The Lying Club by Annie Ward

THE LYING CLUB
Author: Annie Ward
ISBN: 9780778389408
Publication Date: March 22, 2022
Publisher: Park Row Books

About the Book:

From the acclaimed author of Beautiful Bad comes an explosive new novel of revenge, murder and shocking secrets—where the victims aren’t who you might think. Perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty, Lucy Foley, and Liv Constantine.

Three women. Two bodies. One big lie…

A tangled web of lies draws together three women in this explosive thriller of revenge, murder and shocking secrets.At an elite private school nestled in the Colorado mountains, Natalie, an office assistant, dreams of having a life like the school moms she deals with every day. Women like Brooke—a gorgeous heiress, ferociously loving mother and serial cheater—and Asha, an overprotective mom who suspects her husband of having an affair. Their fates are bound by the handsome assistant athletic director Nicholas, whom Natalie loves, Brooke wants and Asha needs.But when two bodies are carried out of the school one morning, it seems the tension between mothers and daughters, rival lovers, and the haves and have-nots has shattered the surface of this isolated, affluent town—where people stop at nothing to get what they want.

About the Author:

Annie Ward is the author of Beautiful Bad. She has a BA in English literature from UCLA and an MFA in screenwriting from the American Film Institute. Her first short screenplay, Strange Habit, starring Adam Scott, was an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Award winner at the Aspen Film Festival. She has received a Fulbright scholarship and an Escape to Create artist residency. She lives in Kansas with her family.

Contact Annie:


Author Website
Twitter: @_annie_ward
Facebook: @anniewardbooks
Goodreads

Where to Buy:


BookShop.org
Harlequin
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Excerpt:

Prologue

THE NECKTIE OF her ex was still clasped in her hand when Natalie woke. Her head was pounding, and her mouth tasted bad, like she’d fallen into bed without brushing her teeth. She had a horrible, cloudy feeling that she’d done something regrettable, but in that moment, she couldn’t remember what it was.
She wasn’t at home. Instead, she was upright, a seat belt crossing her chest. In front of her was the windshield of her own car, coated in a sheet of frost, and her I LOVE COLORADO! key chain was dangling from the ignition.
Natalie realized then that she’d blacked out. It had happened before, when she was much younger, and the memory of that awful awakening hit her with an electrifying jolt. After a frantic inspection, she concluded that all her clothes were on and nothing seemed torn or altered. She slipped the tie into her coat pocket.
Yanking the rearview mirror toward her face, she saw that her hazel eyes were huge, the pupils tiny pinpoints, and her mascara was smudged. A chapped crack ran down the bottom of her lower lip, but there were no other bruises or cuts. It didn’t appear that she’d crashed into a building or a tree. There were no sirens.
She rolled down her window, and a thin wall of ice collapsed into the car, dampening her plaid skirt. It was almost dark outside.
Work. She was at work. Across the snowy parking lot, she could see the back door to the east wing of the private school where she was an administrative assistant in the front office.
Pulling on her stocking cap and opening the car door, Natalie noticed footprints, slightly softened by snowfall, leading from her car to the rear exit of the school’s gym. Another set of identical prints returned from the door to the car, but not in a straight line. They zigzagged, and there was a large compression in the snow, just about the size of a small person like her. Gingerly, she lowered one boot into the first of the prints to make sure it was a match. It was. It seemed likely that the body-shaped spot in the snow was an indication that she’d fallen, and a quick pat down of her coat confirmed that it was wet.
Natalie stepped out of her car and squinted into the wind. Her legs felt weak, as if she’d just returned from one of her longer runs.
She retraced her own tracks, leading to the school. The sky was changing color from a grayish stormy dusk to night, and it struck Natalie, who loved art, that the swirling white flurries between her and the stars resembled a monochrome Van Gogh painting. Snow-capped peaks surrounded her on all sides. Down the mountain was the town center. Lights twinkled. Houses, vacation condos, and old-timey shops were piled like Christmas gifts on top of one another alongside a dark and twisting river.
The heavy back door was ajar. When she tugged on it, it groaned, scraped, and opened. Heart pounding, she went in.
During school hours, the sports pavilion would have been filled with the sound of bouncing basketballs, laughter, whistles, and sneakers squeaking on the gym floor. Now, there was distant, droning pop music playing up on the mezzanine, but no one was singing along or dropping weights to the floor with a crash.
Natalie walked with slow, hesitant steps over to the double doors that opened onto the basketball courts.
Normally those doors stood propped open by gray rubber wedges. Now they were closed, but each had a rectangular window. Natalie curled her hand and made a cup for her eyes.
It took a second to see anything at all. The court was dim, aglow only from the small green emergency lights situated over the doors and in the corners of the room. Her eyes were adjusting. Something was there.
She jumped away from the door as if the glass had burned her skin. Her hands flew up to cover her mouth. A scream almost escaped, but she stopped it in her throat with a choking noise.
Not far from the door was what looked like a crumpled pile of clothes and broken body parts, motionless in the middle of a spreading pool of blood.
What the hell did I do?

The security lights in the Falcon Academy parking lot flickered. It was early Monday morning and still dark. A beat-up Pathfinder left tracks in the snow as it swerved into a spot re-served for employees.
Harry Doyle climbed out and used his heel to squelch a cigarette into the ground. He grabbed a battered baseball cap from the dashboard and plopped it on his head, holding down what little was left of his hair. After slamming the driver’s door shut, he looked up at the sky, which was turning pink and orange to the east. An enormous blanket of fluffy white covered the parking lot. Last night had been the first big storm of the season, and some parents would call their kids in sick so they could hit the slopes with their friends.
The sixty-eight-year-old custodian shuffled towards the rear entrance of the sports pavilion. The automatic fluorescents in the back hallway glowed a sickly yellow. He hummed as he plodded down the hall to the boys’ changing room, where he put his lunch and jacket away in his locker before going to the storage closet. Harry grabbed the fiberglass handle of the deluxe wet mop and hauled it, and the bucket, out into the corridor toward the basketball courts. Pushing past the double doors, he activated all nine light switches with a swipe of his hand. The bulky, caged gymnasium overheads burst to life with a buzz.
“What the hell?” he exclaimed, dropping the mop.
The handle clattered against the maple wood planks. “Oh dear God.” The words came out strangled.
Harry scrambled for his phone in a zippered compartment of his slacks.
“Hello?” he managed to say, after dialing 911. He was having trouble breathing. “The Falcon Academy. Off Highway 70. Just west of Blackswift. Oh Jesus. Jesus Mary and Joseph. We need help. There’s a lot of blood.”

