Friday, March 31, 2023

Book Review: The Last Wife

By Sara Steven

Welcome to Winters End...

Winters End should have been the perfect place for me and my husband Neil to start again. To leave the terrible secrets and guilt of our past far behind us.

But from the moment we arrived in the small, isolated community, it becomes clear to me that we are not welcome here. That someone wants us to leave…

I’m certain that everyone knows our secrets – knows who we really are. But how can that be?

Perhaps it’s my mind playing tricks on me. Just like before.

I know Neil thinks I'm paranoid. My thoughts spiralling. Again.

If only I had someone else to talk to. Another woman to confide in.

And that’s when I realise something far more terrifying.

I am the only wife at Winters End…and I could be the last… (synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Initially, when Fiona feels unwelcome in Winters End, I chalked it up to her sordid past. The whole point of moving to Winters End was to get away from her life, and to try to start fresh with Neil. It starts with dog excrement on their doorstep, with a note that asks them to leave and go back to where they’d come from, and it all felt very slanderous. Like the townsfolk had gathered together to try to oust someone who they feel doesn’t belong. But the bigger picture, and the even bigger reasons behind the supposed ousting, was a huge mind-blowing experience.

The lens moves gradually away from Neil, focusing solely on Fiona. Why does it feel as though the people who live in Winters End, particularly the men, don’t want Fiona to live there? And why is the graveyard filled with recent gravesites that are deceased women? Fiona begins to look too deeply into the situation, while Neil wants to live in oblivion, assuming that Fiona is exaggerating. That there really isn’t anything strange going on. And it’s only when Fiona goes missing that he begins to take the situation seriously. 

Ultimately, what the reader discovers, and the why behind it, was not to be expected. There are plenty of hidden secrets that have been part of the town for decades, but as with most secrets, the truth will eventually be revealed. People that should be trusted, can’t be. And those who appear to be the least trustworthy of all are the ones who might just be a lifeline to safety. 

The Last Wife was a slow-burn suspenseful experience. One minute, I had ideas of what was really going on, then the viewpoint would pivot, and what was to be expected wasn’t really what was happening all along. Overall, there were subtle messages that let me know that this wasn’t just about mysterious experiences within Winters End, but that both Fiona and Neil have to find a way to get past their past that threatens to keep them from moving forward in their lives. That running away from your problems won’t solve the problem, potentially creating even more issues in the long run. In fighting the demons within their new town, it aids in fighting their own personal demons, and that was a really interesting perspective. It made The Last Wife an enjoyable experience.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

J. A. Baker is a successful psychological thriller writer of numerous books, previously published by Bloodhound. Born and brought up in Middlesbrough, she still lives in the North East, which inspires the settings for her books. Her first title for Boldwood was published in December 2022.

Visit J.A. Baker online:
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Thursday, March 30, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Soulmate

Sally Hepworth's latest twisty domestic suspense novel, The Soulmate, will be available next week. We are excited to feature it today and, judging by Melissa's review, you're in for quite the ride! Thanks to St. Martin's Press, we have one copy to give away!

There’s a cottage on a cliff. Gabe and Pippa’s dream home in a sleepy coastal town. But their perfect house hides something sinister. The tall cliffs have become a popular spot for people to end their lives. Night after night Gabe comes to their rescue, literally talking them off the ledge. Until he doesn’t.

When Pippa discovers Gabe knew the victim, the questions spiral...Did the victim jump? Was she pushed?

And would Gabe, the love of Pippa’s life, her soulmate...lie? As the perfect facade of their marriage begins to crack, the deepest and darkest secrets begin to unravel. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

"The Lovely Bones meets domestic suspense in this latest twisty page turner from the brilliant Sally Hepworth. Masterfully designed to keep readers on the edge of their seats and wanting more, The Soulmate examines love and loyalty, and how far we're willing to go for the sake of family. I devoured this book!" 
~ Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of Local Woman Missing 

© Mrs. Smart Photography

Sally Hepworth is the New York Times bestselling author of eight novels. Her novel, The Mother-In-Law (2019), has been optioned for a TV series by Hollywood actress and producer, Amy Poehler. 

Drawing on the good, the bad and the downright odd of human behaviour, Sally writes incisively about family, relationships and identity. Her domestic thriller novels are laced with quirky humour, sass and a darkly charming tone.

Sally's novels are available around the globe in English and have been translated into 20 languages. She has sold more than one million books worldwide.

Sally lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband and three children. (Bio courtesy of Sally's website.)

Visit Sally online:

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends April 4th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Book Review: The House Sitter

By Becky Gulc

Every so often I crave a good thriller and I’d heard great things about The House Sitter on Twitter so got hold of a copy. Here is the synopsis:

A scheming traveller

Across Europe, a young woman with no name and no fixed appearance hops from empty villa to vacated apartment to dormant summer house under the guise of house sitter. Her agenda? Steal from the rich, and kill anyone who gets in her way...

