I learned the value of religion when I was at school and had Religious Education (RE) classes. The teacher taught the lessons in a fun way. I went to church on Sundays with my mum and sister.I practice religion and pray silently every day. Prayers make me reflect and make me focus and be calm.
It’s hard to find a wheelchair accessible church where I am. I believe God is all around me.
I was baptised twice: Once, when I was a baby and hospital staff held an emergency baptism for me and my identical twin sister Natalie, and again sometime after once I was home from the hospital.
Going to church held it’s own challenges for me: accessibility, and not being able to hold the hymnals or see the number of the hymn we were going to sing. I learned The Lord’s Prayer at school every morning.
I still practice religion in my own way by being kind to those who are kind to me, and believe in the importance of prayer.
I really like themed makeup. I was excited when an email about their new Little Mermaid makeup collection landed in my inbox. Lately, I’ve realized Kiko’s prices have gone up, but I wouldn’t mind buying something from this collection if there’s a sale sometime.
They say life flashes before your eyes when you’re about to die. But all she could see was regret.The people in Frankie Morgan’s life say she’s angry. Emotionally stunted. Combative. But really, who can blame her? It’s hard being nice when your clients are insufferable, your next-door neighbor is a miserable woman and the cowardly driver who killed your mother is still out living it up somewhere.Somehow, though, she finds herself at her very first anger-management group session—drinking terrible coffee and learning all about how “forgiveness is a process.”One that starts with a list.Frankie is skeptical. A list of everyone who’s wronged her in some way over the years? More paper, please. Still, she makes the pointless list—with her own name in a prominent spot—and promptly forgets about it…until it goes missing. And one by one, the people she’s named start getting hurt in freak accidents, each deadlier than the last.Could it be coincidence giving her the revenge she never dared to seek…or something more sinister?If Frankie doesn’t find out who’s behind it all, she might be next.
Describe THE REVENGE LIST in four words?
Twisted, surprising, gut-wrenching, original.How would you describe your latest book in a few sentences?
When Frankie Morgan loses her “forgiveness list” – the names of people who have wronged her in the past, and whom she could work to forgive – she thinks nothing of it. But as the people on Frankie’s list have increasingly serious accidents, Frankie’s in trouble. She wrote her own name on the list because her past self is the one person she’ll never forgive. If she doesn’t find out who’s behind the attacks, she might be next.
Q&A with Hannah Mary McKinnon:
What’s “the story behind the story.” Tell us about the inspiration for THE REVENGE LIST?
I can usually pinpoint exactly where the inspiration for my novels came from. Typically, it’s a news article (You Will Remember Me and Her Secret Son) or a radio segment (Sister Dear), maybe some daydreaming (The Neighbors) or a specific character (Never Coming Home).
With The Revenge List, it was after batting various plot ideas around with my agent Carolyn, and former editor Emily that a random idea popped into my head: “What if an anger management group therapy exercise went terribly wrong?” That was it—we all needed to know what the rest of the story was.
What did you have the most fun with, character or plot?
Both, because they’re intrinsically linked. I loved building Frankie’s history to figure out who had wronged her in the past, how it had shaped her life and was still influencing her in the present. Frankie’s a firecracker, and it was incredibly interesting to write from the perspective of a woman who struggles with anger and doesn’t always handle it in a way that’s expected.
Did any of the characters appear fully formed?
No, they never do, but Frankie’s character came together quite quickly once I’d decided on a rough premise. I knew she’d have a certain amount of anger caused by her past, that she might be construed as an “angry woman” and I wondered what it would be like to write from that character’s perspective – without her being angry all the time, of course, because that would be exhausting. I also deliberately placed her in a male-dominated industry, which I have a lot of experience working in.
Did the story end the way you’d initially thought?
Yes, it did. I had the ending in mind when I started outlining and it barely changed. It still gives me the shivers.Five facts readers don’t know about THE REVENGE LIST
The fictional coffee shop, Jake’s Cakes, originally appears in Sister Dear. It was fun to revive it as a little easter egg for anyone who reads both books.
I put Frankie in construction because it’s such a male dominated industry, but also because, I often went to construction sites when I was a kid as my dad worked as an architect. I still find them fascinating.
Like Frankie, I had a job at a grocery store when I was in school but thankfully nothing bad ever happened there.
I set the book in Portland, Maine because I’ve been there and loved it.
I modeled reporter Danika Danforth’s personality on my good friend Hank Phillippi Ryan. One reader told me “reporters aren’t that nice” and I replied, “Hank is!”
Do you have a favorite chapter or scene?
I adored writing the scenes with Frankie and Rico because I loved the brother/sister relationship and dynamic. I don’t have a brother, but if I did, I hope it would be someone like Rico as he was such a wonderful, caring man who clearly adored his sibling but wouldn’t put up with her nonsense, either.
Do you have a favorite character?
It’s got to be Frankie. I loved writing from her perspective – I found her so interesting and complex, including the fact that, even given her history, she’s still an optimist at heart. She became a great (fictional) friend.
What do you hope readers will take away from THE REVENGE LIST?
I always say I hope to surprise readers, and that they keep thinking about the book long after they’ve finished the final page. My ultimate goal hasn’t changed: it’s to entertain, to provide people with a form of escape and to leave them satisfied thinking, “I enjoyed that. It was time well spent! What else has Hannah Mary written?”PUBLISHING JOURNEY
At what point in your life did you realize that you were called to be a writer?
It wasn’t until my 40s when we came to Canada and my start-up HR company failed. I had a decision to make – keep working corporate or try something else. I plumped for the latter and I’m beyond thrilled I did. I love my second career so much and can’t imagine doing anything else.
Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published (or this book?)
I made a lot of mistakes before my first novel was published, including rushing to submit the manuscript to an agent before it was truly ready. After editing it for two years, taking creative writing courses, and reading a lot, I managed to secure representation. If I’d taken those classes and learned about the industry earlier, it may not have taken as long…but the rejections kept my feet firmly on the ground and made me more determined. In a FitBit meditation with Ceasar F. Barajas, I recently heard we could “think of rejection as redirection.” It really resonated with me.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing, if at all?
