Cover Image: Renovated to Death

Renovated to Death

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Member Reviews

Release Date: May 31, 2022


PJ and JP are partners in life and in business. They recently started a reality show where the well known author (PJ) and the actor (JP) renovate homes. They had success with season one which chronicled them renovating their own home. Season two is going to be tackling the inherited home of Tom and terry cash. Thing go awry when the couple discovers Tom dead. Now to keep on they need to solve the whodunnit and make sure this is a renovation that they DONT die for.

I was excited to read a LGBTQIA cozy mystery as I haven’t seen many of those in the genre. There were certain areas of the book that felt pandering instead of empowering. I fully acknowledge that I am a cis white female so I have authority to make declarations of what is and isn’t acceptable. I appreciate the attempt of inclusion but it felt like it was written from someone who didn’t really understand. For example PJ struggles with how to address his friend in drag appropriately (out loud and in his thoughts), which is weird. There is so much talk about pronouns…why wouldn’t he just ask? #normalizepronouns. The author also mentions an event in the past by calling it "LGBT... Long before they tagged on the Q, the I, and the A." Which felt derogatory to me. I would recommend this book but I also hope the author does better in the future. As a society I feel like we’ve come further than what this book portrays. 

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions and thoughts are my own.

#renovatedtodeath #domesticpartners #domesticpartnersincrime #homerenovation #cozymystery #bookstagram #cozymysteryseries #netgalleyreads #bookstagram #instareads #frankanthonypolito #kensingtonbooks
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Renovated to Death is a cozy mystery set in Metro Detroit. When couple PJ (Peter) and JP (John Paul) agree to renovate the childhood home of the twins Cash, they are excited to get their hands on the lovely 1920s project. Until one of the twins winds up dead, a tragedy in and of itself that also puts their fledgling deal in jeopardy. The second season of their reality TV series is set to start filming soon, and if the death isn't put to rest quickly, their livelihood will be in jeopardy. Their investigation isn't outrageous and unbelievable like some in the genre. It largely involves PJ and JP gathering gossip from their neighbors, which seems realistic enough behavior. The reveal of information also offered an interesting approach. Instead of a quick murder followed by amateur detecting, we get to see many points of view in the buildup to the crime in question and as secrets are uncovered. We see through the eyes of the victim, the brother disagreeing about the preservation of the family inheritance, the lover fearing he will soon be jilted, and a witness to the death, among others. It's an engaging way to share details and show a range of emotions. This is one of the most chill cozies I've read with even the ultimate showdown coming across as fairly sedate. And honestly, it worked for me. 

This book makes me excited for more cozies with a queer cast. The strongest feature of this book for me is steeping the story in queer culture and language with a particular focus on a community of gay men. This is not an example of books that just label a character as gay and then tell the same old type of story with no consideration of broader culture and bonds between queer people. My only complaint is that this is definitely focused on one segment of the rainbow. PJ struggles with how to address his friend in drag appropriately (out loud and in his thoughts), which is weird. And a comment reminiscing about a gay event in the past mentions "LGBT... Long before they tagged on the Q, the I, and the A." Which was a bit of a stab in the back to those of us who were apparently tacked on as an afterthought to the acronym. That doesn't erase the value of what this book offers in terms of representation; just know it's not fully inclusive.

Another nice aspect was seeing a cozy with a committed couple as detectives, meaning we don't have to suffer a half-assed romantic side plot. Instead, we get brunch on weekends, banter, and dog adoption. The level of puppy love (as in love for a literal puppy) was the exact correct level of over-the-top for this dedicated millennial dog mom. They are the best, sweetest, goodest babies and they deserve the world. I was also personally attached to the Michigan setting, from the craft beer and neighborhoods to the twins, one in a Sparty hat and the other a hat of a team-that-shall-not-be-named. Unfortunately, there was a comment about how someone "couldn't even get into State," which soured things for this alumna to a significant degree.

