Tag Archives: Naples

Murder mystery in an old mansion plumbed by a new brand of sleuth

Chasing Shadows, by Karen Harper. Mira. 384 pages. Paperback $7.99.

The portions of thirty years that Karen Harper has spent in Naples allows her to provide a taste of this desirable Florida town, though the plot is developed primarily in and near St. Augustine. The first novel in Ms. Harper’s Southern Shores series, “Chasing Shadows” introduces a powerfully engaging protagonist, Claire Britten, the recently divorced mother of a young daughter. chasingshadowsfrontcover

Claire is trying to establish her Clear Path business as a forensic psychologist. Offering her services in a case tried in the Collier County Courthouse, she impresses the opposing lawyer so fully that he asks her to work for him on a case in St. Augustine. After struggling with this decision, Claire decides to leave young Lexi with Aunt Darcy, Claire’s sister, and assist the persistent and extremely handsome lawyer, Nick Markwood, with his case. Her interviews are designed to draw out information useful at trial, where she can be called upon to give expert testimony.

Claire has an intuitive knack, as well as the training, to understand people’s behavior and its foundations. She can draw people out and “read” them.

She is also a woman with health problems. She suffers from narcolepsy complicated by cataplexy. Her life can run smoothly if she remains disciplined, getting sufficient rest and following a regimen of carefully balanced and timed medications. Going off-routine is seriously disabling.

Once the groundwork of the novel is established in Naples, Nick’s murder case in St. Augustine takes over. The deceased, Francine Montgomery, was the owner of the gorgeous old mansion called Shadowlawn. Her mysterious death – was it an accidental overdose, murder, or suicide – leaves the future of Shadowlawn in doubt. Various people have a stake in the outcome, include Francine’s daughter Jasmine – a suspect who is Mark’s client.



Shadowlawn had fallen on hard times and was likely to be sold or perhaps given to the public in some manner. There was also some hope that private fundraising efforts could save it. What will happen to those whose livelihood and identity has been connected to the seemingly haunted place if it comes under new ownership or becomes a public entity?

Those potentially vulnerable people include Neil, the “inside man” and overall estate manager; Bronco, the “outside man” concerned with the grounds; and Dr. Win Jackson, who has plans to expand his museum and produce a film about Shadowlawn; and, of course Jasmine – the heiress. . . .

To read the full review, as it appears in the November 30, 2016 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 1 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach / West Palm Beach editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Chasing Shadows

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2nd annual Jewish book festival will delight Greater Naples area

nazititaniccoverThis winter, the second annual Collier County Jewish Book Festival will strive to top its highly successful inaugural edition, continuing this outstanding contribution to the cultural life of our community. A project of the Jewish Federation of Collier County in cooperation with the Jewish Book Council, the Festival will offer 12 book events at several venues, with a total of 20 authors visiting through the winter season.


With five exceptions, each of the Festival events will feature at least two authors matched by a common theme. Three of those exceptions are food-related events. The others guarantee food for thought. At the multi-author events, the authors sharing the bill will not co-present or share the stage, but provide back-to-back presentations. Each speaker will give a 30- to 45-minute talk followed by 15-20 minutes of Q&A plus book-signing time. There will be a short break between presentations.

For a complete schedule of events, ticket information, venue locations, author bios and book synopses, visit www.jewishbookfestival.org. For questions and general information, call 239.263.4205 or email fedstar18@gmail.com.


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Grit, gusto and spiritual grace animate a vibrant memoir

Still Pedaling, by Pauline Hayton. PH Publishing. 296 pages. Trade paperback $11.99. Available on amazon.com.

It is not often that one encounters an autobiography written by a non-celebrity that has the likelihood of reaching a wide audience. Pauline Hayton has written such a book, revealing a life lived with immense challenges, plenty of setbacks, risky decisions, and an evolution of goals and values.  As the title suggests, determination has been a major factor in Mrs. Hayton’s journey.  So have curiosity, the desire to help others, and spiritual strength.  StillPedaling

Born and raised in a small town in the northeast of England, Pauline had a rebellious streak that got out of hand, landing her in trouble and with unplanned-for motherhood  at an early age.  She had to scramble, as a marginally employed single mother, to keep her head above water. She had to give her second daughter up for adoption for that child’s well-being. So often, it seemed as if there was no hope for her to realize a bright future.

