My First Ten Books of 2023

The first book I listened to this year was It Gets Easier! . . . And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers: A Fun, Practical Guide to Becoming a Mom by Claudine Volk.

3.5 stars: A good giode but a little patronizing in some parts

Next up was Sunrise with the Silver Surfers by Maddie Please.

4 stars: nteresting backstory and great attention to detail.

Perpetual West by Maren Mesha

4 stars: Interesting journey

Moonrise over New Jessup by Jamila Minnicks

4 stars: Atmospheric with great attention to detail. A time period I knew nothing about.

Berlin Calling by Lilo Moore

4 stars: Eurvision and great songs, would have liked lyrics.

Blinded Me With Science by Tara September

4 stars: A quick pace with great attention to detail and hot romance at times. Relatable. Excellent narrator in the audiobook version.

My Sister’s Secret by Diane Saxon

4 stars: Sisters and secrets. I enjoyed the twists and turns in this and love books about sisters.

The Pocket Guide to Neurodiversity by Daniel Aherne

5 stars: Short but excellently explained and I identified with some things and learned more about others.

The Perfect Girl by Kelly Golden

4.5 stars: Dark in some parts, gripping and mysterious

Tilly’s Tuscan Teashop by Daisy James

5 stars: Daisy James’ style shines through in this book located in Tuscany. Amazing start to a new series.

Tilly’s Tuscan Teashop by Daisy James @daisyjamesbooks @rararesources

About the Book:

Welcome to Tilly’s Tuscan Teashop, the first book in a brand new series from the author of the Hummingbird Hotel and the Cornish Confetti Agency series.When photographer Natalie Nicholson’s beach hut studio – and everything she’s spent the last two years working on – is destroyed in a fire, she doesn’t think things can get any worse. Until she sees her boyfriend Josh Clarke on Instagram frolicking on a palm-fringed Balinese beach with a fellow cabin crew member.Devastated and heartbroken, she heads to Italy to help out at her sister’s English teashop in the heart of the Tuscan countryside, where she encounters sun-dappled hilltop villages with attractive terracotta bell towers, cobbled piazzas housing world-famous art and architecture, and a national fixation with getting from A to B as quickly as possible whether in a glamourous Ferrari, a scarlet Vespa, or a snail-like ape.With handsome local filmmaker-cum-waiter Matteo Ferretti on hand to guide her, can Tilly learn to ditch her workaholic ways and embrace the Italian pursuit of la dolce vita? Or will she miss out on her chance at a happy-ever-after?

About the Author:

Daisy James loves writing stories with strong heroines and swift-flowing plotlines. She especially likes to create sunshine-filled settings in exotic locations – the Caribbean, Tuscany, Cornwall, Provence – so she can spend her time envisioning her characters enjoying the fabulous scenery and sampling the local food and d
When not scribbling away in her peppermint-and-green summerhouse (garden shed), she spends her time sifting flour and sprinkling sugar and edible glitter. She loves gossiping with friends over a glass of something fizzy or indulging in a spot of afternoon tea – china plates and teacups are a must.
Daisy would love to hear from readers via her Facebook page or you can follow her on Twitter @daisyjamesbooks, or on Instagram @daisyjamesstories.

Contact Daisy:


My Review:

Daisy James is a favourite author of mine, and her books are great. I’ve reviewed a fair few now. Great that this is first in a new series so I could get the backstory straight away. 

Tilly and friends are likeable and Blossomwood Bay is quaint…until there’s an unthinkable tragedy. Tilly experiences more than she should when she has challenges in her relationship that make her rethink where she wants to be. 

Tuscany is amazing and I was happy she had her sister. I was wondering what was going to happen with Matteo and eager to find out if Tilly was going to find her new life or not. 

Daisy James has an excellent way with words, setting, romance, realistic characters descriptions of food and sunny places. Her books always make me forget about all my troubles. 

I’m looking forward to the next novels in the series.

Thanks to Daisy James, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review. 