There were some other aspects I didn't care for. The book starts with a major infodump of backstory; the clunky delivery meant I didn't retain much and had to relearn who was who as the story continued. Another writing issue was the repetitive use of certain phrases that became irritating (i.e. always using the same descriptions for the main cast of characters). Another minor disappointment was the lack of actual home renovation compared to what the premise promised. While the couple's past projects are mentioned, this story all takes place before their next season starts filming. On a deeper level, a constant issue in mysteries is the approach to law enforcement. In this one, a police presence is considered nice and neighborhoods are labeled safe and unsafe. It seems uninformed at best. Luckily the story doesn't delve deeper into that mindset, but know that the stench of white privilege is about. Finally, the major twist is not that thrilling. I had it figured out from the victim's funeral a third of the way in, making all the other little clues that follow glaringly obvious instead of clever and sneaky.

So. If you think cozy mysteries should be more gay, check this one out. Thanks to Kensington for my copy to read and review.
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If you're looking for a quozy (queer cozy) mystery, this is the perfect book for you! I'm a huge fan of HGTV, DIY, queer stories and mysteries and I'm so in love with the fact that this book has them all. I'm excited to read the rest of the books in this series!
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It was just an ok read for me , which means even though i love cozy Mysteries this is one series i won't be going on with .
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Here is my review of a new cozy mystery, which hopefully will be a long-lived series, Renovated To Death by Frank Anthony Polito.  When it comes to the first book in a new Cozy Mystery series it can be a little overwhelming for the reader who is meeting a whole cast of characters and looking for clues to solve a murder.  That being said I always cut the writers some slack when evaluating their first books. 

What makes Renovated to Death stand apart from most cozies is that this book is that our amateur is a gay man. In my experience, most cozies are from a straight female perspective. This book takes place in Michigan and the local gay community is integral to the story.  At first, I thought the characters were a bit on the stereotypical side, but then I realized this is a cozy with a healthy dose of humor. If you read this book, now you know going in to see the humor!

If you like home DIY and are a fan of HGTV, you'll really appreciate the home renovation talk in this book.  The main character PJ and his husband JP (ah, cute couple names!) are hosts of a home renovation show and there is lots of talk about home renovation projects and restoration. 

I found this to be a fun, fresh take on the genre and I look forward to future adventures with PJ and JP.

4 stars!
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Although this was a cute novel, it didn’t really do much for me! I loved the gay couple for a mystery because i haven’t read one like this before and it was really nice to see and read about.
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Renovated to Death was a fun Murder mystery starting a couple JP and PJ whose design show gets complicated when the owner of the house they are renovating dies in the house. Is it an accident or more? 

I enjoyed this book and was drawn in by the renovation angle however almost no renovation happened in this book.
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I just didn't care for the writing style and the main character and his boyfriend having similar initials seemed kind of goofy. Some of the clichés perpetuated in just the first few pages were irritating. I love reno shows but I don't think I'd watch PJ's. Too bad I had high hopes for this one.
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Lighthearted,  but impactful. Cozy, but underlaid by a foundation of seriousness. A lot of fun to be had by both characters and readers,  yet with an awareness of the potential dark side. RENOVATED TO DEATH is a strongly Gay cosy mystery, Book 1 in the Domestic Partners in Crime Series. PJ and JP are life partners,  and hard-working stars of the Domestic Partners home renovation reality show, heading into its second season. Homeowners in a beautiful historic suburb of Detroit,  life is rocking until the newest renovation client dies in a fall on the Stairs of the house they are to renovate. Seems simple: a weak step, an accidental fall with tragic consequences. But writer of high school mysteries PJ and former tv cop Series actor JP view it differently,  and they intend to uncover the truth.
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Ooof. This was... not good. 

From a plot standpoint, it takes 30% of the book to get any murder mystery - at one point, we get a whole rehash of a previous chapter at the beginning of the next, as though the character whose POV we were in wasn't there for everything happened. That was weird! And the murder is pretty easy to solve, even if the motivation is shoved in there at 97%.

But the writing... good lord the writing. Everyone is either a "handsome older man" or a " cute young boy" - like, the former phrase occurs 26 times in the book. That's too many! If you did a shot every time someone was described as "handsome," you'd be hospitalized after the first chapter. And in three consecutive paragraphs, the latter phrase shows up four times. I had an ARC, but if this made it into the final book, someone needs to have a sit down with the copy editor. 