I’ve learned to trust my writing process. If I can get the bones of the story on paper, I’ll add layers and complexity as I go over the novel again and again in preparation for my editor’s eyes. I accept the finer details will come as I work. I’ll figure out plot-holes if I allow myself time to work through them. Just like most people who draw, paint, or write music or books, the first draft will never be my best work. Rome wasn’t built in a day and all that. I’m glad I’ve accepted this because it stops me from being overly self-critical when I start a project. I also set myself deadlines and work hard to beat them.
What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?
The camaraderie of the writing community is like nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere. Authors, agents, publishers, readers, reviewers—we all love books and it’s wonderful.
In terms of writing, I adore the anticipation of starting a new novel where everything is open, and the only limit is my imagination. I also love when I get to the editing part and think, “Yeah, there’s something here” — it’s always such a rush. What’s challenging? Pushing through the first draft and the edit thereof. I need cookies for both!PROCESS
How has your writing process changed since your first book published in 2016?
I’ve become a lot more streamlined because of deadlines. Also, I’ve figured out what works for me (plotting and structure) and what doesn’t (winging it), all of which goes a long way. Having written seven published and two upcoming novels means I have a good few years of experience in the industry, and I’ve learned to trust my instincts. When I find myself thinking, “Gah, this is terrible!” I remind myself I’ve said that about every previous books. That’s a lie. My husband reminds me of it each time and he’s right.
All your books are filled with many plot twists and turns. How much of the stories have you mapped out in advance, or does your writing style, take, well, twists and turns as you go along?
I love twists and turns, and the more books I write, the more I plot them. While detailed outlines make me more productive and efficient because I know where I’m headed, it doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll end up at the destination I mapped out. Things change as I write. I plot, but I’m flexible and still need my manuscript to surprise me as it evolves.
In The Neighbors, for example, the ending changed quite dramatically as I got closer to finishing my first draft. In Her Secret Son, the final chapters were different because I wasn’t happy with whom I’d planned to kill. Sister Dear and You Will Remember Me’s endings are close to how I’d imagined but more sinister. Never Coming Home and The Revenge List barely changed at all.
With all my books, more twists and turns appeared as I wrote. That’s another fun part of writing, discovering what your characters will do when you let them loose. I can’t possibly know everything from the beginning, nor would I want to.
What is your writing process like?
Extremely structured with plots, deadlines, and word-count targets. For The Revenge List, the “what if” idea came first, then Frankie’s character, followed by the storyline. I noodled the thoughts around as the main characters took shape. The next step was to write an outline. I started by jotting down the big picture plot points, which I used as stepping-stones to build and write the rest of the outline. I filled out personality questionnaires for my main characters to understand them better, and searched for photos on the internet to build a gallery. I also put a map of Portland together to work out who lived and worked where.
I wrote the basic manuscript that was a little over two-thirds of the final word count, then layered and developed until I was happy calling it a first draft, and sent it to my editor. She loved it (phew!).What kind of research did you do, and how long did you spend researching before beginning the book?
One of the characters in The Revenge List has appendicitis, which our eldest son had when he was ten, so I drew on that experience, which thankfully was far easier than my fictional scenario. I called in the experts for more in-depth medical advice, police, and court procedures, and how adoption in Maine works, which was all fascinating. Research is one of my favorite parts of writing a book—not only because it’s interesting to learn new things, but mainly because I get to speak with such brilliant and knowledgeable people.
I don’t do a lot of research before I write but tend to put placeholders for areas that need fleshing out and go back to them after I’ve finished my first draft. That way I’m not spending hours on facts that don’t make the cut, or getting sidetracked by facts which are interesting, but potentially irrelevant to the story.
What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?
Bet you I’m flagged by more than one government agency with my search history. For 2022’s book, Never Coming Home, one element was figuring out what Drano does to a corpse (spoiler: it’s not pretty), the generalities of hiring a hitman on the dark web, as well as technical aspects of spyware on cell phones. Like I said: flagged!
You often set your novels in Maine. Can you tell us why?
I prefer writing about places I’ve been as there’s only so much you can do online to visualize a town (which is why I make them up in certain novels, too). We have family in New Brunswick, and when we visit, we sometimes drive from Toronto via the United States, which takes us through Maine. It’s beautiful and I loved Portland in particular. I hope to return soon.
What’s the one element of a thriller novel that is a MUST?
Plot twists and secrets. I want to be surprised when I’m reading a thriller, although that can be said for any genre, so I guess you need to throw in a dead body or three somewhere as well.
Do you find it easier to write character and dialogue for the opposite sex because you are the opposite sex? (A woman writing a man’s part and dialogue for example).
I enjoy both equally although I do find when I write a man’s point-of-view I’m more direct. Nevertheless, one of my first questions is, “Whose story is this?” After that, to be honest, I try not to overthink whether I’m writing a man or a woman. The important thing is to give them a voice, develop their character and backstory, and make them seem as human to the reader as they are to me.Do you come up with the plot or the characters first, and how do you develop them?
It depends on the book. Generally, it’s an idea for a plot first. A “what if” scenario prompted by a radio segment, as was the case for Sister Dear, or a news story, like with You Will Remember Me. With The Revenge List it was the “what if an anger management therapy exercise went wrong” question that was the genesis for the story. It’s quite fascinating how an entire fictional world can be built from nine words. Gosh, I love my job.
How long did it take to write the book, and how many drafts do you usually write before publication?
The Revenge List took about two weeks to plot, plus four months to write and edit to the point where it was ready to send to my editor. Structural edits thereafter were quite minimal – maybe two weeks of work. I fully expect my next ten novels to kick me in the crotch because of this!
In terms of drafts, there’s the basic puke draft/edit, then I’ll go over it probably 7-10 times before it’s ready for my editor. After that we’ll do another number of passes to restructure if necessary, and smooth out the rough bits. I love working with my editor!
Do you read other fiction while you’re working on a book, or do you find it distracting? Do you listen to music while you write?
