Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine

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Pub Date 04 Apr 2022 | Archive Date 15 May 2022

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Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body.

Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework for his class. He enlists Philo Brice, owner of an antique map store, to aid him in seeking clues in the historic sites of the ancient city.

Together they face murderers, thieves, thugs, and fanatics, heightening their already strong attraction to each other. Can they solve the puzzle and unearth the treasure before the villains do? Philo and Barnaby pursue several twisting paths and false leads before arriving at a startling conclusion.

Barnaby and Philo’s story begins with very bad chili and a dead body.

Barnaby is in St. Augustine, Florida, to teach a college seminar, and plans to use The Secret—a treasure hunt book—as a framework...

A Note From the Publisher

Romantic Mystery Suspense

Romantic Mystery Suspense

Available Editions

ISBN 9781509240364
PRICE $5.99 (USD)

Available on NetGalley

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Send to Kindle (MOBI)
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Average rating from 11 members

Featured Reviews

Will Barnaby and Philo unearth the secret treasure or will they be tossed aside? Barnaby is teaching at a college in St. Augustine and his curriculum features a book, popular with treasure hunters. In fact, his class is based on a book and a long-lost treasure. He convinces antique owner and good friend Philo to assist with the clues around St. Augustine. There are a lot of historic sites to investigate. While on this hunt for treasure, they encounter all sorts of unsavory characters. The more they hunt, the more danger they find themselves in. Can they solve the treasure hunt mystery and escape with their lives?

Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine is a romantic adventure rolled up into a mystery that is one of the best books I've read this year. It has all the components I crave in an unputdownable read and then some. M.S. Spencer writes an addictive mystery with quirky characters, a treasure hunt, all taking place in one of the oldest cities in America. The plot unfolds naturally, allowing the reader to not only follow along but to solve the mystery. There are a few twists and turns I didn't see coming which added such enjoyment to the reading experience. The main characters were well developed with their own personalities. I connected with both Barnaby and Philo. The descriptive narration is lush with details and the dialogue is whip-smart while also humorous. If you love a good mystery with comedic lines, pick up Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine. A romantic adventure not to be missed, Hidden Gem: the Secret of St. Augustine should be on your reading bucket list. Highly recommend!

Disclaimer: I received a copy from the author in the hopes I'd review it. My thoughts are all my own.

My Rating: 5++ stars

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A mix of romance and mystery, a compelling and entertaining story. The solid mystery kept me guessing and hooked, the romance was sweet and I rooted for the characters.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine

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This ARC was provided to me via Kindle, The Wild Rose Press, Inc and by #NetGalley. Opinions expressed are completely my own.

Love and mystery make for an enjoyable story. This one hits the mark for both. A quick read and most enjoyable.

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Mystery with some romance in it. Very enjoyable read. The characters are relatable and sweet. Fast paced with good story plot. Lots of excitement! Thanks #netgalley and #TheWildRosePressInc for the eARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I received this ARC via Netgalley and The Wild Rose Press, in return for an honest review. This is a quirky mystery, set in St. Augustine, Florida. Philo meets this unusual man with very dreamy eyes and a unique fashion sense while she’s working in her antique map shop. St. Augustine is reputed as the location of a hidden treasure with a world-wide treasure hunt available online to anyone interested in finding the respective gems at each location. Solving the clues and relating them to the various possible locations are part of the mystery. Barnaby is a visiting professor and is using “The Secret” as an opportunity for his class to research, problem solve and, maybe, find the treasure. Philo isn’t quite sure why she’s attracted to Barnaby who, among other things, is always short on cash, although he is a fun and interesting companion. When events heat up, with fans, thieves, murders and mayhem, can Philo trust that Barnaby will be there through thick, thin and thieves?
I enjoyed the author’s writing style and skills. This is a unique take on the traditional cozy mystery. The lopsided relationship between Philo and Barnaby didn’t really work for me as I’m a believer in partners bringing equal skills (and resources) to the stories.