There are a million weird asides through the book, too, and so very few of them are relevant. How JP's parents died, the name of the place they got their seat cushions from, PJ's dad's commitment to car culture (and PJ's implied superiority for rejecting it), the marital status (confirmed or assumed) of various characters we see once in the whole book, the flavor profile of a Bell's Two-Hearted... what is the point? Why do we need all this? Why couldn't we do more murder mysterying?

And, of course, we can't forget the names of a few side characters, specifically the real estate agent Cheri Maison and local Detective Nick Paczki. Yes, the real estate agent's name is essentially house and the detective is essentially Detective Donut. I almost put the book down for that second reveal.

Anyways, I think this was poorly plotted and even more poorly written, but if neither of those things bother you, it's not NOT a decently fun read.
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This was a fun, quick, easy read. I enjoyed the characters although they did seem a little cliche. If you are looking for a book to read in one sitting, with detailed interior design, and has LGBTQ main characters this is for you!
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***I was provided a copy of this book by NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Here it is...***

I am DNFing this book at about 50%. I am a big fan of cozy mysteries, just not this one. I don't know if I'm just not the intended audience, but I just can't get into it. Everything about it feels over-the-top, drawn-out, and too much. I know this is a home renovation cozy, but I found myself going glassy-eyed over the descriptions of the homes. The cast of characters feels cheesy and super extra, enough that I'm not connecting with any of them. I'm not liking this book and would rather spend my time reading something that I can get into.
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Dollycas’s Thoughts

Bestselling mystery author Peter “PJ” Penwell and actor JP Broadway are real-life partners who have come together to star in and produce Domestic Partners, a hot reality home renovation show. They are getting ready for their second season and have plans to renovate another house in Pleasant Woods, Michigan. Twin brothers Terry and Tom Cash inherited the family home and have let it fall to disrepair. PJ and JP have plans to breathe some life into the home so it can be sold for a pretty penny in this elite Detroit suburb. 

Everything is in place to start filming in a few days when JP and PJ discover Tom Cash dead at the foot of the stairs of their project. The staircase is pretty rickety and that leads the police to rule the death accidental. Later when more information comes to light they declare the event a homicide. Tom ruffled plenty of feathers over the years so there are plenty of suspects including his twin brother Terry. The mystery writer skills in PJ start to kick in as do things actor JP learned playing a cop. They know the killer needs to be found quickly or their new reno project could hit the skids and more people could end up dead.

I was excited to review this book because I love that cozies are getting more diverse and this one is truly testing the waters with the cast almost entirely made up of gay men.

The author took a lot of time to introduce the characters which I really appreciate for the first book in a new series but I felt I really didn’t get to know enough. They just felt a little flat. It may be just me but I started out getting really confused between the two main characters PJ and JP. I finally got it in my head to translate the initials with the characters’ last names, Penwell – Author, Broadway – Actor.  When I did that the story flowed much better. I did like the characters and that is what kept me reading and not throwing the book at the wall. 

We did meet several other characters that were all connected to Tom and Terry. I deal with a set of twins in our family and understand it can be hard to tell them apart which is why I really focused on the differences between Tom and Terry. Who wore what hat? Who had a space between their teeth? Who was more outgoing and who was more passive? Who was enthusiastic about renovating their parent’s home and who wanted it left as is? I really tuned in to how each brother reacted to the people around them too. They may have been identical in looks but different in every other way. It made them very interesting to me and felt they were very well developed.

Mr. Polito penned a very good mystery but I think because I was ultra-focused on the twins I cataloged each clue dropped in a way that had me solving the mystery almost as soon as the death occurred. There were some great twists but they just firmed up my theories.

Something that really struck my heart was PJ and JP trying to adopt a dog. We were disappointed by the pet adoption process ourselves a few years ago and went through some of the same feelings the characters had. Things worked out for us in the long run. You will have to read the book to find out what happens with the Domestic Partners.

I really enjoyed all the descriptions of the homes in Pleasant Woods and that one was turned into a wonderful restaurant. I had hoped for more renovations in this book but the house the stars had previously renovated was mentioned a lot as to what they had done there. I am sure there will be more in the next book.