Excerpted from The Lying Club by Annie Ward, Copyright © 2022 by Annie Ward. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Harlequin Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour: Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins

Nanny Dearest : A Novel
Flora Collins
On Sale Date: November 30, 2021
9780778311614
Trade Paperback
$16.99 USD
336 pages

About the Book:


Compulsively readable domestic suspense, perfect for fans of THE TURN OF THE KEY and THE PERFECT NANNY, about a woman who takes comfort in reconnecting with her childhood nanny after her father’s death, until she starts to uncover dark secrets the nanny has been holding for twenty years.

Set in New York city and upstate New York, NANNY DEAREST is the story of twenty-five year-old Sue Keller, a young woman reeling from the recent death of her father, a particularly painful loss given that Sue’s mother died of cancer when she was only three. At just this moment of vulnerability comes Anneliese Whitaker, Sue’s former nanny from her childhood days in upstate New York.

Sue, craving connection and mothering, is only too eager to welcome Annie back into her life; but as they become inseparable once again, Sue begins to uncover the truth about Annie’s unsettling time in the Keller house all those years ago, particularly the manner of her departure – or dismissal. At the same time, she begins to grow increasingly alarmed for the safety of the two new charges currently in Annie’s care.

Told in alternating points of views, switching between Annie in the mid-90s and Sue in the present day, this is a taut novel of suspense with a shocking ending.

About the Author:


Flora Collins was born and raised in New York City and has never left, except for a four-year stint at Vassar College. When she’s not writing, she can be found watching reality shows that were canceled after one season or attempting to eat soft-serve ice cream in bed (sometimes simultaneously). Nanny Dearest is her first novel, and draws upon personal experiences from her own family history.

Contact Flora:


Twitter: https://twitter.com/flococo16?lang=en
Instagram: @floracollins_author
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/56472992-nanny-dearest

Where to Buy:


Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/nanny-dearest/9780778311614
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778311614
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/nanny-dearest-flora-collins/1138522927
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Nanny-Dearest-Novel-Flora-Collins/dp/0778311619
Books a Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9780778311614?AID=10747236&PID=7310909&cjevent=3aaff079426711ec81b7ebac0a82b839

Excerpt:

“I WOULD RECOGNIZE THOSE bangs anywhere,” she says, clutching her large faux-leather bag, pink nails pinching the synthetic hide. I can see the laugh lines beneath her glasses’ rims. I swallow, my tongue darting between my back molars, bracing myself.
“They stuck, I guess.” I laugh lightly, a meek trickle that escapes from my lips before I can stop it. She smiles again, this time with teeth, and I see how her front two overlap, barely discernible. But she’s standing so close that it’s hard not to notice.
“You live around here now?” She stopped me in front of a church and behind us the congregation trickles out, chatting among themselves. A child wails for lunch. The sun beats down hard and yellow, speckling the sidewalk. I raise my hand like a visor, even though I feel the weight of my oversized sunglasses, heavy on the bridge of my nose.
“Yep. Moved down to Alphabet City after college,” I answer. She nods, pushing a wisp of red hair behind her ear.
She is letting the sun in, the pupils of her green eyes shrinking with the effort.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” It’s a statement, not a question, one that she says confidently, as if it’s a sign of character that she is easily forgettable, that fading into my brain’s recesses is some kind of compliment.
The church group disperses and I step away to let a family by.
“I’m sorry. I don’t.” And then, even though she is secure in her stance, amused perhaps by my social transgression, I fumble for some excuse. “Forgive me. I-I’m not good with faces.”
She laughs, then—a long, exhilarating sound, like a wind chime. “I don’t blame you. I think you were about three feet tall the last time you saw me.” She reaches out a hand, dainty and freckled. “I’m Anneliese. Anneliese Whittaker. I was your nanny.” Her hand remains in the air for a moment, outstretched, like the bare limb of a winter tree, before I take it.
“Sue. Sue Keller.” But of course she knows who I am. She says she was my nanny.
“I used to babysit you when you lived upstate.” I flinch, unintentionally. She knew my mother. “How’s your dad? He always wanted to move back up there later in life.”
I bite the inside of my cheek, savoring the tenderized spot there, made bloody by my anxious jaw. “He passed last year. Car accident.”
Anneliese puts a hand to her mouth, her eyes widening behind the glasses. “Oh honey, I’m so sorry. You must miss him a lot, don’t you? He was your whole world back when I knew you.”
I offer her a smile. “Yes, well, aren’t most little girls that way with their fathers?”
The child is still screaming for lunch. His mother is speaking to another woman, the three of them the only people left in front of the church.
“Yes, well, I guess that’s true. You and your dad had a special bond, though.” She gazes at me then, her face full of compassion, those green eyes penetrative.
And we’re silent, for a beat too long. So I find myself shuffling, moving around her. “I actually have to meet a friend.” I check my wrist though I’m not wearing a watch. “But it was funny running into you.” I give her what I hope is an apologetic smile, backing away from her, toward the curb.
She stops me, one of those tiny hands on my wrist, almost tugging at my sleeve like a child. “Wait. I’d love to see you again.” She digs around in her purse. I catch sight of a book, earbuds, some capped pens, a grimy-looking ChapStick. She takes out a receipt, uncaps a pen, and leans the paper against the church’s stone masonry, scrawling her number. The figures are dainty, like her hands.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. Tell your friend a crazy lady stopped and demanded you spend time with her.” She laughs again, that wind chime chortle, and I pocket the receipt.
“Nice to see you again!” I call, making the traffic light just in time. When I cross the street and turn, she’s gone, consumed by the hordes, no sign of that red hair glinting in the sunlight.