A grieving wife

On a stormy night in England, travelling home down narrow country lanes, a fatal car crash leaves Kat's husband Oliver dead. But as Kat begins to mourn his loss, she discovers something that suggests she never knew her husband at all...

A plot to kill

As the people in Oliver's life try to reconcile what they've found with the man they thought they knew, a very different picture begins to emerge. But is it Oliver they shouldn't have trusted, or is someone even closer to home harboring a secret they'd kill to keep hidden...?’ (Synopsis from the book cover.)

The novel starts full-on with Katherine (the ‘grieving wife’) finding out her husband Oliver has died in a car accident in the first chapter. We soon meet Jude, Oliver’s mum to get her reaction and meet his other close family, his dad and his brother.

As we get to know the characters a little and how they respond and cope with the loss of Oliver, the narrative swiftly takes us back in time to 2010, to meet the unnamed ‘scheming traveller’. This is a separate story and was so chilling. ‘Gemma’ as she soon calls herself, at least for the interim, is sick of life in the UK and registers to become a house sitter abroad. Gemma doesn’t have any intention of keeping it to just house sitting though; this is a woman who wants to get rich and will do anything to make that happen. We soon learn she is willing to kill anyone who gets in her way, but every time she does, she has to move on and start again or risk being caught.

The narrative was clever, I was engrossed in each story. With Katherine, her relationship with Oliver is clearly not everything some people thought it was, and as it soon emerges Oliver’s accident may have been down to someone messing with the brakes. As readers, we’re soon very suspicious of everyone. Whilst I wouldn’t say I liked any of the characters related to Oliver, I don’t think I was meant to! They are all self-indulgent and yet it was captivating to read this with a detective hat on and try and figure out who may have been involved. Debbie cleverly makes us suspicious of several people and she kept me guessing!

The best thing about the novel for me was the intrigue about how ‘Gemma’s’ story from a decade ago would be linked with the present story around Oliver, as it inevitably would be somehow. There was no one clear route to guessing this; multiple options were possible right until the very end of the novel! Again Debbie kept the suspense up superbly throughout the novel and there were even more twists than I anticipated in the closing chapters that didn’t disappoint! A great thriller!

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Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: Gigi, Listening

Today we're celebrating the publication of Chantel Guertin's latest novel, Gigi, Listening. (Two for the Road in Canada.) Melissa only has good things to say about this novel. Check out her review. Thanks to Kensington, we have FIVE copies to give away!

Gigi Rutherford loves love stories. She reads them, she sells them at her romance bookstore, and she could spend hours imagining the meet-cutes of every couple she encounters. But when it comes to her own love interests, Gigi is out of stock. Instead of enduring bad date after bad date, these days she’d rather curl up with her favorite audiobook and the only man who makes her heart skip a beat: Zane Wilkenson, the smooth-voiced narrator Gigi is convinced is her soulmate.

Then, she’s presented with the chance of a lifetime: a ten-day bus tour through the English countryside, an ocean away from her bookstore—all in the presence of Zane, in person, as he leads the tour.

But when Gigi arrives at the bus terminal in London, Zane is nowhere to be found. Until he shows up, she’s stuck with an eclectic group of fellow travelers: recently widowed and chatty Charlotte; trivia-obsessed Francis; Jenny, a true-crime-makeup YouTuber documenting every detail for her subscribers; and Sindhi and Roshi, a long-married couple who can’t stop bickering. Then there’s the brooding bus driver, Taj, who Gigi finds infuriating yet also incredibly alluring . . .

With heart and charm, warmth and humor, Chantel Guertin explores the meaning of love and family—and how, sometimes, the journey to yourself is where you’ll find everything you’ve been searching for. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

"In Gigi, Listening by Chantel Guertin, one woman’s misguided quest for love takes us on an adventure through the English countryside. With delightful characters and gorgeous scenery, it’s a sweet romance you’ll want to cozy up with. Completely charming!" 
— Carley Fortune, New York Times bestselling author of Every Summer After

Gigi, Listening by Chantel Guertin is for the hopeless romantics in all of us. Endearing, uplifting, and with a vivid cast, it serves as a beautiful reminder to embrace the unexpected. I didn’t want this ride to end!” 
— Amy Lea, author of Set On You

“Curl up with the heartfelt and funny Gigi, Listening and prepare to be charmed by its unforgettable cast of characters. Chantel Guertin’s utterly delightful love story will make you want to book the next flight to London!" 
— Liz Fenton & Lisa Steinke, authors of Forever Hold Your Peace

Credit: Christopher Shulgan
Chantel Guertin is a bestselling author, brand ambassador, and Toronto-based beauty expert whose own life story reflects elements of Instamom. She, too, lived a glamorous, well-documented social-media lifestyle before she fell for a single dad and her world turned upside down. She has been the first-ever beauty editor at ELLE CANADA, the editorial director at, and a founding editor at THE KIT. Currently, she is the beauty expert on Canada's number-one daytime talk show, the Marilyn Denis Show, as well as the founder and coordinator of the Lifestyle Media post-graduate program at Centennial College in Toronto. She has contributed to more than fifty publications, including USA Today, ELLE, National Post, Globe and Mail, Chatelaine, Food Network Magazine, Flare, Maclean's, Reader's Digest and more. She gives beauty tips, book reviews and career advice at her website.

