A #CrimeFicFridays Book Review | “The Secret at Sunset Hill” (A Katie Porter Mystery, Book One) by K.T. McGivens

Posted Friday, 23 September, 2022 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

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Acquired Book By: Quite happily, my path with Ms McGivens crossed in early July, 2021 wherein I messaged her via Twitter and we struck up a conversation which led me to booking her for @SatBookChat and I received her first novel for the Katie Porter Mysteries in the mail. I had fully intended to read and review this novel closer to the time in which I spoke with her during my chat but sadly, that simply wasn’t in the cards. This August I started to resume my readerly life after a difficult Summer wherein I had a complete disconnection with both my reading life and my blogging life. Mysteries, especially Cosy Mysteries have always been the backbone of my readerly interests – thus, I had a feeling that if I returnt to reading this lovely to jump-start my #CrimeFicFridays again alongside other selections I’ve been blogging about during #WWWednesdays, I might find myself in happy cycle of reading more Crime Fiction before year’s end.

I received a complimentary copy of “The Secret at Sunset Hill” direct from the author K.T. McGivens in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

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Why I wanted to read The Katie Porter Mysteries;

I was looking at the chapter sampler for the first Katie Porter Mystery “The Secret at Sunset Hill” and I was loving it. I have a soft spot for newspaper reporters… grew up on Lois Lane in one version or another and my fascination always stuck. Plus, like McGivens, I loved Nancy Drew as I cut my teeth on Mysteries quite young devouring the case files and reading the Hardy Boys too. By 8 or 9 I was given my first Miss Marple anthology of stories and I was literally in awe and set for life to be a Mystery, Suspense & Thriller reader. Although, I carry my Cosy sensibility with me as I don’t like anything too overtly violent or graphic, plus I’m not into overly peppered vulgarity in stories either.

And, then when I realised it was going to become a fully developed series with multiple installments, I knew I had to interview Ms McGivens on my chat as I felt this series and Katie Porter in particular would be a wicked good fit for @SatBookChat. As I have had the tendency of focusing on strong women & imploring narratives across genres which interest me most as a reader. There was something wicked clever, too, about Katie Porter – about how she’s quite the everywoman heroine and someone you can relate, too.

Similar in vein to how we all cross-identify with Nancy Drew but also with women like Anna Blanc but in a different capacity of course, as Ms Blanc’s life is a bit grittier than Katie & Nancy’s but evenso, there is a thread of connection between them in finding strong women set in historical eras who were choosing to live their lives on their own terms and just finding themselves able to solve mysteries as if they were bourne to it. Of course, this also brings to thought and mind the characters within Jennifer Lamont Leo’s novels & stories, too!

We could always use another wicked awesome heroine in our lives and for me, right now, that new heroine has arrived in the form of Katie Porter!

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A #CrimeFicFridays Book Review | “The Secret at Sunset Hill” (A Katie Porter Mystery, Book One) by K.T. McGivensThe Secret at Sunset Hill
Subtitle: A Katie Porter Mystery : One
by K.T. McGivens
Source: Direct from Author

About the Katie Porter series:

Set in year 1947, Katie Porter is a 21 year old newspaper reporter who finds herself caught up in various mysteries while researching and writing articles for her hometown paper, the Fairfield Gazette. Set before modern technology such as cellphones, computers, and the Internet, she must rely on her courage and wits to discover the truth and capture the culprits. She has a wide circle of friends who help her and her adventures are filled with friendship, loyalty, suspense, danger, tenacity, problem solving, and romance! Each book builds on the previous one as the reader helps Katie and her friends solve yet another case. Life in the town of Fairfield and Katie’s ancestral home, Rosegate, is never dull! And the mysteries continue...