Renovated to Death lays a good foundation for this series. I am looking forward to more character development of Penwell and Broadway and them getting involved in a more complicated mystery. I am also looking forward to more about their television show including the filming and them actually doing some renovations.
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This book didn't work for me. I loved the idea and it was well written, even funny in parts, but I could not get into it at all. I found the mystery aspect of it lacking and a lot of the book just seemed boring.
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Thank you Netgalley for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed this book! This book contained many elements of cozy mysteries that I enjoy like an occasional alternate pov and flashbacks. While I was able to figure out the main twist, it was still SO SATISFYING to read because the author tied everything together so nicely.
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I enjoyed this book! I was in the mood for a cozy mystery when I discovered this book and everything that I learned about it - a Michigan setting, a house renovation show as a backdrop and a modern take on the cozy - all made me jump right in. And it was even better, the fictional Michigan setting is under 5 miles from where we used to live in Michigan, it was a super quick read that was hard to put down. Dog rescue and HGTV (HDTV?) renovation show can it get any better … 
PJ and JP, the gay fiancés and main characters, are almost ready to film the second season of their home renovation show but in order to get things started, they need a house to feature. There is a house in their neighborhood  but identical twins, Tom and Terry, have not touched their deceased parents’ house in the past 20+ years will they now ? Things take an unfortunate turn when Tom is found dead inside the house and it may not have been an accident…
I liked all of the characters and was incredibly pleased to see diverse representation in a cozy mystery, the genre has been slow in that regard. I was quite excited to discover that the lines of reality and fiction were a little blurred. The author, a Michigan native who lived in New York for 18 years, moved back home with his partner, just like the main characters and also just like the main characters they are an author and an actor respectively. Polito and his partner actually found their home while appearing on the HGTV series “House Hunters“, of course I had to watch that 2013/2014 episode after I finished reading and I loved the 1924 Craftsman Colonial they chose… now let‘s hope they didn’t happen on an accident/murder right across the street …

It was an excellent first installment in a series that I am looking forward to following.
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I want so much more of this book! It was quirky and clever. I loved that this is a cozy featuring LGBT+ characters and I cannot wait to see more of these. I hope this is going to be the first book in a much longer series. 

5/5 Stars

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books, Kensington for providing me with an e-arc of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Home renovations, a cozy mystery, AND an MM story?! Um, yes, PLEASE!! 

Renovated to Death was both fun and funny. And while I'll be the first to admit that I'm a true sucker for any and all MM stories, I don't feel that I'm being biased when I say that this book was a blast! Goodreads says this is "Domestic Partners in Crime #1" so I'm really, reallyyyy crossing my fingers that that means #2 will come out soon. 

I loved this book. LOVED it! I will 100% be recommending this book to everyone, especially my fellow lovers of LGBTQ+ books. 

Thank you so very much to the publisher, Kensington, and to Netgalley for the advance copy of this book! It is very much appreciated!
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PJ Penwell and JP Broadway found fame starring in their own reality home renovation show, Domestic Partners. After leaving NYC for Detroit, they were really beginning to enjoy their much calmer life, even with the new found fame. For their second season of the show, they are teaming up with twins, Terry and Tom Cash to renovate their local Tudor Revival, which hasn’t been touched in 25 years. Unfortunately as they begin to uncover what lies beneath the dust and deck boards, they might bitten off more than they can chew, which Tom Cash is found dead at the bottom of the Tudor’s stairwell. JP and PJ now become intertwined in the suspicious death which comes with a side of dramatic friends, lovers and lots of Tom’s ex-boyfriends. 

What a fun cozy! Perhaps the Pittsburgh references lured me in more, but this book had a lot going for it. The cast of characters was often just a hoot. So much drama. The author is very descriptive, to the point where one scene I actually gagged and let out a yelp, feeling the pain that the guys were through. (IYKYK) I am really there is more to this series.
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Renovated to Death is an appealing debut mystery. Before mystery author Peter “PJ” Penwell and his partner, actor JP Broadway, moved to the bucolic (and fictional) Detroit suburb of Pleasant Woods, they lived the life in New York City.  Now they share a gig as the stars and producers of the new hit reality home reno show Domestic Partners. HGTV fanatics, this one’s for you.  