5 stars

Where to Buy:

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A Love to Last a Lifetime by Clare Swatman @clareswatman @BoldwoodBooks @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the Book:

The one that she wants…
Adam Bowers; handsome, funny and with the charm of a rock star, from the moment she laid eyes on him, teenage Erin was smitten. But first loves don’t always last, and after a whirlwind romance, Erin and Adam go their separate ways. Yet, Erin never lets go of the feeling that Adam may have been her soul mate…
The one that she needs…

Greg fell in love with Erin in their first week at university. Solid, trustworthy and hopelessly devoted to Erin, he knows he’s better for her than the feckless Adam, who is forever leaving Erin broken-hearted, before winning her back with his charm. As far as Greg is concerned, it’s easy to promise the world, but it’s harder to love someone for a lifetime.

The one that got away…
Years later Greg and Erin are married, and although life hasn’t always been easy, Greg’s love for Erin has never dimmed. But when Adam comes back, in desperate need of Erin’s help, everything changes. Erin starts to wonder whether fate is trying to tell her something…
Will Erin risk it all for the man she had thought was ‘The One’?

About the Author:

Clare Swatman is the author of three women’s fiction novels, published by Macmillan, which have been translated into over 20 languages. She has been a journalist for over twenty years, writing for Bella and Woman & Home amongst many other magazines. She lives in Hertfordshire. Before We Grow Old, was published in January 2022.

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My Review:

TRIGGER WARNING: Early onset dementia, sudden medical diagnosis, brain injury.

What happens when a past love reappears?

I was really looking forward to this. I did not find the characters very well fleshed-out or very visual though, which is a shame. I struggled to get into this novel, but it grew on me because of the pace and plot.

The plot was good and I loved the way that songs were woven into it and the therapeutic aspect of them in the characters’ lives and as a kind of life soundtrack. I remember liking some of the songs, and I have some on CDs. The plot and songs bought me back to my own teen/university years and was nostalgic. There’s so much emotion in this book.

The writing style is easygoing and relaxing and the chapters are a good length. A Love to Last a Lifetime is a great combination of past love, loyalty to the past or present and made me ask who Erin’s true love really was. Her teen love or her husband? I liked Erin’s friend and Erin’s parents, but Erin was hard to like. She seemed self-centred and indecisive.

I felt like maybe this was intentional though, as the other characters were so different. There’s a real feeling of doubt and being hesitant about what you really want in life running through the book as a theme.

Thanks to Clare Swatman and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

3.5 stars.

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One Day With You by Shari Low @sharilow @BoldwoodBooks @BoldwoodBooks @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the Book:

One day, five lives, but whose hearts will be broken by nightfall?
It started like any other day in the picturesque village of Weirbridge.Tress Walker waved her perfect husband Max off to work, with no idea that she was about to go into labour with their first child. And completely unaware that when she tried to track Max down, he wouldn’t be where he was supposed to be.At the same time, Max’s best friend Noah Clark said goodbye to his wife, Anya, blissfully oblivious that he would soon discover the woman he adored had been lying to him for years.And living alongside the two couples, their recently widowed friend, Nancy Jenkins, is getting ready to meet Eddie, her first true love at a school reunion. Will Nancy have the chance to rekindle an old flame, or will she choose to stay by Tress’s side when she needs her most?One Day with You – two fateful goodbyes, two unexpected hellos, and 24 hours that change everything.

About the Author:

Shari Low is the #1 bestselling author of over 30 novels, including My One Month Marriage and One Summer Sunrise and a collection of parenthood memories called Because Mummy Said So. She lives near Glasgow.

Contact Shari:

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My Review:

I love Shari Low’s books, and have enjoyed the ones I’ve reviewed so far.

One Day with You was emotional from the start and I loved everything about it. The characters, the plot, the pace and all the themes. The book really made me think.

Thanks to Shari Low, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

5 stars

My Sister’s Secret by Diane Saxon @Diane_Saxon @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the Book:

Four sisters, four secrets. Who has the deadliest of them all?

Something happened to me when I was nine.

My childhood memories before that fateful day are gone. Extinguished.

The aftermath has become a living nightmare with a guilt that runs so deep that I’m not sure I can ever tell anyone. I fear I’ve left it too late…

The burden of my secret and the hurt and pain that silence cost each and every member of my family is too overwhelming.

But you can’t avoid fate and now I have the opportunity to right the wrongs inflicted on us.

There was no justice. Not then. Not now. But I can change that.

The big question is, how far am I willing to go?

About the Author:

Diane Saxon previously wrote romantic fiction for the US market but has now turned to writing psychological crime. Find Her Alive was her first novel in this genre and introduced series character DS Jenna Morgan. She is married to a retired policeman and lives in Shropshire.