Genres: Crime Fiction, Amateur Detective, Cosy Historical Mystery

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1692346652

Published by Self Published

on 18th September, 2019

Format: Paperback Edition

Pages: 140

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The Katie Porter Mysteries:

NOTE: Books One-Three are now in audiobook! 🎧📖

1. The Secret at Sunset Hill
2. The Mystery at the Mystic Museum
3. The Plot at the Pearson Playhouse
4. The Ghost of Golden Joe
5. The Murder of Major Pennington
6. The Disappearance of Devlin Douglas
7. The Passing of Preston Peabody
8. The Case of the Casual Killer
9. The Mystery at Maplewood Hall
10. The Incident on Ivory Island
11. The Odd Appearance of Anneliese Abbott
12. The Crime at Covington Corner
13. The Body in Bounty Bay

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Converse via: #HistoricalMystery or #CosyMystery
as well as #KatiePorterMysteries

Available Formats: Trade paperback and Ebook

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my review of the secret at sunset hill:

The first thing you love most about Katie Porter is her moxie and her self-confidence – as she not only charmed the socks off the editor at the Gazette but she also won over the reporter named EM who was meant to accompany her on her first assignment. The series handles the era well wherein women were still not seen as equals to men and despite how some women were making it as reporters and had a good reputation for being reliable – that didn’t transcend into other women trying to enter the field for themselves like Katie Porter. She had some influence (as her father was a bit well-known in some circles) but for the most part, it was her steeled resolve and personal confidence in her own abilities which I felt carried her a bit further than most.

For instance, if she hadn’t had the fortitude to create a method of engagement with her new boss and came up with a smashingly brilliant excuse to put on an event over the weekend to give another reporter a solid assignment in lieu of the one she stole from her – everything might have been a bit turnt round the wrong way. Yet, as you will agree soon after meeting her – Katie Porter has the instincts to create her own path and finds curious routes to find solutions to problems that act like obstacles in front of her goals.

E.M. doesn’t quite know what to make of Katie – she’s an interesting girl from the standpoint of making things happen for herself even if there isn’t a blueprint for it. You could tell he’s charmed by her tenacity and her ability to be self-motivating when it comes to getting something done that she has set her mind to achieve. I think he’s in awe of her really – how forward thinking she was to turn an opportunity in her favour and to get a chance to prove her worth at the paper, too. Yet there is a sensitive side to Katie as well. She doesn’t tend to wear her emotions on her sleeve, but she does get emotional when someone gives her something sentimentally special. Such as the gift of the locket she received in recognition for her birthday. I had a feeling the image inside had a very special meaning to her as you could feel the emotion of recognition in that scene.

E.M. and Katie made a good team sleuthing in the background of the party for Boots. They made an interesting pair because I had a feeling at first sight, they might not have seemed to fit together but as they both have good instincts for gathering information, their partnership worked well. It was most curious of course why jewelry would be taken only to be given back to their owners. I agreed with Katie about how strange that sounded but also, I thought it was keenly clever of McGivens to use the photographs as a method of examining the scene(s) in which the jewels might have been lifted off the people themselves. It was interesting on different accounts – first that taking still photography is always a bit of a gamble as unlike with digital cameras of today, still photography relies on the merit of what you see and what you are given through the processing of the photographs. Meaning that you can’t take back what you took, and you won’t know what you have either until the negatives are developed. To have E.M.’s photographs revealling so much of what happened that night at Boots party was quite a clever hook of luck but also, a compelling way to re-visit the party.

Being someone who loves research – when Katie was able to get newspaper archives to investigate a lead she was working on which extended back into the war, I was growing more excited by the minute! You can root out so much from newspapers – no matter what you’re researching as they tend to have quite a bit to foretell about anything you could desire to research. I especially enjoy browsing them for genealogical research but also for other topics and subjects which might have been written about from different perspectives, etc. I was also thankful for this sequencing as it led into a conversation with Jim (who had been one of the guests at Boots’ party) which thankfully confirmed what I suspected was true about the locket Katie was given.

Katie had a fiercely strong mind and of course, given the circumstances, she had lived a bit more than most girls’ her age as well. All of which stemmed back to the war and to the times she spent with Ruddy. It was her instinctive perception though which led her to focus on Jim and through that instinct she was able to root out lost truths from the past. I felt McGivens handled that section well as it knitted together information Katie never would have learnt otherwise but it also showed a different side to Katie and to Jim. Jim for all accounts was still overcoming the truth of what happened to his friend, and I felt in part was loosening that burden he carried by confiding to Katie things he might not have been allowed to say but needed to all the same.