“And you stopped? I would’ve kept on walking. No time for nutso people like that,” Beth says through the phone as I pace my studio, absentmindedly throwing trash away, smoothing out the creases in my bedspread, my phone nestled between my shoulder and ear. I set it down and put her on speaker. I have the urge, suddenly, to rearrange the furniture in this miniscule apartment. To move the bed to the other side of the room, away from the window, from the noise of the street.
“She knew my name, Beth. She called out ‘Sue.’ I wasn’t going to ignore that.” Outside, a siren wails and I pull down the shade.
“That’s why you always wear headphones. So you have an excuse not to deal with those kinds of people.” Beth smacks her gum, the noise ricocheting through the tinny speaker.
“So you really don’t remember if I had a nanny called Anneliese?” I crumple up the wax paper from my bagel, letting it drift to the floor. The old family photo albums from that period are in storage, buried deep inside the disorganized cardboard boxes I hired movers to collect when I cleaned out Dad’s apartment.
“Dude, we met when we were five. I don’t think I knew my own mom’s name back then. I certainly wouldn’t remember who your babysitter was.” I close my eyes and massage my temples, my usual insomnia-inflicted headache edging toward a dull throb. I don’t remember a long-term nanny. I never had any babysitters growing up, just my dad.
I hear Beth say something to her girlfriend, a bark, and I walk away from the phone for a minute with a twinge of annoyance that she’s not giving me her undivided attention.
I think of Anneliese’s face, those teeth, the green eyes. The hair. And.
And.
I am running in a field with her, in the yard behind the house upstate. The garden is giant. Huge sunflowers, hedges high enough to block the sun. Beneath me, the grass is lush, dewy, tickling my bare feet. And the sky is white, hot and blazing. And she is behind me, shrieking, her freckled arm outstretched, a paintbrush in her hand tinged blue.
And I feel its slick bristles on my back and I fall, stumble. But I am laughing. And she is, too, her orange hair like a halo, eclipsing the sun.
I open my eyes.
“Anyway, I’m having some people over next weekend. I know you hate parties these days but you’re so cooped up all the time in that apartment. I swear it’ll be fun…” Beth squawks on, her voice shrill through the speaker.
“I remember her.”
Beth pauses mid-ramble. “What?”
“I remember her. Anneliese. The woman who stopped me today. She’s not nuts. I remember her.”
There’s a heavy silence on the other end. “Are you sure? You just said you didn’t.” Beth’s voice has lowered an octave, as if she’s whispering. Which I know is for my benefit, so her girlfriend won’t hear.
I tighten my hand into a fist. “I’m serious. She was my nanny. We used to play this game with paint.”
Beth sighs. “Still weird to me. You’re not thinking about calling her or anything like that, right?” But I’m already reaching into the garbage bag I use as a hamper, sifting through it for the sweats I wore earlier today. I take out the receipt, smoothing it out against my knee. It’s for shampoo, coconut Herbal Essences, and I can smell it on her, as if it’s 1996 and I am on the floor of my blue-carpeted bedroom and she is swinging her princess hair to and fro as we play Candy Land, the smell even more enticing than how I imagined Queen Frostine’s scent.
Tears prick my eyelids.
“I want to see her.” It comes out sounding infantile, testy even. And I hear Beth breathing, willing herself not to lash out.
“Okay. Okay, Suzy. Just meet in public and bring some pepper spray. Remember, she stopped you in the street. She really could be anyone, even if she did babysit you a thousand years ago.” I hear her put another piece of gum in her mouth, the wrapper like static.
“I know. She’s just a nice middle-aged woman. And maybe she has some cool things to say about my parents.” I know that will get Beth off my back. Any mention of my parents gets anyone off my back.
I hear her breath as she blows a bubble, the snap of the gum sticking to her lip. “I’m just trying to be a good friend. Don’t fault me for it.” Her voice has lowered again. “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: you’ve been spending way too much time alone. It’s not like you and I can tell it’s getting to you. It would get to me.” But my finger is already hovering over the End Call button, eager to get Beth off the line.
“I appreciate it. But for real, now I have work to do. I’ll text you.” She spends one more minute reminding me to come to her party next weekend and I promise I will, even though we both know I won’t, and I hang up first, still fingering that crumpled receipt, studying the perfectly shaped eights in the handwritten phone number, each the same height, the same size.
Outside, a dog barks. And I bark back, loud and sharp, laughing at myself, my apartment easing into darkness as the sun sets.

Excerpted from Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins, Copyright © 2021 by Flora Collins. Published by MIRA Books.

Fan Club by Erin Mayer @mayer_erin

Fan Club : A Novel
Erin Mayer
On Sale Date: October 26, 2021
9780778311591
Trade Paperback
$16.99 USD
320 pages

About the Book:


In this raucous psychological thriller, a disillusioned millennial joins a cliquey fan club, only to discover that the group is bound together by something darker than devotion.

Day after day our narrator searches for meaning beyond her vacuous job at a women’s lifestyle website – entering text into a computer system while she watches their beauty editor unwrap box after box of perfectly packaged bits of happiness. Then, one night at a dive bar, she hears a message in the newest single by international pop-star Adriana Argento, and she is struck. Soon she loses herself to the online fandom, a community whose members feverishly track Adriana’s every move.

When a colleague notices her obsession, she’s invited to join an enigmatic group of adult Adriana superfans who call themselves the Ivies and worship her music in witchy, candlelit listening parties. As the narrator becomes more entrenched in the group, she gets closer to uncovering the sinister secrets that bind them together – while simultaneously losing her grip on reality.

With caustic wit and hypnotic writing, this unsparingly critical thrill ride through millennial life examines all that is wrong in our celebrity-obsessed internet age and how easy it is to lose yourself in it.

About the Author:


Erin Mayer is a freelance writer and editor based in Maine. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, Man Repeller, Literary Hub, and others. She was previously an associate fashion and beauty editor at Bustle.com.

Contact Erin:


Author website: http://erinmayer.com/
Twitter: @mayer_erin
Instagram: @erinkmayer

Where to Buy:


Bookshop.org: https://bookshop.org/books/fan-club/9780778311591


Indie Bound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780778311591


Books-A-Million: https://www.booksamillion.com/p/9780778311591?AID=10747236&PID=7310909&cjevent=65e1269f327311ec8113ab580a82b832


B&N: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/fan-club-erin-mayer/1138476507;jsessionid=447EED4856C3B3C9AFCBCB912D1233C6.prodny_store01-atgap13?ean=9780778311591&st=AFF&2sid=HarperCollins%20Publishers%20LLC_7310909_NA&sourceId=AFFHarperCollins%20Publishers%20LLC


Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0778311597?tag=harpercollinsus-20
Kobo: https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/fan-club-4


Apple Books:https://books.apple.com/us/book/fan-club/id1545139327


Google Play: https://play.google.com/store/books/details/Fan_Club_A_Novel?id=pXAPEAAAQBAJ&hl=en_US&gl=US

Contact Erin:


Author website: http://erinmayer.com/
Twitter: @mayer_erin
Instagram: @erinkmayer