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My Review:

My Sister’s Secret by Diane Saxon is the first novel I’ve reviewed by her.Well formed characters and a twisty plot that kept me guessing.

Thanks to Diane Saxon, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review

4 stars

Where to Buy:

Blinded Me with Science by Tara September @TaraSeptember @rararesources

About the Book:

Opposites attract like a magnet to steel, or in this case, Emerson to SteelEmerson Powers has been so focused on obtaining her science degree that she’s neglected the more social aspects of college life. With the new start of her junior year, she’s determined to fix that with a real hands-on lesson in biology. The assignment is simple enough—teach the rock star’s son how to be good, while he shows her how to be very bad. Two objectives, one outcome … will the lesson be love or heartbreak?Steel is no longer the bad boy Emerson knew from prep school, and he’s set to prove it by helping Emerson complete her secret list of desired college experiences. And if he can convince her that they are meant to be together along the way, even better!While teaming up on experiments, both in and out of the classroom, Emerson discovers a new side to Steel. Leaving her to question everything she thought she knew. Still, is it enough to forgive the past or just mere chemistry?

Fueled by an IV of green tea and Prosecco, Tara September is a multi-award-winning contemporary romance author of bestselling sassy & steamy love stories filled with banter. Based in Southwest Florida, Tara holds a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, a B.A. from Wheaton College in Massachusetts, as well as attended college courses at Queen’s College in London, U.K. She is also the proud mom to identical twin 10-year-old boys and three cats.
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My Review:

I liked the sound of this synopsis. It’s a long time since I requested a YA book, but I was doubly interested as it was an audiobook. And it was the first book I had listened to via Spotify. I enjoyed the experience.

The boy meets girl again he once knew. groupwork assignment and will-they-won’t-they find a connection that’s down to more than schoolwork/coincidence between them is one I’ve found in books before, but there are things that set Blinded Me With Science apart from other books with these themes.

I identified with the uncomfortable feeling of having to work with another student, and think so many people will, too.

Emmerson is a great character. She’s focused and caring. Steel is kind of a know it all at times, and sometimes I felt irritated by him. I was really wanting to know if they’d get on or not.

The narrator was absolutely outstanding.

Blinded Me With Science is a quick listen and the romance and internal thoughts for both characters get very hot at times. We see them being confident, vulnerable, lusting after each other then in conflict and then doubting what they feel…it’s a real emotional rollercoaster and the quick pacing with carefully chosen words and excellently placed visual details here and there makes for a great YA romance.

I didn’t know it was book 2 in the series, but it reads like a standalone. I am eager to find the other books in the series. I didn’t feel like I was missing things as sometimes happens with other series where I don’t start off with book 1.

Thanks to Tara September, and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars

Where to Buy:

And there is a free bonus chapter available at

Berlin Calling by Lilo Moore @LeonieMAuthor @rararesources

About the Book:

Berlin Calling

The song contest is hotting up, on and off the stage!

Rose writes twee pop, smiles a lot, and believes in magic and rainbows. When the cheesy love song she wrote is chosen for the European Song Contest, her luck seems to be turning around – especially when a chance encounter leads to the hottest one-night stand of her life. It’s almost too bad she’ll never see him again.
But then Rose discovers it wasn’t a chance encounter. The hot German DJ with the sexy deep voice is her rival for song contest glory.
Grumpy Emil is incredibly talented and the song he spins with his sister could be a winner, even if he doesn’t appreciate the playful spirit of the contest. As the continent falls in love with Rose and Emil’s competitive banter on social media, they must hide their history from the press or risk losing credibility – and a future songwriting career.
With an anonymous gossip out to ridicule the colourful contestants and a plot to undermine European public broadcasting bubbling under the shiny surface, Rose must be strong in the face of criticism and stand up for everything the contest means to her.
If this Canadian girl can save the contest, maybe she can believe that her feelings for Emil are the real deal.

About the Author:

 Lilo Moore is the steamy romantic comedy pen name of travel romance author Leonie Mack. She lives among vineyards in Germany, creating fictional worlds and counting down to her next trip.

Contact Lilo:




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My Review:

I have loved the Eurovision Song Contest since I was young, and so happily accepted my invitation for this blog tour. The European Song Contest is a good name for the contest and is imaginative and a good choice for the book.