Visit Chantel online:

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends April 2nd at midnight EST.

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Monday, March 27, 2023

Book Review: Murder in Postscript

By Jami Denison

If you’re missing Bridgerton – or if you wish the series had more of a mystery than just “how are these two people who seem to hate each other going to end up together” – the first book in Mary Winters’s new Lady of Letters mystery series may help fill the hole. Murder in Postscript stars Victorian countess Amelia Amesbury, a respectable young widow who is raising her late husband’s ten-year-old niece. But, like Penelope Danbury, Amelia also has a publishing secret: she’s answering letters in a London penny newspaper as Lady Agony, the 19th century version of Dear Abby. When she gets a letter from a housemaid claiming that she knows a secret about her mistress’s seemingly accidental death, Amelia goes to meet the woman—and finds her body. Feeling responsible for the girl’s murder—she wouldn’t have died if Amelia hadn’t been late!—Amelia vows to find the killer.

Murder in Postscript is almost flawlessly executed, with all the supporting characters a reader expects in mystery and Regency romance. There’s the dashing-but-heartbroken marquis who insists on investigating the case with Amelia and trading quips and long looks with her. There’s the fashionable best friend, good for throwing balls and planning capers. There’s the charming, talented child. And then there’s all the mystery of the victim’s family. Each chapter begins with a letter to Lady Agony that neatly matches the dilemma of the current plot twist. The murder mystery ties up neatly, with an appropriate villain who has a very Victorian reason for their crimes. The romance, however, is on such a slow burn, it may take several books for it to boil over.

My only quibble is that Winters chose to end the book on an abrupt cliffhanger. For a novel with nearly flawless pacing up to that point, it felt jarring and a bit manipulative. Most series authors find a way to wrap up the current book while still leaving a few threads to be picked up on the next one. However, Winters may have been trying to imitate actual Victorian authors, who were more likely to use tricks like these to keep readers interested.

In any case, Winters can rectify this mistake by publishing the second book in the series as soon as possible. 

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, March 24, 2023

Book Review: Addicted For Now

By Sara Steven

No. More. Sex.

Those are the three words Lily Calloway fears the most. But Loren Hale is determined to be with Lily without enabling her dangerous compulsions. With their new living situation—sleeping in the same bed, for real, together—Lily has new battles. Like not jumping Lo’s bones every night. Not being consumed by sex and his body.

Loren plans to stay sober, to right all of his wrongs. So when someone threatens to expose Lily’s secret to her family and the public, he promises that he’ll do anything to protect her. But with old enemies surfacing, Lo has more at stake than his sobriety.

They will torment Lily until Lo breaks.

And his worst fear isn’t relapsing. He hears the end. He sees it. The one thing that could change everything. Just three words.

No. More. Us. (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Having read book #1 in the Addicted series, I was interested in seeing what was next for both Lily and Lo. Somehow, I went from book #1, Addicted to You, right to book #3, Addicted for Now, but I don’t feel as though I couldn’t follow along with the changes that had taken place, which was really nice to discover. When I left off, both characters were dealing with their own personal demons, with Lily and her sex addiction, and Lo and his alcoholism. This time around, they are working on not only keeping those demons at bay, but at trying to create a semblance of a healthy balance when it comes to their relationship.   

It isn’t easy. Not for either of them. I appreciated the turmoil that is represented within the pages. While I might not have the addictions that Lily and Lo deal with, I imagine what they are dealing with is hard, and when we witness Lily having to reign in her appetite while Lo keeps her in check, and when there are moments of tension and chaos, Lo wants nothing more than to drink, but Lily keeps him in check, too–it felt very realistic. It wasn’t glamourized. It felt real. 

Someone knows about Lily’s secret. And if it gets out, it will not only damage all of the work she has put into herself and the relationship she has with Lo, but it can cause a lot of repercussions for her family, too. I tried to figure out the culprit right along with them. There’s a scene where they travel out of the country, and the culprit knows it! How? Why? And for what gain? 

As with the first book in the series, there are a lot of hot, steamy moments between Lily and Lo, but they are more measured and controlled, given the circumstances. I didn’t always agree with their choices–Lily’s sex therapist has a few requirements for Lily’s recovery, like how the couple could only be allowed to engage in intimacy either in the morning or in the evening, but no other time in the day, which seemed a little extreme to me, since I don’t believe the time of day matters when it comes to when a consenting couple wants to engage in that–and I’m not sure there’s really a set standard for what normalcy is when it comes to that, anyway. But, it was interesting to see how the rules play out, not only for Lily, but for Lo, too. Addicted for Now was a nice addition to the Addicted series, and answered a lot of questions I’d had pertaining to this unique couple, and whether their relationship could evolve and work.

