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Renovated to Death

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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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The début in new series by Frank Anthony Polito I got to meet actor, JP Broadway and Peter “PJ” Penwell who are domestic partners and the stars of 'Domestic Partners,' a renovation show. Twin brothers Terry and Tom Cash have inherited their parents' house which has been neglected for twenty-five years. On the day filming of the tv show is to begin, they find Tom Cash dead at the foot of the stairs.

This was a fun mystery with a refreshing take on the genre. I loved the characters of Peter and PJ, finding them witty and they certainly had chemistry. The mystery was puzzling enough to hold my attention and I intend to revisit Detroit in book #2.

I received a complimentary copy of this novel, at my own request, from Kensington Books via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.
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I haven't read a murder mystery for a long time, and predominantly read contemporary romance now, but when I saw this title on NetGalley I was immediately intrigued. The home renovation TV show setting, along with a predominantly gay group of characters sounded like a lot of fun. 

PJ and JP are partners both on and off-screen. Their home renovation show, Domestic Partners, is a huge success. But when they find a dead body at the bottom of the stairs of their latest property at the start of filming, PJ and JP turn into amateur sleuths to seek out the killer. 

I found some of the chapters overly wordy with no real purpose, and I also found a lot of PJs internal thoughts a bit juvenile in language. I don't know if that was a deliberate choice by the author, but I found it annoying at times. There are also a lot of characters, which have obviously been added to try to make the investigation tenser, but even for me, who hasn't read one in a while, it was pretty obvious whodunit. I did like the renovation aspects, the reality of which is always more complex than the TV will have us believe. But I was ultimately left a bit underwhelmed at the end. 

Overall Rating: ❤️❤️
Heat Rating: 🔥
Emotional Rating: 😂🙈🥰🙄

*Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to leave an honest review*

(I have submitted the same review to Amazon UK but awaiting moderation)
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Renovated to Death by Frank Anthony Polito is the debut of A Domestic Partners in Crime Mysteries.  I thought Renovated to Death had a unique premise with a predominately gay cast of characters.  We met JP and PJ who are domestic partners and the stars of Domestic Partners, a renovation show.  They are going to renovate the home twins, Tom and Terry inherited from their parents.  The home has been neglected for twenty-five years.  On the day filming is to begin, they find Tom Cash dead at the base of the stairs.  The police initially rule the death accidental, but then the case is ruled a homicide.  PJ uses his skills as a mystery writer and JP his experience as a cop on a television show to solve the crime.  The list of suspects is quite lengthy and includes some of the partner’s friends.  The pair work to uncover the truth about the crime.  I struggled to read Renovated to Death.  The POV switches around which makes it confusing along with the large cast of characters.  With so many names sounding familiar, I kept getting the people confused (JP, PJ, Tom, Terry, Cam, Bob, Hank).  I did feel the main characters needed to be more fleshed out.  The pacing varied throughout the book.  Sometimes it zipped along and other times it dragged.  There are some chapters that seemed to lag on forever.  While I found the chapter about the noxious smell in the basement amusing, I felt like it went on too long.  There are several chapters like this.  There were also repeated phrases and descriptions especially about people.  A couple of examples are the baseball hats the twins wore, a man’s smoking, one man’s muscles, and the gap between one man’s teeth.  We only need to be told once.  The mystery did not begin until I was a third of way into the book.  The clues begin to appear in the second half of the book.  There are plenty of them to help readers solve the crime before the reveal.  I enjoyed the detailed descriptions of the various homes.  I could visualize the beautiful homes from the author’s word imagery.  I can tell the author likes the Detroit area.  It really came through in the writing.  I enjoyed the side storyline about PJ and JP adopting a puppy. The adoption scene had me smiling.  I was put off by the frequent mentions of intimacy as well as how appealing a person is to someone (describing their body in detail for example).  There are no explicit scenes, but the connotations are prevalent.  I did feel the gay men were portrayed in a stereotypical way (the 80s version of gay men).  Renovated to Death was a mixed bag for me.  When I end up skimming, I know I am not enjoying the book.  If you are on the fence, download a sample to check it out for yourself.  Renovated to Death is a campy cozy mystery with troublesome twins, a stinky smell, renovation realities, a stair skirmish, mishap or murder, and snooping partners.
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Renovated To Death 
Genre: Cozy Mystery 
Format: Kindle eBook 
Date Published: 5/31/22
Author: Frank Anthony Polito
Publisher: Kensington Cozies
Pages: 291
Goodreads Rating: 3.40 

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Cozies for providing a digital copy of the book for me to read in exchange for my honest opinion. 

