Author: Larissa Reinhart, LynDee Walker, Terri L. Austin
My Copy: ARC courtesy of Henery Press
Add to: Goodreads
Synopsis: Elvis has left the building, but he’s forever memorialized at the Heartache Motel. Filled with drag queens, Rock-a-Hula cocktails, and a vibrating velveteen bed, these three novellas tell the tales of three amateur sleuths who spend their holidays at the King’s beloved home.
What do Elvis and drag queens have in common? Memphis! Welcome to the Heartache Motel where Elvis is immortalized and three amateur sleuths find themselves staying in a seedy motel and planning a visit to Graceland.
Anthologies are often difficult to review because you’re reading more than one novella and there’s always one or two that you enjoy the most. I’m going to review Heartache Motel a little differently from my usual style and give you my overall impression because I don’t want to give spoilers.
“Diners Keepers, Losers Weepers” by Terri L. Austin
Synopsis: When Rose and the gang head to Graceland right before Christmas, they get all shook up: the motel is a seedy dump and an Elvis impersonator turns up dead. Rose discovers missing jewels tie into the death and her suspicious mind flips into overdrive, questioning her fellow guests, the staff, and even a cute impersonator who keeps popping up. Will Rose be able to find the murderer and get home by Christmas day? It’s now or never.
This is the first time I read something written by Terri Austin even though I have a copy of Diner, Dives, & Dead Ends (I just haven’t had a chance to read it). I really liked “Diners Keepers” and Austin did a good job setting up the Heartache Motel and giving us our first glimpse of it. It was a pretty quick read and Austin doesn’t give any spoilers regarding the books in the series so if you haven’t read any in the series, you’ll be fine.
Overall impression: I liked Rose and Ma is such a hoot! I can only hope when I’m her age I’m half as fun as she is. Although, I should point out Stoner Joe stole the show! As for the mystery, I had my suspicions, but wasn’t sure how Austin would tie up loose ends and in the end, she surprised me with how it all comes together. I do feel sorry for Rose because she’s around all the action and even when she mentions what just happened to her, everyone around her asks not how she’s doing, but rather more about the incident she wants to forget.
Favorite scene: Rose bemoaning the lack of imitators imitating young Elvis.
Suggested playlist: It’s Now or Never, Hound Dog, and Jailhouse Rock
“Quick Sketch” by Larissa Reinhart
Synopsis: Sassy Southern artist Cherry Tucker and her poker-loving boyfriend, Todd, pop into Memphis to help Todd’s cousin who’s been hustled out of his savings, right before Christmas. Staying at the shady Heartache Motel, Cherry can’t tell a shill from a mark and fears everyone is playing them for chumps. Cherry and Todd quickly find themselves in a dangerous sting that could send them to the slammer or mark them as pigeons from cons looking for an even bigger score.
If you haven’t read Larissa Reinhart’s Cherry Tucker series don’t fret since this is the prequel to Reinhart’s Portrait of a Dead Guy and basically the start to the series. You can delve right in and get to know Cherry and company. If you’ve read the books then you’ll appreciate getting to know more about Cherry and what her relationship with Todd was like.
Overall impression: I enjoyed meeting more of Todd’s family and proving they aren’t the brightest crayons in the box. I’m still scratching my head at Todd being invited to play poker in Vegas because let’s face it, in their relationship Cherry’s got the brains (though those on Team Todd: I can see the appeal). In any event, this is my second time meeting Cherry and I adore her! I love that she went head to head with a thug regarding her sketch book and that she toyed with the idea of keeping tabs with her uncle the Sheriff in case they needed help (well more like if she got into trouble). As for the mystery, it’s not really one, but more of a sting operation to help Todd’s cousin, Bryon. I’m happy to report that all ends well for everyone involved and Cherry might or might not vandalize Graceland.
Favorite scene: Sneaking into Graceland after hours.
Suggested playlist: Viva Las Vegas, There Goes My Everything, and Just Pretend
“Dateline Memphis” by LynDee Walker
Synopsis: Crime reporter Nichelle Clarke thinks she’s going home for Christmas. But a quick stop at Graceland proves news breaks in the strangest places. When the King’s home gets locked down with Nichelle inside, she chases this headline into the national spotlight—and the thief’s crosshairs. Christmas dreams of blue suede Manolos fade, and all Nichelle wants from Santa is to land the story before the thief cuts off her news feed for good.
Everyone knows how much I enjoy Walker’s Headlines in Heels series and Walker doesn’t disappoint. Though this primarily focuses on Nichelle, beloved characters do make an appearance including Kyle, Bob, and Joey. If you’ve never read the series, it’s easy to understand the roles each secondary character plays plus Walker doesn’t give any spoilers regarding past books.
Overall impression: I loved that Nichelle was flying pretty much solo on this though admit to missing Grant. I really enjoyed seeing Nichelle in action and showing us how capable she is on her own. In terms of the overall mystery, I thought my suspect would be the it person, but alas Walker proved me wrong. In hindsight, had it been who I thought it was, it would have been a little too easy. I admit to a bit of fangirl giggling regarding Joey and what he does for Nichelle. Can I take a moment to talk about Kyle? I really liked how he was happy to help Nichelle and didn’t even blink an eye when she asked.
Favorite scene: Darcy solving her own mystery!
Suggested playlist: Return to Sender, Devil in Disguise, and Blue Suede Shoes
What I really enjoyed about all three novellas is that they are easy to read and quite enjoyable. I’ve read anthologies with a common theme or place and there’s always something missing from the narrative. Not here. You can tell each author took great care in making the Heartache Motel and its quirky employees come to life.
If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries, you’ll want to read Heartache Motel. Fans of Austin, Reinhart, and Walker won’t be disappointed and this is a great way to dip your toes if you’re interested in reading a new author or genre. Just keep in mind, I’m not responsible if you find yourself swiveling your hips and attempting to impersonate Elvis afterwards.