Great songs, but I would have loved to have heard them.

The story is believable. I hope it gets made into a movie one day so we can hear the songs. The plot is original.

Thanks to Lilo Moore, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eaARC in exchangge for an honest and voluntary review.

4.5 stars

Where to Buy:

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It Gets Easier!….And Other Lies We Tell New Mothers by Claudine Wolk

About the Book:

Featuring interviews with hundreds of moms and candid stories from author Claudine Wolk’s own experiences as a mother, It Gets Easier! . . . and Other Lies We Tell New Mothers employs a healthy mix of humor, honesty, and insider strategies to give new and expecting moms a “leg up” on the challenging task of first-time motherhood. This fun, frank, and prescriptive guide strives to make motherhood easier by addressing issues such as: “The Talk” you need to have with your husband before you give birth; what you really need to know about labor and delivery; the importance of a baby schedule (no matter what anyone else says); the 6 Baby Commandments that can foster good eating and sleeping habits; 5 new mom mantras that will help keep you sane; body image after giving birth; and how to keep housework to a minimum. Complete with resources for further exploration and a helpful glossary, this funny, irreverent book will help eaase every new mothers’ frustrations by reminding them that they are not alone and providing tangible, easy-to-follow tips for parenting success. (less)

I’m not a mum yet, but would someday like to be. I was looking forward to this and I liked the variety of topics around parenting it covered. I liked the writing style but it was sometimes a little patronizing.

Thanks to Claudine Wolk and Women on Writing for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

3 stars.

Where to Buy:

Guest Post: ” The Eight Lies We Tell New Mothers”

Being a new mom is like stepping into a whole new world. Perhaps falling backward into Wonderland like Alice is a better description.  As with any new undertaking, a few months into new motherhood can reveal the “dirty little secrets” that all new moms know but don’t always talk about.  Here are eight lies that we tell new mothers.

  1. “It Gets Easier!” How many have mothers have uttered these three words?  Motherhood certainly doesn’t get easier on its own.  New challenges replace old challenges, but there are some things you can do, now, to make motherhood a bit easier.
  1. All moms love new motherhood. Does this sound familiar?  You have finally been introduced to the baby that you have carried for nine months. All should be bliss, right?  Wrong.  Truth is, many new moms are shocked at the physical and emotional demands of new motherhood.  They love their baby, of course, but new motherhood is anything but a pleasurable experience.   Finding out that moms are not alone in feeling a bit shell-shocked can go a long way toward enjoying motherhood.
  1. Some babies sleep through the night the moment they get home from the hospital. Ah no! This is a legend created to insure procreation.  The chance that your baby may be the “Wonka Golden Ticket” and sleep through the night on his first day of life but he doesn’t can be disappointing.
  1. Holding a baby can spoil a baby.  Not so.  Hold as much as you like.  The trick is to put the baby down drowsy, not completely asleep to help teach him how to get himself to sleep.
  1. Mom needs to be with her baby at all times. Not true! Finding a suitable replacement can be the first step toward being the best mom you can be.  Every new mom needs a break from baby or she will overload and burn-out.
  1. Only a relative is a suitable caregiver.  No way.  The best babysitters are the one you are not related to.  Sometimes a mom needs to escape without having to explain to a family member that she is checking out the latest hot yoga class in town.
  1. Breastfeeding is easy.  Breast feeding may be natural but it is not easy for many new moms.  It is, as they say, a learned skill that requires practice and instruction.  Watching another nursing mom can be a great way to learn this skill.  (Just make sure you know her, gawking after a breastfeeding stranger could be a bit creepy.)
  1. Husbands don’t mind if your sex life takes months and months to resume. LOL. Although spouses are certainly understanding in this department, make no mistake, your partner is anxious to get back in the saddle (don’t be surprised if you want to get back in the saddle, too).  Make sure you talk about it and make a plan to “do it” when your doctor says it’s ok.

Claudine Wolk is the author of It Gets Easier! and Other Lies We Tell New Mothers, just released as an audiobook! You can find her at

Just the Nicest Couple by Mary Kubica @marykubica @http_books

Just the Nicest Couple
Mary Kubica
On Sale Date: January 10, 2023
9780778333111, 0778333116
$28.99 USD, $35.99 CAD
Fiction / Thrillers / Domestic
320 pages

About the Book:

A husband’s disappearance links two couples in this twisty thriller from New York Times bestselling author Mary Kubica.