Chapter One


I’m outside for a cumulative ten minutes each day before work. Five to walk from my apartment building to the subway, another five to go from the subway to the anemic obelisk that houses my office. I try to breathe as deeply as I can in those minutes, because I never know how long it will be until I take fresh air into my lungs again. Not that the city air is all that fresh, tinged with the sharp stench of old garbage, pollution’s metallic swirl. But it beats the stale oxygen of the office, already filtered through distant respiratory systems. Sometimes, during slow moments at my desk, I inhale and try to imagine those other nostrils and lungs that have already processed this same air. I’m not sure how it works in reality, any knowledge I once had of the intricacies of breathing having been long ago discarded by more useful information, but the image comforts me. Usually, I picture a middle-aged man with greying temples, a fringe of visible nose hair, and a coffee stain on the collar of his baby blue button-down. He looks nothing and everything like my father. An every-father, if you will.
My office is populated by dyed-blonde or pierced brunette women in their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. The occasional man, just a touch older than most of the women, but still young enough to give off the faint impression that he DJs at Meatpacking nightclubs for extra cash on the weekends.
We are the new corporate Americans, the offspring of the grey-templed men. We wear tastefully ripped jeans and cozy sweaters to the office instead of blazers and trousers. Display a tattoo here and there—our supervisors don’t mind; in fact, they have the most ink. We eat yogurt for breakfast, work through lunch, leave the office at six if we’re lucky, arriving home with just enough time to order dinner from an app and watch two or three hours of Netflix before collapsing into bed from exhaustion we haven’t earned. Exhaustion that lives in the brain, not the body, and cannot be relieved by a mere eight hours of sleep.
Nobody understands exactly what it is we do here, and neither do we. I push through revolving glass door, run my wallet over the card reader, which beeps as my ID scans through the stiff leather, and half-wave in the direction of the uniformed security guard behind the desk, whose face my eyes never quite reach so I can’t tell you what he looks like. He’s just one of the many set-pieces staging the scene of my days.
The elevator ride to the eleventh floor is long enough to skim one-third of a longform article on my phone. I barely register what it’s about, something loosely political, or who is standing next to me in the cramped elevator.
When the doors slide open on eleven, we both get off.

In the dim eleventh-floor lobby, a humming neon light shaping the company logo assaults my sleep-swollen eyes like the prick of a dozen tiny needles. Today, a small section has burned out, creating a skip in the letter w. Below the logo is a tufted cerulean velvet couch where guests wait to be welcomed. To the left there’s a mirrored wall reflecting the vestibule; people sometimes pause there to take photos on the way to and from the office, usually on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend. I see the photos later while scrolling through my various feeds at home in bed. They hit me one after another like shots of tequila: See ya Tuesday! margarita emoji Peace out for the long weekend! palm tree emoji Byeeeeee! peace sign emoji.
She steps in front of me, my elevator companion. Black Rag & Bone ankle boots gleaming, blade-tipped pixie cut grazing her ears. Her neck piercing taunts me, those winking silver balls on either side of her spine. She’s Lexi O’ Connell, the website’s senior editor. She walks ahead with her head angled down, thumb working her phone’s keyboard, and doesn’t look up as she shoves the interior door open, palm to the glass.
I trip over the back of one clunky winter boot with the other as I speed up, considering whether to call out for her attention. It’s what a good web producer, one who is eager to move on from the endless drudgery of copy-pasting and resizing and into the slightly more thrilling drudgery of writing and rewriting, would do.
By the time I regain my footing, I come face-to-face with the smear of her handprint as the door glides shut in front of me.
Monday.

I work at a website.
It’s like most other websites; we publish content, mostly articles: news stories, essays, interviews, glossed over with the polished opalescent sheen of commercialized feminism. The occasional quiz, video, or photoshoot rounds out our offerings. This is how websites work in the age of ad revenue: Each provides a slightly varied selection of mindless entertainment, news updates, and watered-down hot takes about everything from climate change to plus size fashion, hawking their wares on the digital marketplace, leaving The Reader to wander drunkenly through the bazaar, wielding her cursor like an Amex. You can find everything you’d want to read in one place online, dozens of times over. The algorithms have erased choice. Search engines and social media platforms, they know what you want before you do.
As a web producer, my job is to input article text into the website’s proprietary content management system, or CMS. I’m a digitized high school janitor; I clean up the small messes, the litter that misses the rim of the garbage can. I make sure the links are working and the images are high resolution. When anything bigger comes up, it goes to an editor or IT. I’m an expert in nothing, a master of the miniscule fixes.
There are five of us who produce for the entire website, each handling about 20 articles a day. We sit at a long grey table on display at the very center of the open office, surrounded on all sides by editors and writers.
The web producers’ bullpen, Lexi calls it.
The light fixture above the table buzzes loudly like a nest of bees is trapped inside the fluorescent tubing. I drop my bag on the floor and take a seat, shedding my coat like a layer of skin. My chair faces the beauty editor’s desk, the cruelest seat in the house. All day long, I watch Charlotte Miller receive package after package stuffed with pastel tissue paper. Inside those packages: lipstick, foundation, perfume, happiness. A thousand simulacrums of Christmas morning spread across the two-hundred and sixty-one workdays of the year. She has piled the trappings of Brooklyn hipsterdom on top of her blonde, big-toothed, prettiness. Wire-frame glasses, a tattoo of a constellation on her inner left forearm, a rose gold nose ring. She seems Texan, but she’s actually from some wholesome upper Midwestern state, I can never remember which one. Right now, she applies red lipstick from a warm golden tube in the flat gleam of the golden mirror next to her monitor. Everything about her is color-coordinated.
I open my laptop. The screen blinks twice and prompts me for my password. I type it in, and the CMS appears, open to where I left it when I signed off the previous evening. Our CMS is called LIZZIE. There’s a rumor that it was named after Lizzie Borden, christened during the pre-launch party when the tech team pounded too many shots after they finished coding. As in, “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks.” Lizzie Borden rebranded in the 21st century as a symbol of righteous feminine anger. LIZZIE, my best friend, my closest confidant. She’s an equally comforting and infuriating presence, constant in her bland attention. She gazes at me, always emotionless, saying nothing as she watches me teeter on the edge, fighting tears or trying not to doze at my desk or simply staring, in search of answers she cannot provide.
My eyes droop in their sockets as I scan the articles that were submitted before I arrived this morning. The whites threaten to turn liquid and splash onto my keyboard, pool between the keys and jiggle like eggs minus the yolks. Thinking of this causes a tiny laugh to slip out from between my clenched lips. Charlotte slides the cap onto her lipstick, glares at me over the lip of the mirror.
“Morning.”
That’s Tom, the only male web producer, who sits across and slightly left of me, keeping my view of Charlotte’s towering wonderland of boxes and bags clear. He’s four years older than me, twenty-eight, but the plush chipmunk curve of his cheeks makes him appear much younger, like he’s about to graduate high school. He’s cute, though, in the way of a movie star who always gets cast as the geek in teen comedies. Definitely hot but dress him down in an argyle sweater and glasses and he could be a Hollywood nerd. I’ve always wanted to ask him why he works here, doing this. There isn’t really a web producer archetype. We’re all different, a true island of misfit toys.
But if there is a type, Tom doesn’t fit it. He seems smart and driven. He’s consistently the only person who attends company book club meetings having read that month’s selection from cover to cover. I’ve never asked him why he works here because we don’t talk much. No one in our office talks much. Not out loud, anyway. We communicate through a private Morse code, fingers dancing on keys, expressions scanned and evaluated from a distance.
Sometimes I think about flirting with Tom, for something to do, but he wears a wedding ring. Not that I care about his wife; it’s more the fear of rebuff and rejection, of hearing the low-voiced Sorry, I’m married, that stops me. He usually sails in a few minutes after I do, smelling like his bodega coffee and the egg sandwich he carefully unwraps and eats at his desk. He nods in my direction. Morning is the only word we’ve exchanged the entire time I’ve worked here, which is coming up on a year in January. It’s not even a greeting, merely a statement of fact. It is morning and we’re both here. Again.
Three hundred and sixty-five days lost to the hum and twitch and click. I can’t seem to remember how I got here. It all feels like a dream. The mundane kind, full of banal details, but something slightly off about it all. I don’t remember applying for the job, or interviewing. One day, an offer letter appeared in my inbox and I signed.
And here I am. Day after day, I wait for someone to need me. I open articles. I tweak the formatting, check the links, correct the occasional typo that catches my eye. It isn’t really my job to copy edit, or even to read closely, but sometimes I notice things, grammatical errors or awkward phrasing, and I then can’t not notice them; I have to put them right or else they nag like a papercut on the soft webbing connecting two fingers. The brain wants to be useful. It craves activity, even after almost three hundred and sixty-five days of operating at its lowest frequency.
I open emails. I download attachments. I insert numbers into spreadsheets. I email those spreadsheets to Lexi and my direct boss, Ashley, who manages the homepage.
None of it ever seems to add up to anything.