Dealing with the trauma of being gang-raped, finding herself either too trusting or unable to trust through many episodes of her life, Pauline slowly found a path by discovering a faith and a gift, which she nourished. Though she was never a traditionally religious person, she did become a committed spiritualist healer. She took this opportunity as a personal mission, and her studies led to a vocation that helped many people. In this way, she also helped herself.

Her main occupation, in her early adulthood, was as a probation officer, where her healing gifts and knowledge were put to good use. Pauline’s portraits of her probation assignments are among the memoirs many high points, providing insights on how this system works in England that are in contrast in many ways to probation officer duties in the U. S. Or perhaps the contrast is in how Pauline perceived her roll and fulfilled it.


Pauline Hayton

Though never trained as a writer, Pauline has a gift for it. She honored her father’s WWII service by writing a book about it titled A Corporal’s War. The research for this book led Pauline to look more closely into Myanmar (Burma) where her father served. Two additional books – Myanmar: In My Father’s Footsteps and Naga Queen  — grew out of that fascination. Indeed, Pauline and Peter Hayton’s support for the education of children in remote parts of Myanmar is one of those miracles of how people who are not well-to-do, like the Haytons, can greatly improve the lives of those who would otherwise have no path out of abject poverty.

What else? . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the January 27, 2016 issue of Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the January 28 Naples, Bonita Springs, Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte, and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Still Pedaling

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A coffee-table tome covers the cottages and castles of Naples

Naples Beach Homes: Cottages, Castles, and the Families That Built Them, by Robert and Carole Leher. Cuddy Cove Press. 252 pages. Oversized hardcover $65.00.

This nearly five pound book is many things at once. It is a glorious homage to the spirit of Naples and the enterprise and good taste of its residents. It is a well-scribed, delightful history of the once-sleepy little Gulf Coast town. It is a huge and astounding color gallery of vintage and recent photographs and – more amazingly – paintings by Paul Arsenault, the man who could be called the painter laureate of Naples.  distiller_6

It is also a fundraiser, as the Lehers have determined to donate all net proceeds from the book to the Naples Historical Society.

It will be a collector’s item and, I’m sure, a popular holiday gift.

While I’m enjoying a copy from the second printing, a confident run of 2,000, I understand that a third printing has already been ordered for January delivery.

The book, which focuses on residences in two adjacent communities – Port Royal and the Gulf Shore Boulevard environs – tells and shows a story of families and generations. It’s fascinating to discover how an address has been attached to several residences, passed from one owner to another. Sometimes the successive owners have honored the original design; on other occasions they have begun anew. Changes in style and size mark the comings and goings of original builders, relative newcomers, and returnees who had left Naples but just had to come back. Or perhaps their children or grandchildren made the return.

The Lehers

The Lehers

Often, though I won’t namedrop here, we discover the prestigious accomplishments of neighborhood residents, both before and during their Naples sojourns. It’s a who’s who, to be sure. The authors do a fine job of describing distinctive, colorful personalities; capturing in words the special architectural details of note; and giving a sense not only of individual homes and families but also the larger picture of community evolution.

In fact, it’s clear that they envisioned this project as a safeguard against the disappearance of what has made these neighborhoods special. What’s special is lovingly preserved in this handsome book.

Nostalgia is mixed with an upbeat, even whimsical tone that is captured well in many of the chapter titles: “From Coconuts to Easter Eggs,” “The Friends That Made Milwaukee Famous,” “Off to the Mad House,” “Once Just a Fish Camp,” and “A Contract on a Cocktail Napkin” are invitations to charming tales packed with information. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the December 9, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the December 10 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter editions, click here: Florida Weekly – Naples Beach Homes

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February 18 – March 14 2016

11 events – 23 authors

Coming this winter, the first annual Collier County Jewish Book Festival will add a spectacular new ingredient to the cultural life of our community. A project of the Jewish Federation of Collier County in cooperation with the Jewish Book Council, the Festival will have an unusual format, multiple venues, and a total of 23 authors visiting through the winter season. With two exceptions, each Festival event will feature two authors paired by a related theme.
One exception is Chef Rossi, who will regale her audience at the Hilton Naples on Tuesday, February 23 during a breakfast meeting, when she will discuss her book The Raging Skillet.