Synopsis: Just as the show is set to start filming, Peter and JP discover Tom Cash dead at the foot of the house’s staircase. And when the police ruling changes from accidental death to homicide, the list of suspects grows fast. Now Peter’s mystery writer skills, and JP’s experience as the former star of a cop show, will be put to the test—as will their relationship while they uncover the secrets of the house and its owners. With a killer on the loose, this is one fixer upper that may prove deadly . . .

My Thoughts: I requested this book because you don’t see too many that have the LGBTQ representations, renovation / home projects, and a cozy mystery all wrapped into one novel. It was a pretty quick read for me and moved at a good pace. The book was narrated by several characters, which sometimes made it a bit confusing on who was POV. I loved Peter and JP, they had chemistry, armature sleuths, they were intriguing, they were witty, and just all around great characters that I liked in this book. The author did a great job at describing some of the architecture of the house(s) and I could envision them clearly, but then some other descriptions were repeated that would not make or break the story, not bad, just repetitive. One of my favorite scenes was the animal adoption scene, but I love animals, I thought is was cute and endearing. Overall, I good read. I would absolutely read the next book in the series or by the author.
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This is the first book In a new cozy mystery series The series centers around . Pete “PJ” Penwell and his partner, actor John Paul “JP” Broadway.  They the hosts of HDTV’s Domestic Partners on Home Design, where they work together to renovate and restore historic homes.

When they find their next house to restore it is owned by twins Tom and Terry.  Tom is more than happy to have his family’s home renovated but Terry is not thrilled with the idea. When Tom’s body is found at the bottom of the Older homes staircase  it looks like it was an accident.  PJ thinks something more is going on and begins a rather informal investigation of their neighbor’s death.

I enjoyed this book and I enjoyed the characters. I look forward to PJ and JPs future adventures together.
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I was all in on gay cozy mystery with an home reno show twist. PJ and JP are all set to begin filming the second season of their hit home renovation show on HDTV when the owner of the house they are meant to be renovating falls dead under seeming unfortunate circumstances. When they begin asking around town, the circumstances around Tom Cash's death suddenly may not be so innocent after all. 

The characters are likeable, but I would have liked to get to know them more. I really hope to dive more into the characters in future installments. The concept was interesting, and you can tell that the author holds a special place for suburban Detroit, and he really made the setting come to life. I wish the pacing had been a bit quicker, and I felt like I figured out the whodunnit earlier than I would have liked. However, I do look forward to the next installment. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Kensington Books for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.
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Renovated to Death by Frank Anthony Polito is the first book in Domestic Partners in Crime Mystery series.

Characters were pretty likeable if somewhat stereotypical and for some reason I couldn't quite connect with them. They were however nice and at times very funny,

The mystery itself was fairly slow and nothing much happened for a long time. It was obvious who is the culprit.

There were some humorous moments which I enjoy and the premise in general was what attracted me to read the book. 
There were a lot of repetitive descriptions which I didn't appreciate but the dog adopting situation was so adorable.
It showed some promise but still needs a lot of work.
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i love this new take on a cozy mystery - all this time i’ve been reading novels based on bakeries so i was really excited to try something from the “domestic partners in crime” series! having a mostly male cast of characters, i was hesitant that i wouldn’t be able to keep track of names. however this was not the case! i thought everyone was well developed and there were plenty of characters i learned to despise and more who i’d come to love! 

there was lots of action packed into this novel that it kept me on my toes until the final reveal. but i wasn’t the biggest fan of the pacing; i felt that certain details (like pj crawling under tudor house to clean) disrupted the flow and the plot would’ve been strong even with these parts omitted. i also didn’t like how the povs switched every few chapters without much of a pattern. it would go from pj’s first person narration to an omnipresent third person. the timeline also threw me off, switching from the past to the present multiple times. having been the  first novel of the series so i’m looking forward to other adventures pj and jp have in store
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Renovated to Death:  A Domestic Partners in Crime Mystery
By Frank A. Polito
June 2022

Review by Cynthia Chow

Young Adult mystery author Pete “PJ” Penwell and his partner, television actor John Paul “JP” Broadway, are both having a bit of a lull in their careers as they hit their mid-thirties.  It’s led to their being the hosts of HDTV’s Domestic Partners on Home Design, where they work together to renovate and restore (not remodel) historic homes.  The demand for an earlier season has them scrambling for a new property, which is why they have so eagerly taken on a home in the Detroit suburb of Pleasant Woods.  This not only allows them to move closer to PJ’s Michigan family, the reality show should give them both a publicity boost to help them in their respective careers.  