Excerpted from Fan Club by Erin Mayer, Copyright © 2021 by Erin Mayer. Published by MIRA Books.

The Babysitter by Gemma Rogers @GemmaRogers79 @bookandtonic @rararesources

About the Book:


It’s every mother’s worst nightmare…All NEW from Gemma Rogers
Ali and Christopher Tolfrey’s one year old daughter Eden is abducted whilst in the care of Ali’s best-friend.
Snatched in broad daylight from Bushy Park on a trip to the swings, Eden disappears without a trace.
Brooke Simmons, regains consciousness, dazed from a blow to the head, to find Eden, her bestfriends’ child is missing.
Someone has taken Eden and Brooke knows who.
But it’s a secret she can’t share with Ali or the Police without revealing the web of deceit she’s spun.
Can Brooke get Eden home before her lies come back to haunt her? Or is the net closing in on her?


Where to Buy:

https://amzn.to/3dojACz


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, two daughters and bulldog, Buster.


Contact Gemma:


Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gemma.rogersauthor.35
Twitter https://twitter.com/GemmaRogers79 Instagram https://www.instagram.com/gemmarogersauthor/
Newsletter Sign Up Link http://bit.ly/GemmaRogersNewsletter
Bookbub profile https://www.bookbub.com/authors/gemma-rogers

My Review:

When Ali and Christopher’s one-year old daughter, Eden, is snatched in a park in broad daylight while Ali’s best friend Brooke is taking care of her, the search is on to find her.

The book is told in 3 points of view, Brooke, Ali, and Brooke’s ex-boyfriend Jimmy over a period of just three days but the plot affects all the characters.

It’s twisty, fast-paced and absorbing. I enjoyed Reckless by Gemma Rogers and The Babysitter was amazing too. Creepy and atmospheric from the first page, I was hooked.

How much can you really trust a best friend?

Gemma Rogers has an excellent eye for detail and for creating tension and suspense. I felt like I could not get through the book fast enough as I wanted to know what was going to happen.

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

I am looking forward to more books by Gemma Rogers who is now one of my favourite thriller authors.

5 stars

Harlequin Mystery/ Thriller Blog Tour: Where I Left Her by Amber Garza @ambermg1 @HarlequinBooks @Harlequin #mystery #thriller #blogtour

WHERE I LEFT HER
Author: Amber Garza
ISBN: 9780778332060
Publication Date: August 24, 2021
Publisher: MIRA Books

Where to Buy:


BookShop.org
Harlequin
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Contact Amber:


Author Website
Twitter: @ambermg1
Instagram: @AmberGarzaAuthor
Facebook: @AmberGarzaAuthor
Goodreads

About the Author:

Amber Garza has had a passion for the written word since she was a child making books out of notebook paper and staples. Her hobbies include reading and singing. Coffee and wine are her drinks of choice (not necessarily in that order). She writes while blaring music, and talks about her characters like they’re real people. She lives with her husband and two kids in Folsom, California.

About the Book:

From the author of WHEN I WAS YOU comes a spine-tingling new thriller about a mother’s worst nightmare come true, when she goes to pick up her daughter from a sleepover, and she’s nowhere to be found.

Whitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter off for a sleepover last night. She’s never met the friend’s parents, and usually she’d go in, but Amelia clearly wasn’t going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead she waved to her daughter before pulling away from the cute little house with the rosebushes in front.

But when she goes back to get her, an elderly couple answers the door–Amelia and her friend are nowhere to be found, and this couple swears she’s at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of secrets and lies her daughter has told her–from Finsta accounts to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she’s raised, and can she find her before it’s too late?

Excerpt:

1
FRIDAY, 5:00 P.M.
DROP-OFF

WHITNEY WANTED TO get rid of her daughter.
How awful is that?
Not forever, of course, but for the night. She was weary of the sixteen-year-old attitude. The rolling of eyes, stomping of feet, the judging glances and biting remarks.
That’s why she wasn’t paying as much attention as she should’ve been when dropping Amelia off at Lauren’s. Her mind was back in their apartment, her butt planted on the couch, bare feet propped on the table, a pint of ice cream in her lap.
“The destination is on your right.” She turned the steering wheel, following the instructions given by the disembodied voice of the GPS in her daughter’s phone. Amelia held it up, giving the illusion that her palm was talking. The house in front of them was nondescript. A tract home, painted tan with beige trim, a cream door, two large windows overlooking the narrow front walkway. The only thing that set it apart from the others was the row of rosebushes lining the left perimeter of the yard, scarlet red petals and thorny, jagged stems.

