Plot: Hailey Dean (Kellie Martin) has moved from the prosecutor’s office to a therapist’s office, where still helps those in need, just in a different fashion. But while she might be retired from the courtroom, Hailey remains connected to that world and finds herself drawn into cases at times. This is especially true when the cases involve her friends or loved ones, which is what happens when the mother of a friend is found dead. Amanda (Cindy Busby) found her mother’s body in the bathtub and while some believe it to be a suicide, the family disagrees and an investigation is opened. Hailey is there to comfort her friends, but when it looks like Amanda was involved in some prescription drug fraud, the case takes an unexpected turn. When Amanda’s father has an accident with days of her mother’s death and a large of money vanishes, it becomes clear this case is even more complex than anyone had anticipated. Is Hailey’s friend responsible for the death of her own parents and if not, can Hailey help uncover the truth?

Entertainment Value: This was the first installment in Hallmark’s Hailey Dean Mystery series, based on books written by Nancy Grace. Murder, with Love has to do some groundwork as a result, doing introductions and exposition elements, while also moving forward the standalone case involved. The case here is interesting at times, but never really hooked me in. I think this is because the mystery isn’t often the case, as time has to be taken to give some light backstories and develop Hailey’s character, which in turn distracts from the actual case. This is more a brisk, character driven kind of murder mystery, rather than twists & turns or procedural, so those interested in the latter elements might not be as entertained here. But Murder, with Love is by no means bad, it is just a different take on the genre and perhaps with Hallmark’s emphasis on lighter fare, the built in audience is more in tune with this kind of approach. I can’t give this a firm recommendation, but if you appreciate the less intense, Hallmark style mysteries, you might find it to be of more interest.

I was drawn to this movie because of Cindy Busby’s involvement, as she is a talented performer who often shines, even in supporting roles. In this case, she is given a small part and while she is more or less central to the narrative, she is put on the background of the story after a while. The early scenes let her show off her skills however and she does, with some effective emotional beats and a strong performance. I have to admit, I tend to appreciate her work when she is able to give her characters more of an edge, but I still enjoyed her performance here. She brings a serious, sincere turn and makes the most of her screen time, which is all we can ask. Kellie Martin has the lead and she is fine, if a little unmemorable. She is likable and her performance is passable, but I wasn’t taken with her as a strong lead character. Although, viewers more interested in the light drama and romance will likely connect with her more, I suspect. The cast also includes Giacomo Baessato, Lucia Walters, and Jesse Moss. Nancy Grace also makes a brief cameo in one scene.

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