Peter and JP revel in their new digs. They put in months of TLC to turn their Craftsman Colonial into a showpiece. Their house is the star of the first season and the audience applauds their efforts. The icing on the cake of Renovated to Death is the lovely, detailed descriptions of how the couple performed a labor of love on their unique house. What really made it come to life was DIY sweat equity. Peter is justifiably proud of his meticulous, painstaking work.

“Don’t even get me started on the paint splatters.”


“Oh, I won’t!”


This was a private joke between us and our HDTV viewers, the result of my finding a million tiny flecks of latex speckling the six-inch wood baseboards of every single room in our new house.


After slipping on our slippers, we headed farther into the home through a single French door that I’d also painstakingly stripped, sanded, restained, and varnished in order to restore its original splendor. Comprised of fifteen leaded glass panes, with a vintage brass-plated lever style handle, the portal into our twelve-by-fourteen dining room gave the entryway a sense of sheer elegance.

Now, the couple must find a suitable property to renovate in season two. It’s a source of tension because Peter and JP are homebodies, enjoying a low-key life. Their television show and their delight in domesticity keep them off the brunch and karaoke circuit. They turn down more invitations than they accept. Nevertheless, finding a house is going to require some outreach. The real estate motto may be “location, location, location” but when it comes to the television renovation world, the paramount need is for houses worthy of renovation. Is it time to shake down their friendship group, to embrace the pressure and a “need for speed?” Perhaps they should schmooze the local real estate agent. 

They reluctantly hit the party circuit. At the tail-end of a dinner party, Tom asks them to come by his parent’s house in the morning. Tom thinks the house might work for season two.

“Actually, we’ve got a previous appointment,” JP said, politely declining Tom’s invitation.


Cam raised a suspicious eyebrow. “What appointment would that be?” Suddenly, he gasped in horror. “You guys aren’t adopting a baby, are you?”


“God, no!” I swallowed my last bite of apple crumble, trying not to choke at Cam’s question. “But close.”


“We’re adopting a dog,” JP clarified for everyone’s benefit, sounding super excited. “Well, we’re meeting a dog that we’re hoping to adopt.”


“OMG!” Cam cheered in approval. “I wanna see a picture!”

Peter and JP may have to modify their dog-parenting timetable. Can they afford to blow off Tom’s invitation to tour his parent’s house? It’s a Tudor Revival and it still has the original linoleum and a pink-tiled bathroom. Their audience will eat it up. Also, Tom is a local celebrity. He has an identical twin brother, Terry, but everyone knows that Terry’s the curmudgeon while Tom is the star.

At forty, he operated his own business, lived in a big house on Pleasant Woods’s west side, and drove a brand-new BMW. He took care of himself, working out five times a week in the community center, and the results were apparent. For a man his age, Tom Cash had an awesome body!

Everything seems in train for a successful pairing of renovators and house that needs restoring. Peter and JP head over to the Cash house to finalize details and are shattered when they stumble over a dead body.

Sporting his favorite blue and gold U of M ball cap, dressed in the same dark athletic attire he’d worn to Fairway Bob’s dinner party the evening before, Tom Cash lay facedown on the floor near the bottom of the rickety old staircase . . .


Oh well, accidents happen. They noticed when they first checked out the house that the staircase had a wonky step. Unfortunately, the police rule that Tom’s death is a homicide, not an accidental death. The list of suspects is lengthy and specific to Tom’s lifestyle. Tom was gay, always with an attractive boyfriend in tow, reputedly never dating a guy once they turned thirty. Peter and JP are renovators and television stars, not investigators, but in his former life, Peter was a mystery author. How could it hurt to do a little sleuthing? If they can discover the murderer, then they can get started on season two. The list of possible suspects is long: the “crabby next-door-neighbor, the Realtor ex-boyfriend, the bartender ex-boyfriend, the other, much younger, ex-boyfriend, or even renovation-reluctant brother, Terry?” That’s a lot of exes to investigate. 

Renovated to Death is fast-paced, modern, and sparkling with irreverent humor. It’s easy to envision Domestic Partners as a real-life HGTV series.  Let us inside Peter and JP’s Craftsman Colonial, show us the menu of their favorite brunch spot, and save us a spot at the gay karaoke bar. The first Domestic Partners mystery is a winner—bring on more adventures in murder and home design.
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