Whitney pulled her car over, tires hugging the curb.
Amelia hopped out the minute her mother’s foot pressed down on the brakes, as if she was desperate to be free of her.
“You sure this is her house?” Whitney asked.
Amelia shrugged, glancing down at her phone and then back up. “This is the address she gave me.” Her tone was impatient, irritated. That’s how she’d been lately. Distant and moody. Everything her mom said and did annoyed her.
Originally, she’d planned to walk Amelia up to the front door and meet Lauren’s mom. But on the way over here, Amelia had begged her not to do that, pointing out that she was no longer a little girl.
As much as Whitney hated to admit it, she could see her point. Amelia was sixteen. As soon as she finished her driver’s training and passed her test, she’d be driving on her own and then Whitney wouldn’t even have the option of dropping her off at her friend’s. It was time she learned to let go, loosen the death grip a little.
Instead of following her daughter, Whitney stayed inside the car, watching through the smudged glass of the passenger-side window. Amelia’s dark hair swished down her spine as she sped to the front door. When she reached it, she readjusted the blue overnight bag that was secured on her shoulder while lifting her other hand to knock.
Lauren appeared in the doorway, flashing a smile at Amelia. She wore a pink headband that made her look much younger than seventeen. Amelia peered over her shoulder before stepping forward, her lips curling at the corners as she threw her mom another wave. It was the largest grin Whitney had gotten in days, and she welcomed it, grabbed hold of it and then gave it back.
After watching them both disappear inside, Whitney pulled away from the curb. Without even looking in the rearview mirror, she sped toward her night of freedom, dreaming of a couch to herself and a movie Amelia couldn’t make fun of.

SATURDAY, 10:00 A.M.
SEVENTEEN HOURS AFTER DROP-OFF

Whitney had been up for hours, and still hadn’t heard from Amelia. Last night was restful. Quiet. Peaceful. All the things Whitney had wanted it to be. Much needed. But this morning she was suffering from a serious case of mom guilt. She missed her daughter. Was anxious for her to come home, attitude and all. Unlocking her phone, she shot her a quick text: Ready for me to pick you up?
Even after several minutes, no response came. Not that she was shocked. When Amelia had friends over, they stayed up all night giggling and talking. No matter how many times Whitney would remind them to keep it down, within minutes their muffled voices would return, drifting through the adjoining bedroom wall. Most likely, she’d done the same at Lauren’s and they were both still asleep.
The house smelled like Saturday morning—coffee, creamer, maple syrup.
French toast had been a weekend tradition for years. When Amelia was little, she’d wake up early and bound into her mom’s bedroom, eager for breakfast. But lately it seemed Whitney ate alone more often than not. Even when Amelia was home, there was no guarantee she’d join her. Amelia lived in her room, earbuds perpetually plugged in her ears, as if she’d grown another extremity. Still, Whitney couldn’t bring herself to stop the tradition altogether. The French toast would get eaten, even if it took a couple of days. Whitney didn’t mind leftovers, anyway. Not that she had many this morning. She’d gone for an extra-long jog and had been ravenous.
After cleaning up the kitchen, Whitney went back into her phone and clicked on the Snapchat app. Amelia may have been quiet around the house lately, but she had no problem sharing her life with the rest of the world. Whitney expected to be greeted by smiling selfies of her and Lauren, maybe some photos of the food they were eating, proof to all the other teenagers on social media that they were having a blast on their Friday night together. But nothing had been posted on her story in the last twenty-four hours.
With slick fingertips, Whitney closed out of Snapchat and checked Instagram. Nothing there either. A chill brushed over her neck, causing the hairs to stand on end. She shook the feeling away with an abrupt jerk of her head. Whitney had always been like this. Anxious. A worrier, especially when it came to Amelia. Perpetually thinking the worst. Amelia hated it. So had her ex-husband. It was one of the many things they fought about. And it was probably one of many reasons why Dan had ended up marrying that sunny, smiling, high-pitched preschool teacher. If Whitney had to take a guess, she’d say there were no skeletons in Miss Karen’s closet. No past indiscretions she was afraid of coming to light. No monsters from her past lurking around the corner.
No secret buried inside, so deep the roots had become invisible.
When Dan married Karen, Whitney remembered thinking how he had succeeded in finding someone completely opposite from her, just like he said he would. It didn’t take him long either. He’d met Karen less than a year after they’d split up. He and Karen were friends for a while, and then dated for several years before marrying.
That was how he always defended it.
We were friends first.
We took it slow.
But that was never the point. He should have made Amelia his priority. Whitney hadn’t dated at all while Amelia was growing up—she’d only started within the last couple of years. Once Amelia hit high school and started having a life of her own, Whitney figured it was time she did too.
Leaning against the counter, she stared out the kitchen window. There wasn’t a view. The window overlooked the apartment across the way. A man stood in his kitchen, his back to Whitney as he drank coffee. His build vaguely reminded Whitney of Jay, and it made her smile.
Going into her last text thread with him, she typed, I miss you.
Then she bit her lip. Too forward? Too soon?
They’d been dating for a couple of months, and he’d only been on an overnight business trip. He was returning later today. She didn’t want to come on too strong.
Backspace. Delete. She tried again: Hope your trip was good.
Too formal?
Whitney paused, thinking.
Why am I making this so hard?
She really liked Jay. That was the problem. He was the first guy in a long time she felt hopeful about. Usually by month two of dating someone, the red flags popped up and her interest waned. That hadn’t happened yet with Jay.
Turns out, she didn’t need to stress over what to text. Jay beat her to it.
Boarding the plane now. Will call you when I’m back, he texted.
Sounds good, she responded.
It was 10:30. There were a million things on the agenda today and waiting around for Amelia wasn’t one of them.
After hitting the grocery store and Target, Whitney swung by Lauren’s, using the memory of how they’d gotten there yesterday as her guide. It was a little tricky, since she hadn’t paid enough attention to Amelia’s directions yesterday, but after a few minutes of circling the neighborhood, she came upon a familiar street and turned on it. A couple of houses in, she recognized the rosebushes.
It had been well over an hour since she’d sent the last text to Amelia. Although there hadn’t been any response yet, Whitney was sure she was up by now. Probably hoping to buy more time with her friend.
Whitney had gotten Amelia a bag of gummy worms. She pulled it out of one of the grocery bags. It crinkled as she set it on the passenger seat. Amelia probably wouldn’t even eat them. Certainly, they didn’t fit within the parameters of her latest diet, but, still, Whitney couldn’t resist. Whitney’s habit of picking up treats at the store had started back when Amelia was a toddler, when she’d surprised her with a bag of cookies one afternoon when picking her up from preschool. Whitney would never forget how wide Amelia’s eyes got, how broad her smile became as she clutched the little bag. A lot of things may have changed between them over the past few years, but Whitney didn’t want that to be one of them.
After getting out of the car, she slipped the key ring around her finger and walked up the front walkway, flip-flops slapping on the pavement. It was a warm, spring day. Kids played outside a few houses down. A lawnmower kicked on. A couple rode their bikes past, bright neon helmets bouncing up and down like beach balls bobbing in the waves. Amelia used to love to ride bikes. For a while, it had been a weekend tradition. Whitney couldn’t remember the last time they’d hit the trails together, but she made a note to ask her about it. Most likely her answer would be a big resounding no, coupled with the same cringey, horrified look she had whenever Whitney suggested they hang out. Still, it was worth a shot. Sometimes Amelia surprised her with a yes, reminding Whitney of the girl she used to be before the teenage monster took over.
When Whitney reached the door, she lifted her hand to knock the same way she’d watched Amelia do the day before. A minute passed and no one answered. That funny feeling returned, but she shoved it down, feeling silly.
She knocked again, this time so hard it stung her knuckles. The girls were probably listening to music or something. Or maybe they were in the backyard. It was a nice day. Ears perked, she listened for the sound of her daughter’s voice or of music playing inside. Hearing neither of those, she frowned.
Finally, Whitney caught the hint of footsteps inside.
The door creaked open, an older woman peering out, eyebrows raised. She looked to be in her late sixties, maybe early seventies.
Whitney was taken aback. She’d never met Lauren’s mom, but there was no way this was her. Maybe Lauren’s grandparents lived with them. Recently, Whitney had watched a news report about how the cost of living had gone up, causing multigenerational homes to become a growing trend. And Lauren had mentioned that her parents were divorced. Whitney knew firsthand how financially taxing it was to raise a child alone.
“Hi, I’m Whitney. Amelia’s mom.” Smiling, Whitney jutted out her hand.
But the elderly woman just stared at it, not saying a word. She glanced over her shoulder where a man around her same age stood. He furrowed his brows and stepped forward. Whitney’s body tensed.
Maybe she’s got dementia or Alzheimer’s or something. Whitney caught the old man’s eyes. “Hi, I’m Amelia’s mom. She spent the night here.”
“Nope. Not here.” Shaking his head, he came closer. “You must have the wrong house. They all kinda look the same in this neighborhood.”
Whitney glanced around. Hadn’t she thought the same thing yesterday? She must’ve turned down the wrong street or something.
Face warming, she backed away from the door. “I’m so sorry to have bothered you.”
“No bother at all,” the man said, and the woman offered a kind smile.
Whitney turned on her heels and made her way back to the car. She turned on the ignition and pulled away from the curb. The couple had already disappeared inside. Whitney drove to the main street and turned right. When she came up on another street, she turned onto it. The man was right. There were lots of houses that looked like theirs. She pulled up in front of one, scanning the yard.
Nope. No roses.
That’s what had set the other house apart. The one she dropped Amelia off at.
She moved farther down the street, carefully looking to the right and to the left, searching for a one-story house, roses lining the perimeter. Coming up empty, she swung the car around. Maybe her mistake had been turning right at the main street.
Backtracking, this time Whitney turned left.
This street was almost identical to the other two she’d just been down. Same tract homes. Manicured lawns. Shuttered windows. A sea of tan paint and beige trim. The odd red door or colorful lawn art. But, again, no roses. At least, not in the correct spot.
Turning onto another street, she finally found it. The simple house. The roses lining the side.
After parking in front, she leaped out and hurried to the front door. It was answered after only a couple of knocks.
She gasped, taking in the elderly man standing in the doorway. The same one she’d just spoken to a few moments ago.
Oh, my God.
She’d ended up right back where she’d started. As she backed away from the door, apologizing profusely, she took in the shuttered windows, the manicured lawn, the roses lining the perimeter of the yard. Peering back at her car, she envisioned Amelia in the front seat holding her phone, the voice of the GPS speaking in her palm.
There was almost no doubt in Whitney’s mind—this was where she’d left her.