The other exception is the Wednesday, February 24 “local authors” session with four presenters.

At all the other events, the two authors sharing the bill will not co-present or share the stage, but provide back-to-back presentations. Each speaker will give a 30- to 45-minute talk  followed by 15-20 minutes of Q&A plus book-signing time. There will be a short break between presentations.

Click on the logo below to see the Festival website with full schedule, profiles of authors, list of venues and sponsors, and how to get tickets to one or multiple events.


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Here’s more of a charming social comedy set in 1960s Collier County

Miss Dreamsville and the Lost Heiress of Collier County, by Amy Hill Hearth. Atria Books. 320 pages. Trade paperback $16.00.

This sequel to “Miss Dreamsville and the Collier County Women’s Literary Society” (2012) should satisfy those who filled the many book club appearances through which the earlier title was effectively marketed. It inches forward a year or so into the mid-1960s and collects most of the same oddball characters whose engaging interactions in the literary society made for enjoyable social comedy.  Lost Heiress

Naples is still portrayed as a sleepy little Southwest Florida town, but this time out its attractions are understood as a lure to investors and a threat to those who like its quiet pace and its special brand of natural beauty.

Narrator Dora Witherspoon, who had left Naples on a search to find her roots in Jackson, Mississippi, finds herself brought home to help counter the effort of her ex-husband, Darryl Norwood. With out-of- state backing (in itself a cultural betrayal), Norwood is planning to build a large development along a tidal river. The name he chooses for it, “Dreamsville,” is another betrayal, as it steals the name invented by a prominent Naples character for her popular radio show. That woman certainly doesn’t want to appear connected with such a project.

The name “Miss Dreamsville” is the invention of Jackie Hart, a brash New England transplant who during her few years in Naples has invigorated the womenfolk, battering down the door of their traditional deference, if not subservience, to men. She breathes the fresh air of the civil rights and women’s rights movements into a remote pocket of Southern resistance. She makes a handful of close friends, but quite a few enemies as well. Jackie is change.

So is Darryl’s Dreamsville.

Amy Hill Hearth

Amy Hill Hearth

From our perch in time, we know that for decades people like  Darryl have won, yet to see the battle brewing in 1964 is quite exciting. Once the ladies begin their campaign to block Dreamsville, they discover that one of them might be the actual property owner of the land that Darryl is planning to develop. Proving the matter depends on the skills and industry of their fledgling lawyer, who seems to be outgunned by the team that Darryl’s backers can afford to hire. The pros and cons of development are one thing; the question of ownership is quite another.

The effort re-energizes the Collier County Women’s Literary Society, which had been rather dormant for a while. What these individualists have in common, ironically, is their sense of community and the need to belong. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the September 9, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly; and the September 10 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda / Port Charlotte editions; and the October 22 Palm Beach Gardens / Jupiter edition, click here: Florida Weekly – Miss Dreamsville Returns

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Set in Southwest Florida, Harry Brock Mystery rises above the crowd

An Anecdotal Death, by Kinley Roby. Five Star Publishing. 310 pages. Hardcover $25.95.

The tenth “Harry Brock Mystery” finds the game warden turned detective continuing to ply his trade in and near the Southwest Florida town of Avola. The place names Tequesta County and Avola allow Mr. Roby some imaginative space; many readers will quickly identify the setting’s originals as Collier County and Naples. More important than this identification is Mr. Roby’s worshipful perspective on the natural beauty and vulnerability of a patch of Florida wilderness that seems to be receding as the burgeoning town advances. Harry Brock works in both worlds, but he makes his home in a remote, simple dwelling on the edge of the Everglades.  AnAnecdotalDeathFront

The beautiful and wealthy Meredith Winters has summoned Harry to discover whether or not her missing husband, Amos Lansbury, is alive or dead. While the Coast Guard had rendered the verdict that Lansbury had died in a diving accident during a fishing expedition with several friends, no corpse has been discovered. Meredith has a feeling that Amos was murdered.