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Thursday, March 23, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise

We're excited to celebrate the upcoming publication of Colleen Oakley's latest novel, The Mostly True Story of Tanner & Louise! It will be available on March 28th. Melissa loved this novel and can't wait for you all to read it. Check out her review. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Twenty-one-year-old Tanner Quimby needs a place to live. Preferably one where she can continue sitting around in sweatpants and playing video games nineteen hours a day. Since she has no credit or money to speak of, her options are limited, so when an opportunity to work as a live-in caregiver for an elderly woman falls into her lap, she takes it.

One slip on the rug. That’s all it took for Louise Wilt’s daughter to demand that Louise have a full-time nanny living with her. Never mind that she can still walk fine, finish her daily crossword puzzle, and pour the two fingers of vodka she drinks every afternoon. Bottom line: Louise wants a caretaker even less than Tanner wants to be one.

The two start off their living arrangement happily ignoring each other until Tanner starts to notice things—weird things. Like, why does Louise keep her garden shed locked up tighter than a prison? And why is the local news fixated on the suspect of one of the biggest jewelry heists in American history who looks eerily like Louise? And why does Louise suddenly appear in her room, with a packed bag at 1 a.m.  insisting that they leave town immediately?

Thus begins the story of a not-to-be-underestimated elderly woman and an aimless young woman who—if they can outrun the mistakes of their past—might just have the greatest adventure of their lives. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

“You’ll never be able to see what’s coming in this wildly surprising, entertaining ride of a novel—which is a coming-of-age story, a contending-with-age story, and a surprising exploration of how womanhood is a matter of surprising others…and oneself.”
—Jodi Picoult, New York Times bestselling author of Wish You Were Here

“Colleen Oakley is in a world of her own when it comes to creating lovable, quirky characters—and those in The Mostly True Story of Tanner and Louise are her best yet. With an abundance of charm and wit, a dose of adventure, and surprises around each corner, you’ll be rooting for Tanner and Louise with every turn of the page. An absolute blast.”
—Taylor Jenkins Reid, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Malibu Rising

"I adored everything about this book. Sparkling writing, characters you root for, an unlikely partnership who may or may not be on the lam from the authorities and twists you didn’t see coming. Move over Thelma and Louise and make room for Louise and Tanner!”
—Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of The Rewind

Photo by Sarah Dorio
Colleen Oakley is the USA Today bestselling author of five novels including THE INVISIBLE HUSBAND OF FRICK ISLAND and YOU WERE THERE TOO. Her books have been translated into more than 20 languages around the world, lauded by numerous outlets including People Magazine, Us Weekly, Library Journal, and Real Simple, and won multiple awards including Georgia Author of the Year.  A former magazine editor for Women's Health & Fitness and Marie Claire, Colleen lives in Atlanta with her husband, four children, three chickens, and a mutt named Baxter.

Visit Colleen online:
Website * Facebook * Twitter * Instagram 

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends March 28th at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Book Review: The Good Patient

By Sara Steven

Appearances can be deceptive...

I was taught that life is pain. That love is pain. It was unavoidable. Acceptable. I never had anything, or anyone I could count on. Not really. Not even myself.

Until I met Dr Menon...

To the outside world Lauren Taylor’s relationship with her boyfriend Josh is perfect. He is supportive and loving and has been there for Lauren during her darkest moments. But behind closed doors, secrets and lies can be hidden…

And when Lauren wakes up in a hospital bed and is told Josh is missing, those secrets come bubbling up to the surface.

Because the police think Lauren knows exactly what’s happened to Josh; that she could even be capable of his murder…

The only person who believes in Lauren's innocence is Dr Menon, who has cared for Lauren as his patient for the last few weeks. He can't believe she's capable of murder. He knows just how good she really is.

Isn’t she? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

The Good Patient is an incredibly unique story. While I’m aware of what FII (fabricated or induced illness) is, this is the first time I’ve ever seen it represented within a book. Lauren has dealt with a lot in her life pertaining to FII, and what’s even worse is that it wasn’t anything self-inflicted. Layered on top of that is the unhealthy relationship she shares with Josh, who seems to have taken Lauren’s past and exploited it for his own gain. Yet due to the connections she still holds to that past, it’s been hard for her to break ties with Josh, viewing how he treats her as acceptable behavior. 

The twist with Dr. Menon was really interesting, too. Lauren puts a lot of faith and trust in him, yet she’s not sure if it’s real or if she’s doing it because he’s the first person to appear to want the best for her. But is it for appearances? I wondered that myself, as the reader. Particularly during several scenes where his integrity is called into question. And I wondered if Lauren’s feelings towards Menon were rushed, due to her circumstances. I wanted so much for him to be a lifeline for her, but I felt just as cautious as Lauren does.