Excerpted from Where I Left Her by Amber Garza, Copyright © 2021 by Amber Garza. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Harlequin Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour: Such a Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass @seraphinanovaglass @HarlequinBooks @Harlequin

SUCH A GOOD WIFE
Author: Seraphina Nova Glass
ISBN: 9781525896019
Publication Date: August 10, 2021
Publisher: Graydon House Books

Where to Buy:


BookShop.org
Harlequin
Barnes & Noble
Amazon
Books-A-Million
Powell’s

Contact Seraphina:


Author Website
Twitter: @SeraphinaNova
Facebook: Seraphina Nova Glass: Author
Goodreads

About the Author:

Seraphina Nova Glass is a professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Texas, Arlington, where she teaches film studies and playwriting. She holds an MFA in playwriting from Smith College, and she’s also a screenwriter and award-winning playwright. Seraphina has traveled the world using theatre and film as a teaching tool, living in South Africa, Guam and Kenya as a volunteer teacher, AIDS relief worker, and documentary filmmaker.

About the Book:

From the author of Someone’s Listening comes another thriller that will leave you breathless, about a housewife implicated in a murder investigation, perfect for fans of The Last House Guest and Someone We Know.

Melanie Hale has the perfect life. Her husband, Collin, is a loving and supportive partner and she loves their small-town home just outside of New Orleans. She doesn’t mind (too much) that she’s given up her career dreams to care for her two beautiful children. It’s all worth it.

So why, when she joins a writers’ group for fledgling novelists, does she embark on a steamy affair with Luke, a local bestselling author who gives a talk during the group? Why does she go back to Luke again and again, when she knows it’s wrong?

And then Luke is found dead, and Mel knows she was the last person to see him alive. Now, she not only has to keep the affair a secret, but somehow avoid being implicated in Luke’s death. But who would want to kill him? And if Mel finds the truth, will she be next? What follows is a sinister cat-and-mouse game that will leave readers guessing until the very last page.