I’m always with a book in hand (or headphones in my ears taking my audiobooks for a walk) and it would be awful for me to not read when I’m writing. To me, books aren’t distracting at all, but music is. I need silence when I work. My preferred writing spot, at least to draft my initial manuscripts, is our spare bedroom with its dodgy Wi-Fi connection and a laptop. I leave my phone downstairs, so I’m not tempted to check emails, the news, or go on social media. My productivity at least doubles.
Do you have a go-to first reader after you feel your manuscriptis ready?
Fellow crime author A.F. Brady and bookstagrammer Sonica Soares have read quite a few of my recent novels before anybody else. They’re extremely insightful and give brilliant, candid feedback, which is exactly what I need.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Cookies! But seriously, it’s the first pass after the puke draft. It takes forever and it’s my least favorite part.
Finish this: “I can’t write without…”
A tidy desk! For me, a cluttered space = a cluttered mind. It makes me jumpy. I also need a huge jug of water.INSPIRATION
Where do you get your ideas?
I can pinpoint exactly how each book started. Time After Time is a story about a woman who’s unhappy with her life, which was me when we moved to Canada and my HR company crashed and burned, although the rest of the novel is fictional. The idea for The Neighbors came to me when two houses on our courtyard went up for sale, and I wondered who might move in. Her Secret Son stemmed from a news segment I saw while I was at the gym (probably wishing I were eating cake instead).
Sister Dear was a radio segment about a woman who’d found a wedding ring at a playground and was trying to locate the owner through social media. You Will Remember Me was inspired by the true story of a man who vanished from a ski hill in Lake Placid and showed up six days later in Sacramento with amnesia.
Never Coming Home was different – this one was character driven. I wanted to write a story from a male antagonist’s point-of-view, and Lucas literally popped into my head and said, “Ta-daa! Okay, I’m here, get writing!”
With The Revenge List, it was after batting various plot ideas around with my agent Carolyn, and former editor Emily that a random idea popped into my head: “What if an anger management group therapy exercise went terribly wrong?” That was it—we all needed to know what the rest of the story was.
Who or what are your literary influences?
Long-standing ones are Lisa Jewell, David Nicholls, and one of my closest friends, Jennifer Hillier. I’ll read anything they write.
Newer additions include Kimberly Belle, Heather Gudenkauf, Gilly Macmillan, Mary Kubica, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Caz Frear – there are so many brilliant authors it’s hard to name only a few.
Is anything in this book based on real-life experiences?
Heck no! There might be the odd detail here or there, but the rest is made up.
How do you market your work?
In collaboration with my publisher, HarperCollins who are incredibly supportive and have a fabulous team I can’t praise highly enough. I’m also very active on social media and love connecting with readers, reviewers, and bloggers. My author friends and bookstagrammers / book bloggers are fabulous champions of my novels, too. Their tireless enthusiasm is a balm for the writerly soul and I’m grateful to every single one of them. It really does take a village.
Did anything good come out of the seemingly endless pandemic?
Well…with online events I never have to ask, “Does my bum look big in this?” But seriously, one fantastic thing that happened is First Chapter Fun. Back in March 2020, when Covid first hit Canada, I was in a Messenger chat with a group of authors, discussing how we could help promote one another and give our books a boost. I half-jokingly offered to read the first chapter of their novels on Facebook and Instagram, and within a few days I had over 40 daily readings lined up and launched First Chapter Fun. I read for 53 days in a row (didn’t think the “must do hair and make-up” thing through very well), introducing viewers to a new novel and author each day.
In May 2020, I teamed up with my partner-in-fictional-crime, powerhouse crime author Hank Phillippi Ryan. We created a new Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/groups/firstchapterfun and http://www.instagram.com/firstchapterfun. We now read once a week, every Tuesday on both platforms simultaneously at 12.30 pm ET, and often have giveaways. All the previously aired episodes are saved and can be viewed at leisure. It’s a wonderful community where we share the love of books and introduce new and/or new-to-you authors twice a week. Our goal is to keep your “to be read” pile completely out-of-control and, or so we’ve been told, we’re succeeding. Hank and I have also become great friends and talk all the time, something for which I’ll be eternally grateful.
What kind of advice would you give to aspiring thriller READERS?
Try different sub-genres, of which there are many. Perhaps you love police procedurals, or psychological thrillers may fascinate you. Maybe you don’t want something overly graphic, so cozies might be to your taste, or alternatively you could go hard-boiled noir. I think some people have the impression thrillers are all blood, guts, and gore, but that’s not the case. There’s something for everyone. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Read as much and often as you can and listen to audio books. I wrote an article about how the latter make you a better author here. Write, even if you think it’s rubbish, because an empty page is impossible to edit. Another tip someone once suggested was to skip ahead if I couldn’t get a grasp on a chapter or scene, that I should focus on another part of the manuscript and trust myself enough to backfill later. It was revolutionary to me, and it beats the heck out of staring at a blank page or shoving my hand in the cookie jar.
Also, I was advised to read my manuscript out loud. Every. Single. Word. Doing so helps avoid repetition, improves cadence, and zaps stilted dialogue. And, finally, share your work. It can be scary, but it’s the only way you’ll get feedback and improve your craft. Speaking of feedback: try not to take it personally. It’s unlikely lip service will get you where you want to be.
Tell us a little bit about yourselfand how you started writing.
Writing novels wasn’t on my radar until we moved from Switzerland to Canada in 2010. When we arrived, and my HR start-up company failed, it catapulted me into deciding what I truly wanted to do, and whether I wanted to reinvent myself. After a long while (with a lot of moping about) I realized the answer was to become an author, and I got to work.
My debut was a rom com called Time After Time (2016) a light-hearted story about paths not taken. After that I wanted to write grittier stories, and quickly transitioned to the dark side of suspense.
My thrillers are:
The Neighbors (2018) Her Secret Son (2019) Sister Dear (2020) You Will Remember Me (2021) Never Coming Home (2022) The Revenge List (2023)
The thriller for 2024 is done and I’m working on the one for 2025. It all does a great job of keeping me out of trouble.