Jake Hayes is missing. This much is certain. At first, his wife, Nina, thinks he is blowing off steam at a friend’s house after their heated fight the night before. But then a day goes by. Two days. Five. And Jake is still nowhere to be found.Lily Scott, Nina’s friend and coworker, thinks she may have been the last to see Jake before he went missing. After Lily confesses everything to her husband, Christian, the two decide that nobody can find out what happened leading up to Jake’s disappearance, especially not Nina. But Nina is out there looking for her husband, and she won’t stop until the truth is discovered.

About the Author:

Mary Kubica is a New York Times bestselling author of thrillers including The Good Girl, The Other Mrs.,  and Local Woman Missing. Her books have been translated into over thirty languages and have sold over two million copies worldwide. She’s been described as “a helluva storyteller” (Kirkus) and “a writer of vice-like control” (Chicago Tribune), and her novels have been praised as “hypnotic” (People) and “illuminating” (L.A. Times). She lives outside of Chicago with her husband and children.

Contact Mary:

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Where to Buy:

Barnes & Noble:
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I gasp and stagger backward. My hand goes to my mouth, bear- ing down.
My brain screams at me to run. Run.
I can’t at first. Shock and fear hold me captive. They keep me from moving, like a ship that’s dropped anchor. I’m moored to this spot, my eyes gaping in disbelief. My breath quickens and I feel the flailing of my heartbeat in my neck, my throat and in my ears.
Run, my brain screams at me. Go. Fucking run.
There is movement on the ground before me. The sound that comes with it is something heathen and raging, and some part of me knows that if I don’t go now, I may never leave this place alive.
I turn away. It’s instantaneous. One minute I’m unmoving and the next I’m moving so fast that the world comes at me in vague shapes and colors, streaks of brown and blue and green. I barely feel the movement of my legs and my feet as I run. I don’t feel the impact of my shoes colliding with the earth, moving quickly across it. I don’t look back, though I want more than anything to steal a look to know that I’m alone. That I’m not being followed. But I don’t look. It’s too risky. Looking back would cost precious seconds that I don’t know that I have. If I do, those seconds could be my last.
Sounds come, but I’m so disoriented that I don’t know where they come from. Is it only my pulse, the rush of blood in my ears?
Or is someone there?
I feel something tangible against my hair and then my spine. My back arches. I jerk away, pitching forward, landing hard on my hands and knees.
The world stops moving.
I have only two thoughts in that moment: staying alive, and that this isn’t the way it was supposed to happen.
Lily is sitting on the leather chair in the family room when I come in. Her back is to me. I see her from behind, just her long brown hair spilling down the back of the chair. She stares toward the TV on the opposite wall, but the TV is off. It’s just a black box, and in it, I see a murky reflection of Lily on the screen, though I can’t tell if her eyes are open or shut.
“Hey,” I say, coming in through the garage door, closing it quietly and stepping out of my shoes. I set my phone and keys on the counter, and then ask, “How was your day?”
It’s getting dark in the house. Out the window, the sun is about to set. Lily hasn’t bothered with the lights, and so the in- side of the house is colorless and gray. We face east. Any pretty sunset is the other way. You can’t see it from here, if there even is one to see.
Lily says nothing back. She must have fallen asleep, sitting upright in the chair. It wouldn’t be the first time. She’s been extremely tired lately. The pregnancy is getting the best of her, not to mention that she’s on her feet teaching all day. These two things in combination exhaust her. It used to be that Lily would be in the kitchen, cooking dinner when I got home, but these last few weeks, she comes home from work ready to drop. I don’t mind that she’s not cooking. I’ve never been the kind of person to need a home-cooked meal after work, but that’s the way Lily was raised. Her mother did it for her father, and so she thinks she should do it for me. She’s been apologetic that she hasn’t had it in her to cook dinner, but she’s been queasy, too, and the last thing she needs to be doing is cooking for me. I called from the car and ordered takeout already; it will be here any minute.
I step quietly into the family room. I come around to the other side of Lily to face her. Lily isn’t asleep like I thought. Her eyes are open but her expression is blank. Her skin looks gray, washed-out like the room, and I blame the poor lighting.
Lily’s head turns. She looks up at me as if in slow motion.
“Hey,” I say again, gently, smiling. “You okay? Did I wake you?”
I flip on a side table light, and she winces from the bright- ness of it, her eyes taking time to adjust. I apologize for it, realizing that her pale face had nothing to do with the lack of light.
In the warmth of the lamp’s glow, I see that Lily’s hair is wet. She wears maroon-colored joggers and a sweatshirt. She’s showered and changed since coming home, which is more than she usually does. Usually she falls flat on the couch and doesn’t leave until it’s time to go to bed.
I drop to my knees in front of her. I reach forward and run a hand the length of her hair. “You look exhausted, babe. Do you want to just go to bed? I can help you up. Takeout should be here soon. I’ll bring it up to the room for you when it gets here.”
Lily blinks three times, as if to clear the fog. She finds her voice. It’s husky at first, dry, like after a day of shouting at a football game, which is not that different than a day of teach- ing rowdy high school kids math. “No,” she says, shaking her head, “I’m fine. Just tired. It was a long day.”
