Review: ‘Divorcing a Dead Man’ by Beth Sorensen

In her fine-vintage debut romantic mystery Crush at Thomas Hall (Chalet, August 2010) Beth Sorensen introduced readers to Cassandra Martin who buried an abusive husband Tony, left home to see the world and ended up in northern Virgina running a small winery and deeply in love with the son of Thomas Hall’s owner, Edward Baker. In spite of murder and embezzlement, Cassandra and Edward appeared destined to lead a charmed life at the end of the novel.

The title of Sorensen’s sequel, Divorcing a Dead Man, is the first clue to the fact there may be more than grapes to be crushed at the winery—potentially, hearts and lives, as Cassandra discovers that Tony faked his death and wants to control her life again if he doesn’t kill her first. As a rich, successful CEO, Edward is used to getting his way, and to him that means controlling Cassandra’s life as well.

In my review of Crush at Thomas Hall, I noted that while former college professor Cassandra Martin was an intelligent protagonist when it came to running the winery, she was indecisive about personal matters, especially emotional commitments. She remains indecisive in Divorcing a Dead Man.

But, she has cause:  two men want to control her life, one out of hate and love; one man makes threats while the other keeps secrets; she is a devout Catholic who must now contemplate filing for divorce while her wedding is approaching as a potential train wreck; and, since Cassandra’s life is in danger, those closest want to hover even closer when she would prefer to run the winery (or run away) and have some unfettered time to think.

While Divorcing a Dead Man is not quite as tightly written as Crush at Thomas Hall, this contemporary romance successfully develops the character of Cassandra Martin in an environment of danger and betrayal. Meanwhile, Cassandra is not without doubts. While Tony was a mistake, she wonders as she accuses Edward of trying to run their relationship like a corporation, if marrying him will be another mistake.

Sorensen has written a compelling story about relationships and how easy it is for them to come into question and come under fire during times of great stress. From the outset, it’s clear that Cassandra and Edward are deeply in love and want only the best from each other. It’s also clear, whether fate plays a deadly hand or not, that they’re facing a steep learning curve in how to make a relationship work with very little time to do the necessary homework.

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of four novels, including the recent contemporary fantasy, “Sarabande.”

Finding Thomas Hall – Author Beth Sorensen Discovers Her Passion in a College Course


Today’s guest post has been contributed by Beth Sorensen, author of “Crush at Thomas Hall” (Chalet, August 2010) and “Divorcing a Dead Man” (Chalet, August 2011). My review of her romantic mystery, “Crush at Thomas Hall” appeared here on Malcolm’s Round Table in September 2010. Sorensen lives in Delaware with her husband and three children.

Finding Thomas Hall

When I sat down to write Crush at Thomas Hall, I already knew I wanted my story to take place in Virginia. I was born and raised there and the eastern coast of the commonwealth as only a native would. Most people, however, would not necessarily associate wineries with this part of the United States. And until I was in my mid-twenties, neither did I. Until I returned to Old Dominion University in the mid-nineties, to finish a degree I had started six years earlier. My interests had changed and so did my major. I enrolled in the geography program and set myself on a track that included taking classes year-round.

As a single mom, I often took a night classes. I was fortunate to have the help of family with my son and I could knock out a three credit class while only being away from home one night a week. In the summer of 1996 I enrolled in the geography of wine. Sounds like an easy class, right? Wrong! It turned out to be two nights a week of six weeks. One night lecture, the other lab. Okay, so the lab was fun, but lecture was no joke. The history of wine, wine in early America, how and what type of grapes are grown, how wine is made, stored, and sold were all topics on the syllabus.

I fell in love with every part of the class and when I went out on our field assignment, this was a 400 level class; I fell in love with wineries as a location. I had the great pleasure of spending several hours at Ingleside Winery with their then wimemaster Tom Payette. The day left me with a true sense of what vineyard and winery life was like. I visited others that summer and discovered that they were all beautiful and romantic with a touch of mystery. And for our final, we had to design our own winery and defend its practicality.

So when it came time to choose which winery to use as a setting for my romantic mystery series I knew exactly where it would take place. A winery of my own design, named after my great-grandmother’s maiden name, Thomas Hall.

Protagonist Cassandra Martin from “Crush at Thomas Hall” returns in “Divorcing at Dead Man,” available in Kindle and trade paperback editions.

Cassandra Martin’s life is bordering on perfection. She has settled down in the Northern Neck of Virginia and has an amazing job running a winery. In addition, she plans to marry the man of her dreams, sexy billionaire Edward Baker.

However, in Cassandra’s world, perfection usually means the earth is about to drop out from under her and this time is no exception. What starts as a series of prank calls, soon reveals her abusive, late husband, Tony Martin, is very much alive and looking for her, three weeks before she plans to remarry. Now she must do the unthinkable as a devout Catholic, divorce Tony. When secrets  alienate her from her fiancé, Cassandra begins to question the advances of a man that wants more than her friendship. And when she wakes up after having been  drugged and kidnapped, Cassandra begins to wonder if she’ll live long enough to decide whether or not she wants to walk down the aisle.