Touching base with his friends in the sheriff’s department, Harry worries about their reluctance to open an investigation. It soon becomes clear that political concerns are at work. When two more of Lansbury’s diving buddies turn up dead, it is hard to call the pattern a mere coincidence, especially since the common dominator seems to be that all worked in a very rough political campaign for a seat in the state senate. When a fourth campaign worker, not part of the diving activity, is found dead – the question becomes: who suffered so mightily from the outcome of the senate race that he (or she) has a serial score to settle.

Soon enough, Harry is nearly a victim, suggesting that the killer finds Harry too close to figuring things out.

As the investigation moves along, Harry’s personal life becomes just as much a center of interest as his professional one. He is meeting many divorced and widowed women in the course of the investigation, women connected with the victims in one way or another. Author Roby goes a bit overboard in describing each one, as well as Meredith and her secretary, as a surprisingly beautiful specimen of femininity. Or is that perception only Harry’s, a consequence of his own situation, appetites, and tendency to idealize?



Harry’s two failed marriages, and his impasse with his present love, have left him lonely and longing. Meredith throws herself at him, and there is plenty of flirtation in his sequence of investigatory interviews. Hey, whatever Harry’s got, I want some.

His emotional state is also colored by the growing fragility of his best friend and mentor, Tucker Labeau, whose residence on Bartram’s Hammock, a state nature preserve, is near Harry’s. The winding waterway named Puc Puggy Creek is for Harry something like Thoreau’s Walden Pond and its surrounding woods: a place to get back to basics. The profound friendship between the two men is based in part on their deep mutual respect for the natural world and a desire for self-reliance. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the April 9, 2015 Naples Florida Weekly and also the Punta Gord/Port Charlotte edition, click here: Florida Weeky – Anecdotal Death.

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Naples guidebook geared to kids colors facts with fun

A (Mostly) Kids’ Guide to Naples, Marco Island & The Everglades, by Karen T. Bartlett. Mostly Kids’ Guides LLC. 80 pages. $18.95.

There’s nothing square about this 8 X 8 inch high-energy book. It’s the hip answer to youngsters who visit Naples and say, “I’m bored. What are we going to do?” The book features snappy page design, a full color palette, lively text, plus attractive photographs and other illustrations. Mostly, it just explodes with delicious information about this corner of Southwest Florida with a focus on children’s activities. Feedback from the Naples tourism industry has been exuberant, and the author-publisher already has plans for other regional Kids’ Guide books. KidsGuide2015_Final_FRONT_Cover

The guide begins with a colorful burst of images tied to interesting facts about some of the area’s hallmark critters and plant life. Then we are off on a romp that samples fun at the beaches (all five of them) and continues with an exploration of places that make nature education and preservation fun: the Conservancy, the Naples Zoo, and the Shy Wolf Sanctuary among them.

Everywhere, the text offers a child-friendly voice with good natured wit. Ms. Bartlett bills herself as the “Adventurer in Chief,” and no child, parent, or grandparent will deny the powerful appeal of her upbeat, lighthearted guidance.

What else is on the kids’ tour? Well, there is the Naples Bay / Tin City area, a ride on the Naples Princess, the shops on Fifth Avenue South (with a lingering glance at Regina’s Ice Cream Pavilion), the dog-friendly Third Street Shops, the various city and county parks, the Naples Depot Museum, the Naples Botanical Gardens, the Galisano Children’s Museum, the Florida Sports Park, and many other close-in destinations.

Then the book opens to a wider view, introducing highlights in and near Immokalee, including the Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and the Roberts Ranch. Ms. Bartlett teases her readers with fascinating bits of Native American history along the way.



Marco Island receives attention for its shelling and other beaches, along with tempting descriptions of parasailing, helicopter trips, and waverunner fun. Readers younger and older are invited to visit Keewaydin Island and Cape Romano. Look out for the gopher tortoises and spiny tail iguanas. Don’t miss the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve and the triangular fish that “looks like a bat with warts, with lipstick-colored lips.” Go on a fishing trip. Visit Mackle Park.

Then get ready for the Everglades.

Airboats on the river of grass, alligators, manatees, Seminole and Miccosukee Indians, hammocks you don’t sleep in, Billie Swamp Safari, Skunk Ape Headquarters, Everglades City and its historical museum, Big Cypress National Preserve, Collier Seminole State Park, Clyde Butscher’s gallery, and countless varieties of beautiful birds – is there no end to this place for family’s to enjoy while they learn?