“You sure? I wouldn’t mind dinner in bed myself.” I had a long day too, but it doesn’t seem right to compare them when only one of us has another human growing inside of them.
“That sounds messy,” she says.
“I promise I’ll be neat.”
Lily smiles and my heart melts. I love it when she smiles at me. “When are you ever neat?”
“Never,” I say, feeling better if she can still poke fun at me.
I’ve done my research on pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve read that the fatigue women feel during the first trimester is maybe the most tired they’ll feel in their whole lives. Growing a human is exhausting. Caring for one is too, but we’re not there yet.
“You need anything?” I ask, and she shakes her head.
Takeout comes. I convince Lily to come sit on the couch with me, where we both fit. We watch TV and, as we do, I ask her about her day and she asks me about mine. She’s quieter than usual tonight. I do most of the talking. I’m a market research analyst, while Lily teaches high school algebra. We met in college over of our shared love of math. When we tell people that, it makes them laugh. We’re math nerds.
When it’s time for bed, Lily goes up to the room before me. From downstairs, I hear the sink run as she washes up. I clean up from dinner. I throw the takeout containers in the trash. There is a package waiting on the front porch. I step outside to get it, where the night is dark, though the sky is clear. It must be a new moon.
Lily is standing at the top of the stairs when I come back in. She’s there in the upstairs hall, standing in the dark, backlit by the bedroom light. Gone are the maroon sweats she wore ear- lier. She has on my flannel shirt now. Her legs are bare, one foot balanced on the other. Her hair is pulled back, her face still wet from washing it.
“Don’t forget to lock the door,” she says down over the rail- ing, patting her face dry with a towel.
I wouldn’t have forgotten to lock the door. I never do. It’s not like Lily to remind me. I turn away from her, making sure the storm door is shut and locked, and then I push the front door closed and lock the dead bolt too.
Our house sits on a large lot. It’s old on the outside, but has a completely revamped, modern interior. It boasts things like a wraparound porch, beamed ceilings, a brick fireplace—which Lily fell in love with the first time she laid eyes on the house, and so I knew I couldn’t say no despite the price—as well as the more modern amenities of a subzero fridge, stainless steel appliances, heated floors and a large soaker tub that I was more enthusiastic about. The house is aesthetically pleasing to say the least, with an enormous amount of curb appeal. It practically broke the bank to buy, but felt worth it at the time, even if it meant being poor for a while.
In the backyard, the river runs along the far edge of the prop- erty, bound by a public hiking and biking trail. We were worried about a lack of privacy when we first moved in, because of the trail. The trail brought pedestrians to us. Strangers. People just passing by. For most of the year, it’s not a problem. The leaves on the trees provide plenty of privacy. It’s only when they fall that we’re more exposed, but the views of the river are worth it for that small sacrifice.
“Done,” I tell her about the locks, and she asks then if I set the alarm. We’ve lived here years and hardly ever set the alarm. I’m taken aback that she would ask.
“Is everything okay?” I ask.
Lily says, “Yes, fine.” She says that we have an alarm. We pay for it. We might as well use it. She isn’t wrong—it’s just that she’s never wanted to before.
I set the alarm. I make my way around the first floor, turning off lights. It takes a minute. When I’m done, I climb the stairs for the bedroom. Lily has the lights off in the room now. She stands at the window in the dark, with her back to the door.
She’s splitting the blinds apart with her fingers and is looking out into the dark night.
I come quietly into the room. I sidle up behind Lily, setting my hand on the small of her back and asking, “What are you looking at?” as I lean forward to set my chin on her shoulder, to see what she sees.
Suddenly Lily reels back, away from the window. She drops the blinds. They clamor shut. I’ve scared her. Instinctively, her hands rise up in self-defense, as if to strike me.
I pull back, ducking before I get hit. “Whoa there, Rocky,” I say, reaching for her arms.
Lily’s hands and arms remain motionless, suspended in air.
“Shit, sorry,” she says, knowing how close she came to im- pact. The realization startles us both.
“What was that?” I ask as I gently lower Lily’s arms. Lily isn’t usually so jumpy. I’ve never seen that kind of reaction from her.
She says, “I didn’t know it was you.”
“Who did you think it was?” I ask, as a joke. She and I are the only ones here.
Lily doesn’t answer directly. Instead she says, “I didn’t hear you come up the stairs. I thought you were still downstairs.”
That doesn’t explain it.
“What are you looking at?” I ask again, gazing past her for the window.
“I thought I heard something outside,” she says.
“Like what?”
She says that she doesn’t know. Just something. We stand, quiet, listening. It’s silent at first, but then I hear the voices of kids rising up from somewhere outside. They’re laughing, and I know there are teenagers clowning around on the trail again. It wouldn’t be the first time. They never do anything too bad, though we’ve found cigarette butts and empty bottles of booze. I don’t get mad about it. I was a stupid teenager once. I did worse.
I go to the bed. I pull the blankets back. “It’s just dumb kids,
Lily. There’s nothing to be afraid of. Come to bed,” I say, but, even as she turns away from the window and slips under the sheets with me, I sense Lily’s hesitation. She’s not so sure.
Excerpted from Just the Nicest Couple @ 2023 by Mary Kyrychenko, used with permission by Park Row Books.