I especially enjoyed the entanglement with the code and the mystery behind it. Codebreaking was sometimes a key component of the war dramas I used to read, and it is an art in of itself because each code is unique to itself. This was also broached during Foyle’s War a dramatic series by the BBC I loved start to finish even if the latter series was the hardest by far to watch and finish. What made this entry into the series a bit more wicked was the inclusion of Katie’s grandmother – of whom, had already won me over as a delightful character and presence. Everyone needs a grandmother like Katie Porter’s! Someone to confide in and someone to rally behind you as you tackle new experiences; she was one of the many delightful characters you get to meet as the series opens.

The most sombering parts of the story for me were the journalled entries from Katie’s beau Ruddy – written whilst he was serving overseas and in battle, which brought the war directly back home for Katie and us. It was emotionally stirring how he had the fortitude to keep a small journal and to leave behind footnotes of his thoughts, feelings and reactions to serving whilst being mindful of the reactions Katie and possibly Ruth his sister would have reading the journal post-war. He was a strong man of honour and full of duty whilst he was conflicted with the burdens of his mission and the tiredness of the war itself where he had to champion his own choices and find a way forward out of the adverse circumstances he was given to muddle through as a leader. In these passages, McGivens shows her grit for writing convicting war drama and allowed us to see through that periscope of how one man wanted to leave a bit of himself behind for his loved ones to know a bit about his life overseas.

The joys of reading The Secret of Sunset Hill were the interweaving storylines between Katie, Ruddy and Ruth against the newspaperman E.M. and the war veteran Jim. The cast of characters overall were a delightful of joy to read about and you came to rally behind each of them at different intervals of the story. Even the beloved macaw of Ruddy’s (ie. Mad Uncle Henry) plays a role in keeping some moments full of humour whilst playing a particularly important role himself by the end of it. Even the motto of the estate proved to have an emotional tie-in to the story and it serves well as an introduction into the larger series which evolves forward from here. It will be a delight to continue to gather the next installments of this series – re-engaging with Katie Porter and following in her footsteps as she keeps her nose tuned to the truth and her heart fuelling her writing as a reporter.

Small Fly in the Ointment:


The only disappointment for me as a reader was the style and size of the font in the print edition. I did have a moderate migraine earlier in September and I was reading this shortly after that migraine ended – which given my history of transitioning back into reading books in print post-migraine, I knew might give me a bit of a struggle. However, even a full week lateron as I started to return back into the novel, I still found the font and text a bit difficult to read. Mind you, that didn’t stop me – it just took me a bit longer to finish reading it.

I recognise not every book needs to be in larger print (such as Harlequin Heartwarming or Love Inspired Suspense editions) or even large print like most standard editions to books traditionally released into regular print. However, I wish there was a middle ground to where the font and the texture of the words on the page didn’t always affect me the way they do post-migraine. I have noticed that larger fonts or at least, larger stylised fonts in regular print editions aides my transitions post-migraine a bit moreso than smaller sized fonts and styles such as the one throughout The Secret at Sunset Hill.


I tried to backtrace the origin of my thoughts regarding Ruddy and Katie, as there was an exchange of conversation with Jim earlier in the novel. However, by the time I reached the last quarter of the story, I felt there was a shift in continuity about one aspect of Ruddy and Katie’s life together. I had remembered Jim commenting that he knew about what Ruddy and Katie did and yet, at the end of the novel, it turnt out that they hadn’t done what he knew they had done? I don’t want to spoil the story for readers just entering the series – however, I mention it because it changed my perspective on Katie. As throughout the novel I had seen her in one version of herself with that foreknowledge about her and Ruddy and then, at the end, although it didn’t change the tragedy of what happened to Ruddy it did change Katie’s position in his life. I wasn’t sure if this was missed in proofreading or if I misunderstood that original conversation with Jim and Katie but in case a reader is finding my review just know there is a curious change at the end of the novel; at least by how I interpreted the story.

on the cosy styling of intrigue by k.t. mcgivens:

McGivens found a way to re-tap into a kind of Cosy Mystery which you can soak inside for the warmth and cosiness of Cosies of the past. You could also feel and see the inspiration she had from Nancy Drew and others which are similar in texture and context. I love finding writers who are writing the cosier side of Mystery but also, who can capture a moment in time where you can read a gentler told tale and still find the journey of discovering the origins of the mystery to be an enjoyable read.