There is a lot that goes unsaid between characters. Lauren has never been honest about the type of relationship she has with Josh, other than with Menon. Due to this, she has become the number one suspect when Josh goes missing. During an interview with the police, when she is finally brave enough to voice the truth, no one believes her. For several years, despite having several opportunities to be forthright, she hasn’t been, which is quickly cited during the interview. Yet Lauren brings up a good point. Would they have even believed her anyway, with her FII background? It extends out into the other relationships she has–with her supposed best friend. Josh’s family. At one point in time, her mother. No one is honest about what is really going on.

I appreciated the past and present snapshots given by Lauren, so we have a better understanding of the choices she’s made. I do wish those snapshots had been a little longer, because it felt like it switched back and forth from the “then” and “now” a bit too quickly at times within the chapters. Yet I realize it was needed. It wasn’t a surprise to me that things ended the way they did, but I was still engaged and wanted to see what would happen next. The Good Patient really was an intriguing read!

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:  
Amazon UK * Amazon US

Alex Stone, originally an accountant from the West Midlands, is now a psychological suspense writer based in Dorset. This beautiful and dramatic coastline is the inspiration and setting for her novels. She was awarded the Katie Fforde Bursary in 2019 and her debut thriller The Perfect Daughter was published by  Boldwood in October 2021.

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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Justine Sullivan is right on a book giveaway

Photo by Sam Simon
We're excited to introduce Justine Sullivan today and talk with her about her debut domestic suspense novel, He Said He Would Be Late. Speaking of domestic suspense, she won over Melissa when she told us that she loves Bad Sisters (see Melissa's recent post about this show if you need a good binge watch). We enjoyed chatting with her about her book and her life in Boston, as well. Thanks to Henry Holt, we have two copies to give away!

Oddly enough, we're the ones who are late in posting about this novel. It actually published last week.

Justine Sullivan was born and raised just outside of Baltimore, Maryland, where she failed to learn how to shuck  a crab and never attended a single Orioles game. She did, however, discover a passion for reading at her local  Harford County Library. She went on to study English Literature at the University of Delaware and then earned  her master's in journalism from Boston University and has since spent a number of years working in both newsrooms and the world of branded content. Justine lives outside of Boston with her husband and two terribly behaved dogs. 

Liz Bennett knows that she is one of the lucky ones. Wealthy and charming, Arno is a supportive husband to Liz and a doting father to their daughter, Emma. A rising banker at a top firm in the Boston area, he is the picture of perfection, rounding off their idyllic New England life. But when Liz sees a text on Arno's phone with a kissy-face emoji, her anxiety kicks into overdrive and she begins to worry that her luck has run out.

Plagued by persistent skepticism and countless sleepless nights, Liz decides she must uncover the truth about her husband—as any wife would. So she takes a deep breath and dives down the rabbit hole. As Liz peels back layers of deceit and tracks down every lead, a frenzy begins to take over her life. Could Arno really be unfaithful? Or is Liz's imagination getting the best of her? When everyone around her is convinced she's become unhinged, she must prove, if only to herself, that a woman's intuition expands beyond a single cryptic text. (Courtesy of Amazon.)

"Frank, funny...a read-in-one-sitting ride that’s crazy, heartfelt, and maybe a little heartbreaking as well."
―Gilly Macmillan, New York Times bestselling author of The Nanny

“He Said He Would Be Late is mesmerizing and propulsive―at once a humorous and relatable exploration of motherhood and marriage and an entirely successful story of suspense. I absolutely adored this book.”
―Nora Murphy, author of The Favor

In one sentence, what was the road to publishing like for you? 
Very fast, then very slow — something I imagine all debut authors feel as they come down from the high of selling their first novel to the reality of editing, more editing, copy-editing, proofreading, more proofreading, etc.!

How is Liz similar to or different from you?
Liz and I are both anxious people by nature, but she definitely catastrophizes far more intensely than I do. I also have not experienced the same ambivalence toward motherhood (which is totally fine and normal to feel, by the way!) that Liz has. 

If He Said He Would Be Late was made into a movie, who would you cast in the leading roles?
Liz would be played by Meghann Fahy and Arno could be played by Miles Teller.

Which TV series are you currently binge watching?
Currently watching Shrinking on Apple TV. It’s like a warm cup of tea. But the best show I binged this year was Bad Sisters.

What is your favorite springtime activity?
Taking a walk in the Arnold Arboretum with my family and dogs to see the flowers bloom. 

If we were to visit you, what are some places you would take us to see?
Well, my husband and I live on the South Shore (about an hour south of Boston), so first we’d start the day with coffee and donuts at SlackTide Coffee Roasters (the best coffee on the South Shore!) Then we’d go for a leisurely walk at Norris Reservation in Norwell, Massachusetts, along the peaceful banks of the North River. We’d round out the day by popping into Storybook Cove in Hanover for some book-shopping.

Thanks to Justine for chatting with us and to Henry Holt for sharing her book with our readers.

How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends March 26th at midnight EST.

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Monday, March 20, 2023

Book Review: How I'll Kill You

By Sara Steven

Make him want you.