NEWSFLASH: I’m branching out this year! My holiday romantic comedy, The Christmas Wager will publish as Holly Cassidy in fall of 2023. It’s about real-estate hot-shot Bella, who’s tasked with purchasing an old, failing Christmas store in the quaint little town of Maple Falls, which is nestled in the Colorado mountains. She thinks it’ll be easy…until she meets the owner’s stubborn but hunky grandson, electrician Jesse. Bella wants the store for next to nothing, Jesse refuses, and they end up competing in the town’s quirky annual Holiday Games. Sparks fly – as do snowballs – but will these rivals find love together?
I’m excited to take you on a trip to Maple Falls this autumn. It was such fun to go back to my rom com roots and I’m hoping to continue doing this in conjunction with my thrillers.
What career did you think you’d have as an adult?
I remember telling my dad when I was about thirteen that I wanted to own a company. Not a huge surprise considering I grew up in the eighties when Wall Street and shoulder pads reined supreme.
At age 26, when I became a shareholder of the IT recruitment company I worked for in Switzerland, I accomplished that dream and shifted the goal posts to becoming the boss. I was promoted to CEO age 35. I’ve always been very driven, which definitely helped with my writing career.
What would your job of choice be if you didn’t write books?
I worked in IT recruitment for fifteen years before coming to Canada and was the CEO for a pan-European company. Perhaps I’d still be doing that if I didn’t change careers over a decade ago. If I was told I had to stop writing, I’d have to find a job in publishing somewhere. I can’t imagine working in another industry now.
What is the first book that made you cry?
I have absolutely no idea, but the last one was Things We Do in the Dark by Jennifer Hillier. It got right under my skin, and I’ll admit to shedding a few tears. It’s not something that happens very often.
Have you ever gotten reader’s block?
Gosh, yes, absolutely. When I was in my thirties, we had three kids in 16 months (twins the second time around, I’m not an alien) and while my husband was a stay-at-home dad, I was the CEO of a European IT recruitment company. I was so busy, I don’t think I picked up a novel in five years, and I missed them dearly. I’m so glad reading books is such a large part of my job now. How do you start your day (a routine of sorts?)
Always with a cup of Yorkshire tea (milk and a tiny bit of sugar, please) and a hug from my husband (and kids, if they let me, lol).
Favorite band or music? Favorite book and/or movie?
I listen to all kinds of music but I’m useless at remembering the names of singers or bands. Impossible to choose a favourite book, but one of my favourite movies is Inception because it’s so utterly brilliant. The other is still Love, Actually. I watch it every Christmas when I’m wrapping presents, know most of the words and absolutely adore it. Nocturnal Animals and Arrival haunted me. They’re both excellent.
Place you’d like to travel?
I’m looking forward to visiting my family and friends in Switzerland. I can’t wait to get back into the mountains.
What is something about you that people would surprise people?
I only attended school in English for three years, from age 8-11. The rest of my studies were in German and French, so I never took English literature (sorry, Shakespeare)! Oh, and my maiden name is Abplanalp, a very traditional Swiss-German name that has a story about a baby, a crib, and a landslide (yup!) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abplanalp
What are some things you enjoy when not writing?
I read a lot, as one might expect, and love being whisked away into the worlds other authors create—thrillers, romantic comedies, or otherwise.
I love getting outdoors for a hike, I’m a huge fan of the movies (I love the trailers!), I have a home gym with a water rower that’s a great workout and incredibly peaceful.
We have three teenage boys, so my husband and I spend time with them as often as they’ll let us. Watching films or playing board or card games as a family are some of my favourite things to do. There’s something deeply comforting about us having a laugh together and hanging out. Oh, I cook too, and love to bake. I make a mean lemon cheesecake, and yummy wholewheat bread.
If you were to collaborate with an author, who would it be and why?
It would be interesting to work with another author on project, however, and while I don’t have anyone specific in mind, it would have to be someone who plots their stories. I have a lot of trouble writing without an outline, and not knowing where I’m headed. I’d get very antsy, and I think it would compromise things.Is there anything you’d like to say to your readers and fans?
Thank you for your continued support. Readers, reviewers, bloggers and bookstagrammers are so generous and creative in everything they do for the book community. It’s truly a wonder to behold and they are magic!
What are you working on now?
My holiday romantic comedy, The Christmas Wager, publishes as Holly Cassidy in the fall of 2023. It’s about real-estate hot-shot Bella, who’s tasked with purchasing an old, failing Christmas store in the quaint little town of Maple Falls, which is nestled in the Colorado mountains. She thinks it’ll be easy…until she meets the owner’s stubborn but hunky grandson, electrician Jesse. Bella wants the store for next to nothing, Jesse refuses, and they end up competing in the town’s quirky annual Holiday Games. Sparks fly – as do snowballs – but will these rivals find love together? I’m excited to take you on a trip to Maple Falls this autumn!
Another thriller will release in 2024 and I’m unbelievably excited already. We don’t have a title yet but it’s about the rise and demise of an all-female pop-rock group called The Bittersweet, and the lengths some of the members go to boost their fame. After all, aren’t rock bands potentially worth more dead than alive…? I can’t wait to introduce you to my brand-new protagonist, drummer Vienna. I’m now working on the outlines for my romantic comedy for 2024, and my thriller for 2025. I hope I don’t mix up the plots (although…!). BIOS & SOCIALS
About the Author:
Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing. While her debut, TIME AFTER TIME, was a rom com, she transitioned to the dark side thereafter. Her suspense novels include THE NEIGHBORS, and bestsellers HER SECRET SON, SISTER DEAR, YOU WILL REMEMBER ME, NEVER COMING HOME, and THE REVENGE LIST. In addition to her thrillers, Hannah returned to her romantic comedy roots, penning THE CHRISTMAS WAGER as Holly Cassidy, and which will release in the fall of 2023. Hannah Mary lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons. Connect on Facebook and Instagram @hannahmarymckinnon, and on Twitter @HannahMMcKinnon. For more, visit http://www.hannahmarymckinnon.com
The sharp sound of a high-pitched scream filled the air. A noise so unrecognizable, at first I didn’t register it had come from deep within me, traveling up my throat in stealth mode before bursting from my mouth.