I was especially happy with how she gave us Katie Porter – an independent thinker, who was both a go-getter and an emotionally sensitive girl when it came to things which were of import to her on a personal level. She had a great sense of instinct about her, but she also yielded to those around her as well and was a good team player as seen how she brought E.M. along with her and also trusted him as a partner. I liked how she developed Katie and how she gave Katie room for continued growth as well throughout the expanding series.

I liked how she remained true to the era and generation of the series is set inside as well. We enter into the series at the end of the 1940s, in ’47 to be exact and thereby, we are happily observing the technology and the social etiquettes which would have been available. Small things which might not be as readily needed now were very much the mainstay then. Such as debutante balls and chaperones, etc. She also had a compassionate transition the war as life started to resume and move forward on the homefront. There were still scars from the war – both seen and unseen, affecting more than just the soldiers who survived as many were touched by war even if they didn’t serve because of the loved ones who were home awaiting their return. I felt McGivens gave a good rounding of this era in history – especially of how life continued to shift forward even a few years after the war concluded. It was a difficult time for all, and it was gently told in a perspective all can relate too as their reading the story.

The Katie Porter Mysteries is a wonderful new entry into the world of Cosy Historical Mysteries – as it truly pays homage to the genre as well as to the generation post-WWII. You can let yourself feel immersed into the story without having to fear anything to become revealled that cannot be handled by Cosy Mystery lovers. That in of itself was a blessing and I am grateful my path crossed with Ms McGivens in order to discover this lovely series featuring Katie Porter. I am thankful she has written so many lovely adventures for Katie and I look forward to continuing to read her stories and see what becomes of her life as we proceed forward.

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This book review is courtesy of:
the author k.t. mcgivens:

About K.T. McGivens

K.T. McGivens is best known as an award-winning poet and her poems have been published in newspapers, community publications, and anthologies. She has written six books of poetry and, more recently, an anthology titled "Dimming the House Lights."

With much trepidation, Ms. McGivens has ventured into the world of mysteries. She has begun writing a series of short mystery novels featuring her character Katie Porter. Her stories focus on strong female characters, problem solving skills, trusted friendships, and tenacity, a formula she learned from growing up reading the Nancy Drew Mysteries. K.T. McGivens is a former public school teacher and has a Bachelor's Degree in Education and a Master's Degree in Healthcare Administration. She lives in Florida.

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#SatBookChat logo badge created by Jorie in Canva.

K.T. McGivens was our featured guest in July, 2021.

You will be able to read a transcript of our #SatBookChat via Moments on @SatBookChat.
As I am planning to have this section updated by Sunday, 25th September, 2022.

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 I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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This book review will be cross-posted to LibraryThing.

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{SOURCES: Book covers for “The Secret at Sunset Hill”, book synopsis, series overview and author biography are used with permission of the author K.T. McGivens. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. LibraryThing banner provided by librarything.com and used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #CrimeFicFridays banner, @SatBookChat badge and the Comment Box Banner.}

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Friday, 23 September, 2022 by jorielov in 20th Century, Aftermath of World War II, Amateur Detective, Book Review (non-blog tour), Content Note, Cosy Historical Mystery, Crime Fiction, Fly in the Ointment, Historical Fiction, the Forties, The World Wars

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One response to “A #CrimeFicFridays Book Review | “The Secret at Sunset Hill” (A Katie Porter Mystery, Book One) by K.T. McGivens

  1. Maelia

    As you know, I read it last year (in November), so I’ve read many other books in the meantime, but I still distinctly remember how much I loved it, from the first chapters read right before #SatBookChat to the moment when the whole mystery was explained. I hope, when you read more of the series, you’ll be as happy to “see” the main and recurring characters again as I was the next 9 times I’ve followed them in Katie’s sleuthing adventures so far (only 3 left for now, which is one of the reasons why I decided to take a little break after reading one per month).

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