Make him love you.

Make him dead.

Sissy has an...interesting family. Always the careful one, always the cautious one, she has handled the cleanup while her serial killer sisters have carved a path of carnage across the U.S. Now, as they arrive in the Arizona heat, Sissy must step up and embrace the family pastime of making a man fall in love and then murdering him. Her first target? A young widower named Edison--and their mutual attraction is instant. While their relationship progresses, and most couples would be thinking about picking out china patterns and moving in together, Sissy's family is reminding her to think about picking out burial sites and moving on.

But then something happens that Sissy never anticipated: She begins to feel protective of Edison, and then, before she can help it, she's fallen in love. But the clock is ticking, and her sisters are growing restless. It becomes clear that the gravesite she chooses will hide a body no matter what happens; but if she betrays her family, will it be hers? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads.)

What a unique story! It’s not often that I read a book about women who are serial killers, particularly sisters who have a pact to stick together, no matter what–including who they choose to kill. The storyline takes a turn when Sissy chooses Edison as her first target, because falling in love with your target is never part of the plan. It complicates everything, essentially putting Sissy in the worst of predicaments: should she continue to side with her sisters, or should she let her heart decide? 

When Sissy describes her methods as the one-man cleanup crew, it was seriously astounding. There were so many intricate details, which made me truly feel as though she really is the one who is essentially the backbone for her sisterly group. They really can’t get by or continue to elude the authorities without her, which is why it’s even more important that Sissy fall in line with all of the plans they’ve set out to accomplish. It was great to see such a divide between doing what her sisters think is right, versus Sissy doing what she thinks is right, in essence coming into her own, since she’s always been considered the less-experienced one. 

There is a pretty explosive moment towards the end of the book, and I wasn’t sure how things would play out. Or who would make it out alive. It’s continual moments like that one that really made How I’ll Kill You a fun roller-coaster ride, from start to finish! A well-deserved five-star read! 

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Friday, March 17, 2023

Book Review: Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers

By Jami Denison

There’s nothing like a good cup of tea, or “cuppa,” as the British call it. The Brits were so keen about their tea that they colonized India to guarantee their supply; the American colonists fought a war when they taxed it. (Although, strangely enough, iced tea isn’t very common in England.) Asian countries have their own elaborate tea ceremonies. And in Jesse Q. Sutanto’s latest release, Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers, the tea is the star of the show. Everything else, including murder, comes in second. 

Widow Vera Wong lives above the small teashop she runs in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Her days are spent texting her adult son Tilly and waiting on the shop’s only customer. It’s a small, lonely life until one day Vera discovers Marshall Chen dead on the floor of her shop. Disgusted that the police don’t seem to know what they’re doing (it’s nothing at all like CSI!) Vera swipes the flash drive hidden in Marshall’s palm and decides to run her own investigation. Soon, people start flocking to the shop and asking questions – two reporters, Marshall’s widow, and his twin brother. One of them has to be the killer. But as Vera gets to know her suspects better, will she have the heart to turn in a killer?

Most mysteries unfold like a speeding train rushing toward the destination of the killer reveal. Vera Wong is more of a gentle stroll in the park. With vivid descriptions of food (oh, the Chinese feasts that Vera cooks!) and tea, the book is a warm blanket to be read under a warm blanket. There’s no frantic turning of pages here, no desperate desire to uncover a murderer before the detective does. Just the hope that Vera gets the family she deserves.

That family includes Riki and Sana, the two fake reporters who were each separately victims of Marshall’s duplicity. And Marshall’s widow Julia, whom Marshall deserted shortly before his death. Then there’s Marshall’s twin brother Oliver, who had been best friends with Julia in high school but was bullied incessantly by his twin. As Vera researches each character’s motivations, she becomes an indispensable part of their lives, whether they like it or not. 

The book is told from each character’s third person point of view. All of Marshall’s victims are incredibly insecure; Vera has enough confidence for all of them. One of the most interesting parts of the narrative is the contrast in the way Vera sees herself versus how she appears to others. But they are all highly likeable characters to root for. None of them seems like a murderer, even as Marshall is revealed to be completely loathsome. 

Vera Wong is a comfortable, cozy mystery. It doesn’t have the high jinx of Sutanto’s debut, Dial A for Aunties, nor the chills of a domestic thriller. But if you have a few biscuits and a warm cup of tea, it’s a perfect companion.  

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

More by Jesse Q. Sutanto:

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Thursday, March 16, 2023

Spotlight and Giveaway: The Love Wager

We're excited to feature Lynn Painter's latest rom-com, The Love Wager, today. It sounds like such a cute story and we know you will enjoy it. Thanks to Berkley, we have one copy for a lucky reader!

Hallie Piper is turning over a new leaf. After belly-crawling out of a hotel room (hello, rock bottom), she decides it’s time to become a full-on adult. She gets a new apartment, a new haircut, and a new wardrobe, but when she logs onto the dating app that she has determined will find her new love, she sees none other than Jack, the guy whose room she snuck out of. 