The remnants of the yell reverberated around the car, forcing their way into my ears and penetrating my skull, urging me to do something. Survival instincts kicked in, and I fumbled with the seatbelt, my other hand grasping for the door handle. The need for the relative safety that solid, stationary ground would bring was so intense it made my stomach heave. A loud click of the central locking system meant my captor had outsmarted me again, obliterating my immediate plan to throw myself from the moving vehicle.
When I looked out the windshield, I knew there was no time to find an alternate escape. The end of the road—the edge of the cliff—announced by signs and broken red-and-white-striped wooden barricades, had been far enough away seconds ago but now gleamed in the car’s headlights, a looming warning yards ahead. I couldn’t comprehend what was about to happen, couldn’t do anything as the vehicle kept going, splintering planks and racing out the other side with nothing but air below. I let out another scream, far louder than my first, the absolute terror exploding from my lungs.
For the briefest of moments, we were suspended, as if this was a magic trick or an elaborate roller coaster. Perhaps, if I were really lucky, this was all a dream. Except I already knew there were no smoke and mirrors, no swirling track leading us through loop-the-loops and to safety. It wasn’t a nightmare I’d wake from with bedsheets wrapped around my sweaty body. This was happening. It was all terrifyingly real.
As the car continued its trajectory, it tipped forward. The only thing to stop our momentum was whatever we were rushing toward, obscured by the cloudy night skies. Pushing my heels into the floor, I tried to flatten my shoulders against the seat. My hands scrambled for the ceiling to brace myself, but I flopped like a rag doll, my loosened seatbelt tearing into my shoulder.
They say your life flashes before you when you’re close to death. That didn’t happen to me. Instead, it was all my regrets. Choices I’d made. Not made. Things I’d said and done. Not said. Not done. It was far too late to make amends. There would be no opportunity to beg anyone for forgiveness. No possibility of offering some. As the finality of the situation hit me full on, I turned my head. The features of the driver next to me were illuminated in a blueish glint from the dashboard lights. His face had set in a stony grimace; his jaw clenched so tight he had to have shattered teeth. But what frightened me the most were his eyes, filled with what could only be described as maniacal delight. He’d said we were both going to die. As the car hurtled to the bottom of the cliff, I closed my eyes and accepted he was right.
I’ve bought a lot of face masks in my life, but until last November I had never bought one from Primark.
Lots of things attracted me to this mask. I know clay is great to absorb excess oil. I’ve bought regular clay masks and white clay masks but never pink clay. It also has lotus flower extract and the ability to gently exfoliate the skin.
I was very eager to try this and didn’t hesitate to search for it in the store. It has original metallic pink and silver packaging. It cost 90 euro cents/ 80 pence, which is brilliant value for money for a 15ml/0.50 oz face mask.
The pink colour is so pale, but the texture is good as it’s creamy and smooth. It felt comfortable when on. It is a mask that dries on the skin.
My face felt soft afterwards and I didn’t notice the exfoliating ability of the mask since there are no exfoliating grains.
The Boyfriend Candidate By Ashley Winstead On Sale May 9, 2023 Graydon House, Paperback Original ISBN 9781525804960 Price: $18.99
About the Book:
A laugh-out-loud rom-com about learning to embrace living outside your comfort zone. As a shy school librarian, Alexis Stone is comfortable keeping out of the spotlight. But when she’s dumped for being too meek—in bed!—she decides she needs to change. And what better way to kick-start her new more adventurous life than with her first one-night stand? Enter Logan, the gorgeous, foul-mouthed stranger she meets at a hotel bar. Audacious and filterless, Logan is Alexis’s opposite—and boy, do opposites attract! Just as she’s about to fulfill her hookup wish, the hotel catches fire in a freak lightning storm. In their rush to escape, Logan is discovered carrying her into the street, where people are waiting with cameras. Cameras Logan promptly—and shockingly—flees. Alexis is bewildered until suddenly pictures of her and Logan escaping the fire are all over the internet. Turns out Logan is none other than Logan Arthur, the hotshot candidate challenging the Texas governor’s seat. The salacious scandal is poised to sink his career—and jeopardize Alexis’s job—until a solution is proposed: he and Alexis could pretend to be in a relationship until election day…in two months. What could possibly go wrong?
“Winstead  brings both hilarity and heartfelt moments to this rousing rom-com….Readers will cheer Alexis on her path to discovering her inner strength and swoon over idealistic Logan. This is a winner.” -PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, Starred Review “This slow-burn, fake-relationship romantic comedy has likable protagonists with instant chemistry….This is a fast-paced, hard-to-put-down novel whose happily-ever-after isn’t what readers will expect; it’s better.” -LIBRARY JOURNAL, Starred Review “Charming….Told in Alexis’ fresh first-person voice, this heartwarming romance has both poignant introspection and a hero who sacrifices his dignity when faced with kittens and gerbils.” –BOOKPAGE, STARRED REVIEW “Mixing political and romantic intrigue, Winstead’s novel combines the darker side of politics with the lighter side of life. With a few steamy encounters and a ripped-from-the-headlines feel, The Boyfriend Candidate will appeal to fans of Lianne Moriarty, Ellen Meister, Amy Mason Doan, and anyone looking for a little more escapism in their political diet.” – BOOKLIST “The Boyfriend Candidate is everything I’ve ever wanted in a romance. Charming, swoony, and utterly unputdownable. I LOVE this book (and also Logan Arthur)!” -Lynn Painter, New York Times bestselling author of Better Than the Movies and Mr. Wrong Number
“THE BOYFRIEND CANDIDATE is my favorite kind of romance: one where the couple learns to fall in love with themselves as much as they fall for each other. Winstead seamlessly weaves romantic tension and tenderness, with her signature comedic timing and a charming cast of characters. Ashley makes it easy to vote for Logan Arthur as your next book boyfriend.” -Ruby Barrett, author of The Romance Recipe
“The Boyfriend Candidate catches fire, sizzles throughout and then bursts into flames. Highly recommend!” -Abby Jimenez, New York Times bestselling author of Part of Your World
“An introverted children’s librarian and a modern-day reformed rake come together in THE BOYFRIEND CANDIDATE, a romance that’s simultaneously sexy and sensitive, brimming with keen humor, impeccable romantic tension, and a lively supporting cast that leaps off the page. It’s a story about breaking rules, reclaiming control of our internal narratives, and having the courage to rewrite expectations for ourselves–and for love. With Alexis and Logan, Ashley Winstead has written my favorite kind of opposites-attract romance: the kind where the leads aren’t really opposites at all–they’re simply two different halves of the same whole.” — Jen Devon, author of Bend Toward the Sun
“I devoured THE BOYFRIEND CANDIDATE in one sitting. Ashley Winstead effortlessly creates an atmosphere that is both grounded and goofy, characters that are both flawed and lovable, and a romance that feels both heightened and real—plotted and paced like the master she is.” -Ava WIlder, author of Will They or Won’t They “I am feral for The Boyfriend Candidate. With delightful banter, steamy chemistry, and ridiculously yummy characters, this book is what fake-dating dreams are made of. Ashley Winstead once again proves she’s an absolute force in the rom-com genre, every book becoming a new favorite.” —Mazey Eddings, author of A Brush with Love
“As sexy as it is sincere, The Boyfriend Candidate is an absolute winner. Laugh out loud funny, and full of heart; I adored Alexis and Logan’s love story. The Boyfriend Candidate is a romance worth rooting for: sexy and sweet, with characters that stay with you long after the last page. I couldn’t put it down.” –Kate Spencer, author of In a New York Minute
About the Author:
Ashley Winstead 2021 breakout thriller was In My Dreams I Hold a Knife. Her 2022 romance debut, Fool Me Once, was an Amazon Editor’s Best Romance as well as a USA Today, PopSugar, New York Post, and Goodreads best or most anticipated romance of the year. Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages and optioned for film/TV.