The Neighbour by Gemma Rogers @GemmaRogers79 @BoldwoodBooks @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the Book:

Love thy neighbour or fear thy neighbour?
For myself and Lauren, my 10-year-old daughter No3 Beech Close was to be our refuge after two years of hell nursing my sick mother.
In need of a fresh start and wanting to distance ourselves from the bad memories of my mother’s house we moved to Beech Close, a small cul-de-sac of six houses situated around a picture-perfect green.
It seemed perfect but I had underestimated the secrets that this tightknit community shared.
Within hours of moving in my next-door neighbour Valerie made it abundantly clear we were not welcome.
I soon discovered that Valerie hadn’t welcomed the previous occupant either and she’d since disappeared without a trace.
Had I put myself and my daughter in danger moving to Beech Close?
Which neighbours, if any could I trust?
And how far would they go to keep their secret?

About the Author:

Gemma Rogers was inspired to write gritty thrillers by a traumatic event in her own life nearly twenty years ago. Her debut novel Stalker was published in September 2019 and marked the beginning of a new writing career. Gemma lives in West Sussex with her husband and two daughters.

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My Review:

After Reckless. (renamed as The Teacher), I was very eager to review another Gemma Rogers book.

In The Neighbour, Shelly and her daughter Lauren have had a bad few years and want to make a fresh start. They move to beach close, the small cul-de-sac of six houses around a green. There’s a mixture of very well created characters, amongst them is Valerie. 

The writing is very well paced. Will Shelley and Lauren stay or go? Why did others leave the close? Not even Teddy their dog is as safe as they thought….

Is this the right place for a fresh start after all? 

The Neighbour will send shivers down your spine, as it did for me. Gemma Rogers has created an amazingly real yet creepy atmosphere. I started to question whether her neighbours were really trustworthy, just as she did.

I feared for hers, Lauren’s and Teddy’s safety. I even hoped Josh was trustworthy. I liked him, but the plot’s twists and turns were so clever it made me suspicious of everyone. There are likeable and unlikeable characters. Once the book starts, it reels you in and keeps you there.

The Neighbour is one to keep you up at night. 

Thanks to Gemma Rogers, Boldwood Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for my eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

5 stars

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