It turns out that although Tom Cash is more than happy to have his family’s home renovated and sold for a profit, his twin brother Terry is staunchly opposed.  While their appearances are identical, their personalities are different in almost every way.   That doesn’t mean that Terry isn’t still devastated when Tom’s body is found at the bottom of the Tudor’s staircase though, especially the more it begins to look like it was anything but an accident.  Falling back on his experience as the YA author of the Murder High mystery series, PJ begins a rather informal investigation of their neighbor’s death.

This first in the series as a fun romp through the diverse and welcoming small town of Pleasant Woods.  PJ and JP are an adorable and admirable couple, even though they are still dragging their feet towards making it official.  Both are already feeling like an old married couple, despite their shared trauma of hitting their mid-thirties.  A rather disdainful example of another struggle against ageism is Tom Cash, a forty-something eternal bachelor who is renowned for breaking up with his boyfriends once they turn 30.  It shouldn’t be surprising that the candidates for wanting to give him a last push down the stairs consist of a few over-30 exes and the current 29-year-old boyfriend, one who is all too aware of his looming expiration date. Also in contention as suspects are the local restaurant owners who wanted the Cash property for a parking lot, as well as an infuriated realtor who lost out on the deal.  PJ conducts his investigations through the pretense of socializing at a local club and dinner parties, which mostly just hammer in just how much he is over the gay dating scene.  This is such a fun introduction to the Domestic Partners as they navigate renovating a project together while also attempting to track down a killer.  A welcome distraction comes through their hopes of becoming the forever home through Home FurEver, where they have already fallen in love with the perfect Mr. Clyde Barker.  Pleasant Woods and its collection of hilarious characters make this a winning new series, perfectly blending the best elements of Reality TV, home renovations, and the Entertainment Business.
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I enjoyed this book! I decided to give this book a try because I was in the mood for a cozy and I really liked that this book features LGBT+ characters. I found this book to be a super quick read that was hard to put down and I ended up reading most of it in a single day. I thought that this was an excellent first installment in a series that I am looking forward to following.

PJ and JP 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. Luck would have it that there is a house in their neighborhood that was recently inherited by identical twins, Tom and Terry, that needs a lot of updating. 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 LGBT+ representation in a cozy mystery. This really was a fun little mystery. I did figure out the mystery pretty early on but I had a good time watching the characters put the pieces of the puzzle together.  I had hoped to see a little more home renovation in the story but everything in this book takes place just prior to the start of the actual renovation. I really enjoyed the fact that on top of filming a show and solving a murder, PJ and JP also worked to adopt a dog.

I would definitely recommend this book to others. I had a great time reading this book and couldn’t wait to see how things would work out for all of the characters. I look forward to reading more of this author’s work in the future.

I received a digital review copy of this book from Kensington Books via NetGalley.
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I was really excited to read this because I haven’t read any cozy mysteries with queer main characters, but I unfortunately ended up DNFing. I was not drawn in by the writing and found it grating at times, especially with what I felt was some unrealistic dialogue and descriptions. I couldn’t get into this book, though others might feel different and find enjoyment. 

No final rating, as I don’t rate books that I have DNFed.
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Witty. Dry. Gay. Murder. Reality tv. Detroit. It's got everything. My only nitpick is the confusing names PJ and JP was horrifying for my adhd brain and I was like, wait what, a lot. It's like a pop culture laiden dream boat. Highly recommended cozy. 3.5 stars
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With my passion for renovation, I thought I'd love this mystery.  Characters were just too over the top, it was almost distracting.  I didn't see the twist at the end but didn't enjoy getting there!
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I was happy to find a cozy mystery series featuring gay main characters. In this book, the main characters are two domestic partners, PJ and JP (I’m not kidding), the stars of a renovation TV series focusing on restoring historic homes in the Detroit area. PJ has a background as a writer of YA mysteries and is the main narrator of the book, and JP is an actor, who is often cast as a police officer. So they have a general background that helps them become amateur sleuths. There are also several minor characters who are also gay. So far, so good. 