I’LL SAY ONE NICE THING ABOUT MY EX CHRIS TUTTLE: the man was the entire reason I was here, standing at the entrance to the sultry Fleur de Lis hotel bar, wearing a red dress so plunging I kept it in the back of my closet for fear of scandalizing visitors, on the verge of reinventing myself. The memory of Chris and the still-fresh psychic wounds he’d left me were like a marching drum line urging me forward as I’d left my apartment, Ubered downtown to the Fleur de Lis, and cut a determined path across the lobby to the bar, a place with a reputation as Austin’s Grand Central Station of hookups. Unfortunately, now that I was standing at the entrance, the sight of all the laughing, drinking, dazzling people—dressed to the nines like me, but looking much more at ease about it—had me momentarily cowed. I thought back to what Chris said the day I discovered he was cheating on me (for the second time): “I do have needs you can’t satisfy. You should really learn to be more adventurous in bed, Lex. You’re like a timid little mouse. It can get really boring.” Remembering those words, I straightened my shoulders, took a deep breath, and stepped inside. I was not a boring mouse—or at least I wouldn’t be one anymore. Starting tonight, I was going to be a new version of Alexis Stone: as bold and adventurous as my flaming-red dress. I tried to soak in the beauty of the bar while beelining through the crowded tables, anxious to leave the peculiar spotlight of being the only person standing among a bunch of cozy, seated people. But then I realized new Alexis wouldn’t care if everyone’s eyes flitted to her as she walked across a room—in fact, new Alexis would welcome it, because she’d spent nearly an hour straightening and then recurling her hair into movie star ringlets, and maybe that effort should be appreciated. I forced myself to slow and look up at the bar’s gorgeous glass ceiling, shaded a twinkly blue thanks to the night sky. Real palm trees lined the circular perimeter, fronds reaching toward the stars. They made the bar look like a very urbane urban jungle, which actually wasn’t too far off the mark. My older sister, Lee, and her friends liked to roll their eyes at the entire downtown bar scene, calling places like the Fleur de Lis “meat markets where you go to spend thirty-five bucks on a martini while beating back horny yuppies” (Lee’s words). They preferred the hipster bars on the east side of Austin, where the clientele was cooler yet dirtier (my words). I thought the Fleur de Lis was romantic, so it made sense to come here tonight for my critical but one hundred percent private mission: I, Alexis Rosalie Stone, was going to have my first one-night stand. I was going to sleep with a man with no strings attached, no stakes or expectations: just one night to do whatever felt right. Alexis the unadventurous bore? I’d killed her and buried the body. The gleaming brass bar was crowded, but I managed to slip a shoulder between two men and catch the bartender’s attention. “Vodka martini,” I said, feeling a sudden rebellious compulsion to do anything that would raise my sister’s eyebrows. By the time my drink came, I’d completed a full three-sixty swivel in my barstool to survey the sea of men for potential candidates. How exactly did one negotiate a one-night stand? Did you lead with it in conversation so all your cards were on the table (“Hi, I’m Alexis; you might be interested to know I’m trolling for a stranger to ravish me”), or did you hold back, let your intention slip out at just the right moment (“I see you’re ordering an Uber home; could I interest you in going splitsies back to my place for a wild night of sex”)? I braced a hand on the bar, taking a fortifying sip of my martini. Even if I made a complete fool of myself tonight—even if I was roundly rejected by every man I spoke to—coming here alone at least meant Lee and her crew couldn’t witness my flop, then use it to skewer me for all eternity like the jackals they were. A whistle cut through the bar’s ambient noise, followed by a loud, “Now that’s a dress.” Out of nowhere, a man appeared and sidled up beside me. One look at him and my mind blurted forehead! Probably because his was shiny as a disco ball, framed by waggling eyebrows, and tilted all the way to the side. The next second, I realized his head was turned that way so he could get a clear view down my dress. “Thanks.” I placed a protective hand over my chest and swiveled in the opposite direction. Hoping my body language would signal my disinterest, I took another sip of my martini and studied the empty corner of the room like it was fascinating. No such luck. “I’m Carter Randall,” the man said, jutting out his hand. “What’s your name?” My deep desire for him to go away warred with my silly lifelong compulsion to be nice. “Um…” I twisted back to shake his oddly moist hand and searched for inspiration. My gaze snagged, as his clearly had, on my dress. “Ruby…” The next word came unbidden. “Dangerfield. Ruby Dangerfield.” Curse my polite hardwiring that had me sitting here inventing a new name instead of dismissing him with something cool and clipped like, “Not interested.” Carter gave my hand a little squeeze. He was twice my age, probably well into his fifties. Well-dressed, with a massive gold watch on his wrist, and—now that I squinted—a strangely sweaty face, like he’d just done a lap. Was he on party drugs? He used his sleeve to mop his forehead and I pulled my hand away, resisting the urge to wipe it on my dress. Carter’s eyes drifted down the length of my body yet again. “Well, Ms. Ruby. Can I buy you a drink? A stiff one?” He grinned. “Oh,” I said. “That’s very nice. But—um—no thank you.” Inside, I burned with the fire of a thousand suns. Saying no to anyone, even a stranger, stretched the limits of my bravery. “Aw, come on.” Carter leaned in closer and I scooted back so fast I nearly tipped over. “Look at you, sitting there in that dress. Clearly fishing for attention. Well, you caught me. Let’s get you drunk and see what happens.” Apparently, I was going to get a lesson in how not to proposition someone tonight. But my cheeks were burning, because