice and everything nice, i need a little chill to keep me interested in reading. even at christmas.
An entertaining and engrossing cozy mystery. I liked the solid mystery that kept me guessing, the interesting and fleshed out characters, and the lovely setting. It's highly recommended. Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
If you’re looking for a wintertime cozy mystery, this hits all the notes. Adler does a fantastic job of painting an atmospheric picture and creates a well-rounded cast of small-town characters. If you enjoy trying to piece together “whodunnit” then you’ll like this one as it wasn’t so easy to guess.
It's been a while since I read a mystery book, and this was a great book to get back into the genre. Once the story picked up, I was unable to put the book down. It is a classic type of murder mystery that gives you enough clues to keep you guessing, but not enough to pick out the murderer right away.
I'm not a fan of stories written in first person, but this book executes it very well. Through the eyes of the protagonist, Declan, we see the reactions and suspicious actions of other characters which give us more insight into what's going on. Meanwhile, Declan remains clueless at times as he's more focused on his crush on the commissioner. It made for interesting moments where I would be frustrated (in a good way) with Declan for missing something so obvious, but it just made him so human and relatable.
If you enjoy classic mysteries with the addition of M/M rommance, I recommend reading this book.
This was very cute, and I liked Declan from the off. Can totally relate to a burnt-out, broke writer from the big city, and I envy him his cabin in the picturesque winter wonderland of rural Vermont! The love story seemed a little insta to me, but I found Curtis very charming so I can see how Declan would've fallen. The mystery was compact and believable and didn't overwhelm the narrative, but rather balanced with the threads of story dealing with Declan's career as well as his feelings for Curtis.
It’s a cozy mystery! It’s a m/m small town Christmas romance! It’s an absolutely delightful hug of a book!
Declan is a once successful mystery writer whose last books in his series haven’t been selling so well. He knows his writing mojo needs a reboot, and New York City is too expensive, so he decamps to his family’s summer cottage in the small village of Maplewood, Vermont. What he doesn’t expect is receiving a series of threatening messages capped off with a murder. What’s a man to do but pretend to be doing research for a true crime novel while he tries to clear himself of the crime? And if it means he gets to spend more time with Curtis, the handsome public safety commissioner, well, all the better. But will Declan’s snooping put him in the murderer’s crosshairs as well?
“Perhaps I should have been more apprehensive at the prospect of putting myself out there, especially considering we hadn’t actually been on a date yet. It had been just one kiss. We hadn’t even talked about our relationship in more than a few vague hints, but I knew I wasn’t imagining the mutual attraction and yearning that simmered beneath the surface, under the guise of polite interest. I could still taste it on my lips.” The story was told from Declan’s first person POV. At the beginning of the story, Declan’s more worried about restarting his writing career – and his financial prospects – than getting along with his new neighbors. After all, socializing isn’t going to get a new book written. But the spark of attraction between him and Curtis, the public safety commissioner (the small town disbanded its police department, which I thought was a particularly nice touch), is a distraction, and the murder of his closest neighbor even more so. Being back at the cottage, where he has so many family memories, is also rough for him now that his parents have passed on, and there’s some interesting parallels in how Declan’s walled himself off from his sister and her family and how he attempts to avoid interacting with the townspeople.
“I’d craved this kiss, but I didn’t know just how much. The very scent of him, that understated smell of forest and snow, threatened to overwhelm my senses, and I clung to him desperately[.]” The romance did feel secondary to the mystery, but it was well done and adorable. Declan was a bit of curmudgeon, but his attraction to Curtis slowly drug him out of his shell. For obvious reasons, their relationship can’t progress much while the investigation is ongoing, but there’s enough yearning and heated glances to make the slow burn worth it. There’s a particularly sweet scene on the village green during the Christmas festival, surrounded by fairy lights and snow, that I just loved.
The mystery portion of the book was excellent. There’s enough red herrings that I was kept guessing about the true murderer and their motives. There’s quite a cast of characters, but they were varied and multi-dimensional enough that I didn’t have any problems keeping them clear in my head.
Overall, this was a delightfully cozy book, and I’d definitely recommend this to anyone looking to curl up and escape into small-town at Christmas, preferably with a hot drink and some pancakes with maple syrup!
I received an advance review copy of this book from the author. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Declan’s dwindling finances and diminishing literary career drive him from New York City to his family’s old cabin in a remote New England town. It’s full of picturesque local charm, but it’s also got some truly sinister undercurrents, and it’s not long before Declan’s caught up in a murder investigation. This isn’t all bad-- the Public Safety Commissioner, Curtis, is gorgeous and thoughtful and kind, but their chemistry is on hold until the mystery is resolved, and Declan himself is fluctuating between person of interest and potential victim, so it’s not all good either. I really appreciated how well-balanced this book is: the mystery is front and center, but there’s also a detailed and compelling portrayal of Declan’s complexities, hopes, dreams, and disappointments (his narration shapes the story, and I love his unique blend of wild conjecture, measured observation, wit, and honest self-reflection) and also the developing connection between Declan and Curtis. The supporting characters are interesting and quirky without being caricatures. The mechanics of small town life-- where everyone knows everyone else, for better and worse-- are realistically drawn. There’s maple syrup and snow and some Robert Frost. If you’re looking for an excellent holiday mystery, I’d highly recommend this book.
*I received an ARC of this book and voluntarily composed an honest review.
In the Winter Woods by Isabelle Adler was quite a fun book to enjoy during this season. I received this e-ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This book tells the story of Declan Kensington, who used to be a bestseller author, but whose books are selling less and less and money is getting tight, so he decides to move temporarily to his late parents' cabin in the woods up on Lake Champlain, in Vermont - the only place he could afford.
Once settled, he meets Maplewood's people, including the handsome Public Safety Commissioner, Curtis Monroe. On his first night, Declan receives a note with a threat for him to leave town, and a day later a dead body appears outside his neighbor's cabin.
I usually don't read cozy mysteries, but maybe I should. This was so warm and loving (even with the dead bodies?), keeping me slightly on the edge of my seat. I LOVED getting to know Maplewood's citizens and I came to really like Declan and shipping his developing connection with Monroe. The plot twists, although some a bit predictable, had just the right timing and added A LOT to the history.
I really really enjoyed reading this and I'll definitely keep an eye out for Isabelle Adler's work. I really loved her characters in this book and her writing!