One of the biggest problems I had with the writing was the repetitive descriptions of everyone and everything. I got tired of reading the same phrases over and over again. I got it the first time: the cop is hunky, the older man is handsome, the house is a Tudor style, and so forth. (I read an ARC, so some of this may have been eliminated in the final published version. I hope so.)

In addition to the mystery, there was a funny episode that involved trying to figure out what was causing a putrid smell in the house they were preparing to renovate, and a sweet side plot involving their attempt to adopt a puppy. The author has an obvious fondness for the Detroit area, which lent an air of authenticity to his descriptions.

There’s a lot of potential here for the series to continue and for the main characters to become more filled out.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read an advance readers copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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I'll start with this - I do not nor have I ever watched a house renovation reality show. There, I said it. The closest I can come would be a cozy mystery that involves house flipping. So, when I saw the blurb for Renovated to Death I knew I wouldn't be critical of how the renovation aspect was presented. It sounded like a new take on a cozy mystery and I'm glad I requested a copy. PJ and JP are great characters, the puzzle was complex enough to keep me engaged and I learned a lot about house renovation and reality tv. The only reason I didn't give it five stars was the changes in the point of views. Those usually confuse me and can take me out of the story.
If you have any objections to the depictions of LGBTQIA characters then this mystery is probably one you should skip.
My thanks to the publisher Kensington and to NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.
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I had a lot of fun in reading this book as I loved the style of writing and the storytelling.
There's plenty of humour, there's an interesting description of the gay community in a Michigan area, and a couple of fleshed out and likeable characters.
To be honest the MCs reminded me a couple of friend of mine who lives in New York and I found that certain mannerism were common to other friends.
This is the promising start of a new series and, as for any new series, the mystery takes sometimes the backseat to the world building.
The author is a talented storyteller and I liked the style of writing and the character development.
I can't wait for the next story as I want to know what will happen to the MCs and Clyde (loved this subplot).
This one is recommended if you want to read a humorous and well written cozy mystery.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine
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Someone has killed Tom Cash, one of the owners of the house that JP and PJ are about to renovate for the home renovation reality series Domestic Partners but who?  This is a classic cozy with the benefit of having gay characters in the lead.  My quibble with this - why oh why did Polito choose to name his leads PJ and JP?  I'm not embarrassed to admit I had trouble keeping them straight (no pun intended).  And then to compound that with Tim and Tom?  I know, I know, but it's the small things that matter when reading a cozy.  I would, however, like to see another book in the series because there's a lot of potential here. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC.
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This was a cute novel. I loved having a predominately gay cast of characters for a cozy mystery. In my mind I wanted to picture Nate and Jeremiah from Hgtv the whole time I read this book. However, PJ and JP seemed underdeveloped so I never grew a strong connection to them.

The writing felt a little forced to me. There were lots of cliche phrases used and slang that just felt out of place and maybe childish? This was a quick, easy to read book that I feel people would enjoy, but I’m not sure I connected enough to read more books in the series.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for granting me a free copy in exchange for my honest review!
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Renovated to Death by Frank Anthony Polito  3 stars

This is a first in a series featuring a gay married couple living in the Detroit suburb of Pleasant Woods.  P.J Penwell and JP Broadway are the stars and producers of Domestic Partners, a home renovation show.  This is second act for both of them since their main careers have stalled – JP was an actor in a long running cop show and PJ is a YA mystery writer.  The first season of Domestic Partners featured the renovation of their own home and now they need a new project for their second season.  They agree to renovate a local Tudor revival owned by identical twin brothers, but the project takes an unexpected turn when they find the body of one of the brothers in home.  When a local realtor and P.J.’s childhood friend is the number one suspect, PJ and JP will have to break out their sleuthing caps to find the killer.

I thought the mystery was slow at times. Some of the comedic elements of the plot did distract from the mystery.  The clues on who the real culprit was apparent about 60% into the book; after that the clues about whodunit started to pile up.  I didn’t love the book, but it was a pleasant diversion and light reading.

Thank you Netgalley and Kensington Books for this ARC.
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