in a small way Carter was right—I had come here to put myself on display and find someone, just very much not him. Be the new Alexis, I urged myself. Stop prioritizing this stranger’s feelings and tell him to leave you alone. But I couldn’t—at the slightest provocation, old, sad, doormat Alexis had quickly jumped back in charge. “I’m not trying to be rude,” I said carefully, feeling my heartbeat spike. “I would just like to be by myself tonight.” Well, shoot. Now that I’d committed to that, would I have to leave the bar so Carter didn’t catch me talking to anyone else later? My palms started sweating. “One drink—” he started. “Oh, for fuck’s sake,” came a voice, tinged with an accent I couldn’t place—British mixed with Texas panhandle? I nearly knocked over my martini. “She said no, mate. Get it through your thick skull and leave the poor woman alone.” Carter spun to get a look at the man who’d interrupted us, and without his body blocking the view, I got a clear line, too. My stomach flipped over and released a conservatory’s worth of butterflies. Even wearing a look of contempt, the man on the other side of Carter was stop-in-your-tracks, tongue-tyingly handsome. He was around my age, maybe a little older—he certainly radiated an older person’s authority—with a head of dark curls cut close and tight, brown eyes that were currently blazing, and thick eyebrows arched, waiting to see how Carter would respond. He had on a dark suit like most of the other men in the room, but he’d taken off his jacket and hung it on the back of his seat. He was sitting hunched over his drink in a white dress shirt with the sleeves messily rolled back, wearing a dark slim watch that was the antithesis of Carter’s flashy gold one. The wrinkles in his suit, creases under his eyes, and day-old stubble gave the impression of a weary business executive after a long, hard day at work. His eyes flitted to mine for the briefest moment before returning to Carter, but the charge that ran down my spine was enough to root me to my chair.
Carter shifted his weight. Apparently, he was going to play the tough guy. “Why don’t you mind your business, pal?” The beautiful, tired man rolled his eyes. “Oh, good. You’re one of those.” He got to his feet so fast his barstool made a screeching sound as it scraped across the floor. “Then let’s go ahead and get this over with, because I’ve had a shit day and I would like to kick your ass and get back home at a reasonable hour. So come on. You’re the one campaigning for Most Punchable Man in the Bar. Let’s have your prize.” The dark-haired man spoke calmly and quickly in his hard-to-place accent, like he invited people to get their asses kicked at least once a day. He made a little “come on” gesture that conveyed utter boredom. People around us had stopped talking to watch. The extra attention only made me feel like I was going to melt into the floor at twice the speed. But if I had no idea how to respond to this turn of events—what to say or even where to put my hands—Carter was even more clueless. I could see his eyes dancing, doing quick calculations. On the one hand, Carter was thicker around the middle than the dark-haired man. On the other, the dark-haired man had revealed himself to be tall and well-built when he stood up. “Nah, man.” Carter put his hands up. “We’ve got no problems. Just making new friends like you’re supposed to at a bar, for Christ’s sake.” “Great,” said the dark-haired man. “Then kindly fuck off as suggested.” Carter didn’t wait to be told a third time. As he hightailed away from the bar, a woman nearby muttered, “What a douche.” And with that judgment rendered, the room dialed back to a normal volume. “Thank you,” I said to the dark-haired man. He waved me off with a grunt and settled back in his barstool, leaning comfortably over his drink, apparently hoping to resume his night like nothing had happened. I stared at him. The adrenaline was draining out of my system, which left me feeling hollow. I should have been the one to tell Carter to fuck off. I should have had the guts, but instead I’d tiptoed around and this man had to step in and do it for me. How humiliating. It hit me like a ton of bricks: from the moment Carter arrived, I’d been unequivocally mousy. Exactly like Chris said.
According to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, freedom (with examples included by them) is:
The power or right to do or say what you want without anyone stopping you.
Press freedom is under attack. All groups enjoyed religious freedom. As a society we value personal freedom and privacy.
Freedom of something. We just want freedom of choice.
Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. Freedom of conscience/thought/worship The government continues to restrict freedom of movement.
Enjoy the freedom of the outdoors (= where you can do what you want).
Rights and freedoms guaranteed by the constitution
Freedom to do something. Complete freedom to do as you wish
Freedom in doing something These proposals would give health authorities Greater freedom in deciding how to spend their money. SEE ALSO academic freedom
So, what does freedom mean to me?
I agree freedom is definitely all of these. However, my level of freedom is different compared to others because of my disabilities and how they affect me. My body moves when and how it wants. I require extensive support from others daily in everything I do.
I am glad I have the freedom to think what I like and that I can make my own choices.
I find that freedom is limited for me and others with disabilities because it is society that is limiting in terms of attitudes towards people with disabilities. Bad accessibility limits freedom. I’m happy I can go out of my home with help.
Freedom can also be limited because of how much disability equipment costs. I am glad I have what I do, and that it’s available to me. But there are aspects of my disabilities and life that are related to freedom.
My wheelchair makes me feel free. I am glad I am in a country where wheelchairs are available. The electric tilt, recline, seat riser and legrests are great and mean I can change position.