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I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to NetGalley and The Wild Rose Press, Inc!

When Barnaby decides to focus the curriculum for his new class around a well-known treasure hunt, he enlists the help of local antique store owner Philo to assist in the quest. They soon find themselves not only fighting attraction but also for their lives.

Hidden Gem: The Secret of St. Augustine is a fun mix of suspense and intrigue with just the right amount of romance. The plot is so fast paced that there is almost no lead in. There are plenty of twists and surprises to keep readers guessing until the very end. (I revised my suspicions several times throughout reading.) There is plenty of good banter especially between Philo and the very quirky Barnaby.

Overall a very enjoyable book. This is the first book that I have read from author M. S. Spencer but I love a good mystery and this one did not disappoint.

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This book had me laughing and trying to sort out the red herrings from the genuine clues at the same time..

An adventurous story with murder, the police, and a little romance. A most enjoyable read with surprises

galore to keep you in suspense, Read it!!!!

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A 100 year old treasure and treasure hunts have been going on for the last few decades trying to
uncover the riddle. Barnaby meets Philo - two more unlikely opposites but there is a spark of
attraction and the focus is on solving this puzzle.

There is a whole host of characters and several strands from romance to mystery, to cross confusing
directions and lots besides. It got a bit difficult to follow the several strands though it did come
together in the end.

A good mystery.

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What an interesting premise for a cozy mystery! Fans of The Secret: A Treasure Hunt will enjoy this story about Philo, a rare books shop owner, and Barnaby, a rather awkward visitor to the bookshop who immediately connects with the shop's owner. Barnaby is in St. Augustine to look for treasure. More specifically, he believes the 6th image in the real-life book, The Secret: A Treasure Hunt, written by Byron Preiss, is referencing St. Augustine, Florida. Preiss buried 12 casques in 12 cities across the continental US and published a book with 12 images and corresponding verses with clues as to each casque's whereabouts. Each casque holds a key to a safe deposit box in New York City where a jewel is waiting for each casque finder. Preiss hid these items in the early 80s and sadly passed away in 2005. Nonetheless, the hunt for his treasure continues and not even his surviving children know the locations of the casques. Few have been found to this day. Many Secret treasure hunters are convinced one is located somewhere within the city limits of St. Augustine. Real-life mystery meets fiction in this delightful tale, and a dash of romance is sprinkled in. I deducted one star because the character of Barnaby lacked authenticity to me. Regardless, the story and the red herrings take the reader on a delightful adventure.

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I loved this book, though I did find it a little long. But so much fun. Barnaby is positively one of the most unique, funny, interesting characters I’ve ever read. I laughed so hard at him – and kudos to Philo for putting up with him! Be aware, you may need a dictionary to read some of this. Barnaby (and others) has a penchant for using high-class words that you’d use only in a crossword puzzle—which figure into the story as well as other things.

The story centers around a real mystery – the Preiss gems. Before he died, Robert Preiss buried twelve caskets in twelve cites around the country. In each is a key to a specific gem held by the Preiss Trust. As of 2019, only three of them have been found. In this story, everyone is looking for the St. Augustine casque which will give them a sapphire. But there are other challenges for our hunters – like who is trying to kill them and/or their neighbors. Who killed the hunters? And more. There are mysteries within mysteries here. But I still have some questions that were not answered. Like…why is the shop only open two days a week? Seems rather odd. There are others, but I won’t go into them here because they would give things away. I will note, it’s a very long book – over 400 pages – but totally worth it. It’s so much fun. And has a good ending that satisfies.

Recommendation: Definitely recommended!

Disclaimer: Thanks to The Wild Rose Press and Netgalley for providing this book. I received a final and/or advanced reader copy of this book with the hope that I will leave my unbiased opinion. I was not required to leave a review, positive or otherwise, and my opinions are just that… My Opinions. I am posting this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”

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