To read the entire review, as it appears in the March 25, 2015 Fort Myers Florida Weekly and the March 26 Naples, Bonita Springs, and Punta Gorda/Port Charlotte editions, click here  Florida Weekly – Bartlett 1 and here Florida Weekly – Bartlett 2 

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Meet the Authors in January 2015

Lisa Black

Lisa Black

Two exciting events promise to benefit both authors and readers in late January. The first of these is the Writers’ Domain program at Norris Home Furnising in Naples, Florida on January 29 from 5:30-7:30pm. No reservations needed to attend. Just show up. Among the many authors selling and signing their books will be Karen Bartlett, Ben Bova, Karen Harper, Lisa Black, James Lilliefors, Jean Harrington, Gwendolyn Heasley, Don Farmer, and Chris Curle. See Writers’ Domain – Norris Home Furnishings for more information.


Two days later, there is a splendid event planned in Sarasota by Avon Books.

Avon Books and Bookstore 1 Sarasota are teaming up to bring Florida romance readers the area’s first-ever multi-author KissCon (an Avon Affair!) on Saturday, January 31, 2015. This special VIP event includes a catered mix & mingle with the authors, followed by a special “Actor’s Studio”-type discussion, audience Q&A, interactive trivia, and an exclusive book signing (there will be tons of books to buy onsite!).

The star-studded author line-up includes: Katharine Ashe, Maya Banks, Lena Diaz, Megan Frampton, Jeaniene Frost, Laura Lee Guhrke, C.J. Kyle, Julia Quinn, Kerrelyn Sparks and C.L. Wilson.  For details, see Avon Romance Presents: KissCon Sarasota- Eventbrite

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YA novel explores limits, privacy, blogging – and Naples, too

Don’t Call Me Baby, by Gwendolyn Heasley. HarperTeen. 304 pages. Paperback $9.99.

What’s an old-timer like me doing with a book written about teenagers? Well, my granddaughter is one, and I think she’d love this book. It’s aimed right at the middle school to high school crowd: it’s sensitive to their concerns, colorful, and well-focused on the problems of mother-daughter relationships as well as the overwhelming role that communications technology plays in their lives.  DontCallMepbc

Imogene is the main character and the narrator. The lucky fifteen-year-old lives in Naples, Florida and attends a private school. She’s soon to enter high school, and the thought of no longer having to wear a school uniform delights her. Imogene’s adoring mother is a successful blogger who is able to supplement the family income by having enough readers to attract advertisers. Writing as Mommylicious, Meg Luden is a blogger for other mommies who fills her postings with photos and updates about Imogene’s life.

For example, she loves to post photos of a disheveled Imogene waking up.

Imogene, often called Babylicious on Meg’s blog, hates all of this. And, in truth, she’s is being seriously exploited by her mom, whose dedication to her blog and her readers seems to far outweigh her concern for Imogene. Imogene has become an internet presence, though she hardly recognizes the character that bears her name. She wonders how her mother could have so little understanding of who she really is.

Imogene shares her outrage with a school friend who well understands the dilemma of the blogging mom. As the daughter of Veggiemom, Sage Carter is not pleased to be part of her mother’s online campaign for healthy eating: “Sent Sage off to her first day of ninth grade with this spinach and kale smoothie. Yum!!!” Of course, a photo shows a disgruntled Sage with her beverage. The real Sage is dying for junk food.



Don’t Call Me Baby is essentially about the adjustment of boundaries that is needed as children reach those years of strong identity formation and wished-for independence. The negotiation of boundaries is almost always a problem between parents and adolescent children, but here it is brought into startling and frightening vividness through the unwitting disrespect these mothers show their daughters.

Certainly in Imogene’s case, her mother abuses her authority. And Imogene needs to do something about it.

Everything else in Meg’s life has become subordinated to her blog. She is always looking for the next photo, the next bon mot, the next touch that she can give to her Imogene character – whether truthful or not. Meg is blind to her addiction and to the fact that she is damaging her relationship with her daughter. And here she is, giving advice on being a great mommy. . . .

To read the entire review, plus Q & A with the author, as it appears in the June 12, 2014 Naples Florida Weekly, click here Florida Weekly – Heasley 1 and here Florida Weekly – Heasley 2.

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