My positioning equipment for my wheelchair makes me feel free as it helps me have less pain and be better positioned.
My blog is a space and place of freedom for me. where I share about anything I like. Blogging makes me feel free.
Freedom is ebooks and audiobooks. They are a place to forget about daily troubles and make me feel relaxed and happy. They are a place to learn and to share in the experiences in the story plots.
Freedom is what I felt during therapeutic riding from ages 5-17. I loved how responsive the horse was to my voice and how the people helping me wouldn’t let anything happen to me.
Freedom is what I felt when doing adaptive tandem (accompanied) paragliding in the French Alps. I remember how the wind would guide me and the almost complete silence apart from the sound of cowbells.
Freedom is what I feel when I’m in a swimming pool because of how the water feels and how it helps me when I am held and gently moved.
I am passionate about clothes and makeup and they make me feel free because they make me feel good about myself.
Jenn has always prided herself on being a city girl – she insists on easy access to good coffee, great food from around the globe, not to mention an easy commute. So, when her job takes her to one of the most famous Italian wine regions in search of the perfect Prosecco, travelling to meetings on a tractor is a bit of a culture shock. Tiziano hates the city. He was made for the mountains and vineyards of Veneto, and generations of his family have earned their living from the land. But times are changing even in the Italian countryside, and the arrival of Jenn at his grandmother’s B&B opens up a window on a different world. Jenn has two months to persuade the Prosecco producers to trust her with their business, and Tiziano has one summer to persuade Jenn that there’s more to life than the rat race. But can a city girl and a country boy ever find enough in common to see a future beyond one long summer of sun…
Leonie Mack is the bestselling author of romantic novels including My Christmas Number One and Italy Ever After. Having lived in London for many years her home is now in Germany with her husband and three children. Leonie loves train travel, medieval towns, hiking and happy endings!
The synopsis sounded very fun. And there were some fun, and even funny parts in the book. Two characters who are completely different from each other. I found Jenn hard to like. I spent most of the book trying to decide if the part of her that didn’t like the taste of wine or “bubbles” in drinks was a quirky trait or a silly one, given her job and how glamorousit was made to sound. I was even annoyed by her at times as she seemed childish.
Tiziano was an original character and I thought he really tried to do the best he could for Jenn. He was fun, and hillarious at times and a gentleman at others.
The descriptions of the Italian countryside, food, wine and scenery were amazing and these and Tiziano made the book for me. Nonna was charming and I wanted more scenes with her.
I liked the snippets of infomation about wines in between chapters: they were a unique addition to the plot, and a good way to learn more about wine. I like white wine but only very very occasionally. This as well as the scenery and customs made the book immersive.
I did feel pulled out of the story by Jenn often. But then I was pulled back by Tiziano, Nonna and the scenery and atmosphere.
I wanted to like this so much more, but the writing style was very wordy at times. Some of the jokes, like the lady from northern England whose name is Carmen or Carmel, got tired pretty quickly and wasn’t funny, at least I didn’t find it funny. If someone had spent time in the UK like Jenn had then they would understand it.
I found the repitition of Jenn’s backstory chapters into the story unneccesary.
Despite this, it had quick pacing.
I had hoped to see more character growth in Jenn than I did. I wished throughout the book that she were more grateful and enthusiastic about the opportunity to go to Italy that was given to her, and not so judgemental and fussy about everything and everyone.
Maybe someone acting like this would be fun and funny to some people, but it isn’t to me, and made Jenny seem even more petulant.
I have to say, this part of her almost put me off wanting to continue the book.
I’m glad I did, though, and I did because of all the things mention in this review that I thought were good about it.
Thanks to Leonie Mack, Boldwod Books and Rachel’s Random Resources for an eARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.
Yesterday, we woke up early as I had an appointment at the wheelchair dealership to switch my chest harness since we ended up with the wrong design, but I’m glad the Occupational Therapist said we could use it until the other one arrived.
When we got there, she switched the harnesses pretty quickly and we talked about possible backrests and cushions for me given my spinal and. pelvic deformities. I talked to her about the foot pain I was having since I got my foot holders. She checked if it was because the straps were too tight and they weren’t. We’ve come to the conclusion that it’s because of the rotation deformities of my feet and the fact they’re forced into a posture they’ve never been in before (straight).
I told her how much I liked my headrest and belt and the other chest harness and she was happy.
She said she had a joystick handle for me to try. It was the one we’d asked about: the U-shaped joystick handle from Bodypoint.
This was a surprise I didn’t expect. It was good to see the product and it seemed well made.It fit my hand and was flexible but the therapist had trouble positioning my hand there for longer than a few seconds because I can’t keep my hand flat or control my arms well.I have grip strength which fluctuates from extremely little to none from one moment to the next throughout the day to the point where I’m quickly unable to move.
Positioning my forearm was even harder because of my mixed muscle tone, which means my muscles are both stiff and weak. Alfredo tried to position my arm but each time he did it fell off the armrest.
I had immediate worsening of the spasms and pain in my forearm and this wasn’t the first time she’d seen me exhausted.I had a headache by the end of this and was struggling to talk to her.
I felt sleepy as we left the dealership and started yawning because I was really exhausted. I am so glad my headrest is so supportive as it really helps me rest and relax whether I am tilted back or not and I am a lot. I was yesterday when we left the dealership.
I was proud of myself for trying to use the joystick handle. We know I can’t control my wheelchair using a joystick.
It’s another experience of seeing what a product is like at least. I’ll review this handle in another post and hope it’s useful for someone with more muscle control, strength and stamina than me.
We watched the second Eurovision Song Contest audition semifinal last night. We missed the first one as were doing other things.
I’m really into Eurovision and will watch the grand final on Saturday night.
I’ve been really tired for most of the day today and spent some time in bed napping and then just relaxing and thinking of what to work on for mydraft for the current Autocrit short story challenge. I have an idea and two and a half weeks until the deadline.
I listened to ebooks I finished Shari Low’s latest, One Moment in Time which I was on the recent blog tour for as well as listened to some more of The World Outside My Window by Clare Swatman and searched Scribd for what to listen to next.
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