After agreeing they are absolutely not interested in each other, Jack and Hallie realize they’re each other’s perfect wing-person in their searches for The One. They text each other about their dates, often scheduling them at the same restaurant so that if things don’t go well, the two of them can get tacos afterward.

Spoiler: they get a lot of tacos together. 

Discouraged by the lack of prospects, Jack and Hallie make a wager to see who can find true love first, but when they agree to be fake dates for a weekend wedding, all bets are off. As they pretend to be a couple, lines become blurred and they both struggle to remember why the other was a bad idea to begin with.

Lynn Painter lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and pack of wild kids. She is a community columnist for the Omaha World-Herald, as well as a regular blogger for their parenting section. When she isn’t reading or writing, she can be found eating her feelings and shotgunning cans of Red Bull.

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How to win: Use Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. If you have trouble using Rafflecopter on our blog, enter the giveaway here

Giveaway ends March 21st at midnight EST.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Sara and Melissa Talk About...Drama!

We've been running a column series (for three years now!) to get more personal with our readers. This month, we're talking about drama, which you can find in most novels these days. Just saying....

We're always open to topic suggestions, so please don't hesitate to share those in the comments. We'd also love to know if you can relate to anything we've said or hear your own thoughts on the topic. So don't be shy. :) We look forward to getting to know you as much as we're letting you get to know us. You can find our previous columns here, in case you missed them. 

Sara Steven:

Melissa and I often take turns when it comes to picking out a topic for our monthly blog post. I’m fairly certain I was the one who suggested we talk about drama for this month, and to be honest, I can’t remember why I’d come up with that topic, or where it had stemmed from. I must have been dealing with some drama of my own at the time–I know back then, I was either nearly estranged or just starting a new job after saying sayonara to the former one, a situation I still suffer a bit of PTSD from. It was a few short months before I couldn’t take it anymore and said “when,” for physical and mental reasons, but it felt like it was three long years within a very toxic environment. Even now, when I bring up that bitter past, my husband tells me, “They can’t hurt you anymore,” and pats my back in solidarity. 

So, maybe that’s the mood I’d been in when I suggested we talk about drama. I know ordinarily, I hate drama. I’m not the kind to want to sip the tea, gulp the tea, or spill the tea, respectively. I do well in low-stress situations, and that’s the vibe I try to hold onto in my life. I know we can’t always prevent the drama from seeping into our lives, but I do my best. 

It wasn’t always like that. In my youth, a large part of me thrived on it. Particularly during my teen years, when it seemed I’d been presented with situations that would thrust me right into the thick of some crazy and bizarre scenarios. A moment from prom just popped into my memory banks, or more so, the after prom–holding one of my close friends upright in the shower, while screaming at her to “say your A-B-C’s,” shoving copious amounts of Wonder bread into her mouth in an attempt to soak up the alcohol she’d consumed in mass quantities. But I guess that could be the dramatic story for a lot of people who’d gone to a party after prom. It seemed back then, particularly in the nineties, there weren't a lot of limits, and somehow despite our underage status, we had access to hardcore liquor. 

The drama continued through my early to mid-twenties, mostly due to the types of friendships I had. Dramatic people sought me out, maybe because I was often a pushover who just went along with what everyone else wanted me to do. It often meant putting myself into some really precarious situations, or at times, at the center of someone else’s relationship, making it easier to point a finger at me versus other people, or themselves. 

For several years, I was a self-professed “people collector". I had a tough time letting go of anyone I’d had a relationship with, even extending out to exes. But at some point, something snapped for me. Or, clicked. I realized I didn’t have to put up with other people’s drama. The self-professed people collector who could never let go of anyone, decided she’d had enough and wanted to put up some boundaries. It meant at times, having to let go of relationships that were not healthy for me. I thought it would be a really hard transition for me to make, but it felt good to walk away from the drama and chaos. Things felt so much simpler. I could focus more on what is important to me, like my family, or my hobbies, without feeling the guilt of shifting focus away from supporting someone else’s dramatic needs and wants. 

Drama can’t always be avoided, I get that. Scenarios like the one I’d experienced when I had the toxic job will pop up from time to time, because life can’t always remain stress-free and drama-free. Life would probably get a little stagnant if that were the case. But, knowing my limits, not to mention knowing where I stand when it comes to allowing drama a place at the table, means not leaving myself in bad situations for far too long. 

Melissa Amster:

When Sara chose this topic, I didn't really know what to write about. I thought maybe I'd talk about how having a pre-teen daughter is a whole new level of drama. My friend and I compare our daughters to Katie Ka-Boom from Animaniacs all the time. It's pretty much accurate. One moment, she'll be my best friend and the next moment she is screaming at me because she didn't have time to get her homework done and that's somehow my fault. Then I figured that what I just said summed it all up. If you have a  daughter who is approaching her pre-teen years, please feel free to contact me and I will be glad to commiserate with you. 

The other thing that I thought of from this topic was Degrassi. I spent half a year binge-watching Degrassi: The Next Generation during the pandemic. I was a fan of Degrassi Junior High and Degrassi High when I was growing up. Somehow, I missed The Next Generation (TNG) since it started in the early 2000s and I was in my mid-twenties by then. Anyway, there is a LOT of drama on every episode of TNG. I joke that the school is cursed because bad things happen to everyone all the time. No one is immune. I know the series is set up as a cautionary tale for teens, but watching it as an adult makes me thankful that my teens aren't getting themselves into all kinds of trouble. Here's just a "short" list of all the things that happen to the characters:

  • Teen pregnancy
  • Rape
  • Eating disorders
  • Cancer
  • School shooting
  • Death of classmates due to some horrible situations
  • Drug abuse
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Child abuse
  • Parents getting divorced
  • Bullying (in person and online)
  • Getting catfished
  • Pervy teachers (I remember the first time that happened was with a teacher coming on to Lucy on DJH.)
  • Coming out as the only gay teen in the school
  • Self-harm
  • Being stalked
  • Being the parent to their parents 
  • Abortion
  • Suicide
  • Poverty
  • Gang violence
  • Running away from home
  • Getting robbed or mugged
I'm sure there were plenty of other things, but this list speaks volumes. Anytime someone got confronted, they would yell at the person confronting them to reveal what their difficult situation was. I still remember when Marco first told one of his friends (Spinner) that he was gay, but it was because Spinner kept harping on him for leaving a double date. Marco ended up yelling the truth about himself. I also remember Ellie yelling at Paige for confronting her about self-harming. 

Anyway, despite all these dramatic situations, TNG is an addictive binge-watch. I even got Sara into it and we have some inside jokes as a result. (Is that...Peter?!?)

Tell us about some drama going on in your life. We won't judge!

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Book Review: Ten Dates

By Sara Steven

Is it the end of their love story or just the beginning?

Callum Roberts and Alice McClaren have spent two wonderful years building a life and a home and making plans for a future together. But when Alice is involved in a car crash, Callum fears that he has lost her forever. As he sits by her bedside he promises he’ll do anything if only she’ll open her eyes…

But when Alice does finally wake up, she has absolutely no memory of being in love with Callum or the life they once shared. In fact, all she remembers about him is how incredibly annoying he once was! How can she have forgotten him if she really did love him so deeply?

Callum is determined to prove to Alice that what they had was special, so he makes her a deal: he’ll recreate their first ten dates and make her fall in love with him all over again!

Alice isn’t sure Callum can fill in all the gaps in their story. And what if going back to the start only means the end? (Synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

I didn’t read the synopsis before starting Ten Dates, which led me to think that the story would start out with a simply sweet premise about two love interests who embark on several dates. That wasn’t at all what I got. What I discovered was so much more than that.  

The story starts with a bang, so to speak, when Alice discovers she’s been in a car accident. The disorientation from that was well described, and what I’d imagine it would be like for someone who finds out their whole life has been upended, with no recollection of the accident. Sadly, that also means she has no recollection of the relationship she has with Callum, either, a man she’s known since childhood and who she has always pegged as someone to keep at arm’s length, never someone she’d consider romantically. 

After the tragedy of the accident, begins the beauty of Callum’s goal in winning Alice back. It reminded me a lot of the movie 50 First Dates–while Alice might not have continually forgotten everything, she’s still forgotten such a large portion of her life, and that mostly involves Callum. I appreciated the patience and dedication he shows her, and there were moments where I’d get a little annoyed at Alice because she seemed a little mean to him, but after some reflection, I can see where she is coming from. While for Callum, Alice is as she’s always been, Alice doesn’t know Callum as her partner or lover, so it’s an awkward position to be in. And even when her memories slowly come back to her, it’s really important to her to take her time in finding a rhythm with him again.

Despite the awkwardness, there is a deep-rooted attraction she has for him that doesn’t go away. And as time goes on, it gets deeper and deeper. But there is an agreement between the two of them: if she doesn’t feel she can get back to where they once were, whatever that means, it’s perfectly acceptable for her to go her own way. But that means losing Callum. 

I enjoyed the storyline and the plot. I thought it was unique and interesting, particularly the 50 First Dates aspect to it. While I think I would have liked to see a bit more flashback from the characters–there was one particular chapter where it ends with Alice asking Callum a leading question, and I thought for sure the next chapter would give us some background into the past and what their relationship had been like back before they were a couple–it was still engrossing and I was eager to see where things would go for them relationship-wise, but also how Alice would feel and be after she’s fully healed. It was a seriously good romantic read.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

Rachel Dove lives in leafy West Yorkshire with her family, and rescue animals Tilly cat and Darcy the dog (named after Mr Darcy, of course!) A former teacher specializing in Autism, ADHD and SpLDs, she is passionate about changing the system and raising awareness/acceptance. Loves a good rom-com, and the beach!

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