Excerpt:

Two
Before

I can pinpoint the day that set everything in motion. Gillian Baker, one block over, holds a book club at her house once a week. Reluctantly, and at her insistence, I finally decided to join. I squeezed a cylinder of cookie dough out of its plastic tube, cut it into disks and put a tray of the artificial-tasting dough in the oven so I had something to bring and pass off as my own. Collin thought the book club idea was great and might inspire me. I told him it’s just a kid-free night for the neighborhood wives so they can drink wine and make vapid, uninformed comments on great literature, but he still thought I would be in my element and should give it a try.
I was going to be a scholar once upon a time, but I dropped out of my master’s program when we learned about Bennett’s condition. I wasn’t forced to stay home, but we decided it made sense. It was for the best, and even better than a degree, because I could write books from home and still pursue that dream. What a gift! All the time in the world to write the great American novel. Except I haven’t written any books, have I? What the hell do I really have to say anyway? Life has gone out of its way to ignore me in many regards. Shelby Fitch two doors down was in the peace corps in freaking Guatemala for two years before she married into this neighborhood. She should write the book.
What will my topics be? “Mom cleans up kid’s barf during carpool.”
“Mom waits half a day for dishwasher repair guy, and guess what? He never shows.”
“Mom tries a Peppa Pig cake recipe from Pinterest, but it looks like deranged farm swine with a phallic nose and makes son cry.” I have nothing to say. The other day I thought I’d get serious again and try to really sit and brainstorm some ideas. I ended up watching videos of people getting hurt on backyard trampolines and a solid hour of baby goats jumping around in onesies. So, I guess maybe at least getting my mind back into the literary world can’t hurt.
At my dressing table, I pulled my hair back and slipped on some dangly earrings. It was my first time out of yoga pants that week, and it felt nice. I applied lip gloss and pressed my lips together; I could hear the chaos begin in the background. The oven was beeping nonstop, beckoning Collin to take out the premade dinner he’d been heating up for the kids, but he was arguing with Ben about a video game he refused to turn off. He still had to make a plate for Claire and help the kids with homework after dinner, and Ralph, our elderly basset hound, was barking excessively at something outside, raising the tension in the room. I felt guilty leaving, but when I appeared in the front hall in a sundress, Collin lit up and gave me a kiss, telling me he had it under control. I knew he ultimately did. It’s not rocket science, it’s just exhausting and emotionally bloodsucking, and he’d already had a twelve-hour day of anxiety at work.
I kissed the top of Ben’s head and said goodbye to Rachel, who was paying no attention, and then I walked out the front door. I carried the plate of cookies and a copy of The Catcher in the Rye as I walked across the street. They were trying too hard, trying to be literary. Why not just choose Fifty Shades or a cozy mystery? When Rachel had to read this book for English, she called it a turd with covers. I, on the other hand, spent hours making meticulous notes so I could be sure to make comments that were sharp and poignant. I rehearse them in my head as I walk.
I was the last to arrive; there were a few other moms from the block already there. We all did the obligatory cheek kisses. Gillian’s living room looked like she was hosting a dinner party rather than a book club. Chardonnay was chilling in ice on the kitchen island next to a spread of food that could have come from a Vegas buffet. I wished I could hide my pathetic tube cookies.
“Wow, Gill. Did you do all this?” I asked, impressed.
“Oh, hell no. Are you kidding? It’s catered, silly.”
I can’t believe she’s had her book club catered. Everyone has wine and something fancy on a toothpick in their hands. She put my sad cookies next to the beautiful chiffon cake on the island, and I was mortified. There was cling wrap over them for God’s sake—on a Spider-Man paper plate left over from Ben’s last birthday. Kill me.
She poured me a glass, pretending not to think anything of my trashy offering, and I walked carefully over her white rug as we made our way into the sitting room. Of course she has a “sitting room.” It’s a bright space in the front of the house with vaulted ceilings and a blingy chandelier. We all perched on the edges of pale furniture. I never did quite know how to feel about these women. They’ve welcomed me so warmly, but they sometimes seem like a foreign species to me. Yes, I live in this neighborhood too, but it’s because of Collin’s success, not anything I’ve done. I guess they can probably say the same. I still feel sort of like an imposter. I don’t lean into it the way they seem to.
I didn’t intend to stay home, of course, but I still feel like I was destined for a career, never dependent on anyone else. It’s not that I feel dependent on Collin. That’s not the right word. What we have is ours. The way I contribute is something he could never handle, but I guess I don’t take it for granted the way they seem to. Gillian was constantly remodeling her house and upgrading things that you’d think it impossible to upgrade. She had a stunning outdoor kitchen next to a pool that appears damn near Olympic-sized. It was even highlighted in the local home tour magazine. One day she gutted the whole thing because she wanted the pool to be teardrop-shaped instead. And here I am using Groupons for my facials.
Even that sounds indulgent. Facials. I grew up in a doublewide trailer in Lafayette with a mother who worked the night shift at the hospital and an alcoholic father who spent his days quiet and glassy-eyed on the front porch, staring at some invisible thing, lost in another time. It will never feel right to buy five-hundred-dollar shoes or drive a luxury car, although I’d never want to lose the safety of it and I’m grateful my children will never have to struggle the way I did. This comfort is for them. This safety is for them. That’s the bottom line, so I brushed away the negative thoughts.
Tammy commented on Gillian’s bracelet. She held Gillian’s wrist, examining it. Everyone oohed and aahed as Gillian explained that it was an early birthday gift from Robert and she had to get it insured. I have never understood charm bracelets. An ugly soccer ball hangs off of her silver chain, but I made my face look delighted along with the others. After we settled in, I assumed the small talk was over and we’d dig into a great piece of literature. Kid-free, wine-lubricated, I was ready.
“Oh my God, you guys, did you see Bethany Burena at Leah’s wedding?” Karen asked. There was mocking laughter. I’d been at that wedding, but I didn’t know what they were referring to, so I stayed quiet. Liz chimed in.
“God, it looked like someone stuffed a couple honey-baked hams into the back of her dress.”
“And the worst part is she did that on purpose,” Tammy said, placing her glass of wine on an end table so she could use her hands to talk. “That ain’t too much buttercream, y’all!” Then she held her hands to her mouth and pretended to whisper sideways. “Although did you see her shoveling it in at the cake table?”
“She had those babies implanted,” Karen agreed.
“No!” Gillian gasped.
“Yep. Ass implants. Ass-plants.” Everyone roared with laughter. I forced a chuckle so I didn’t stand out. I hated these people, I realized right in that moment. I longed to leave. I could fake a headache, or check in at home and say there’s a problem with Ben, I thought. Why didn’t I? Why do I need their approval? Karen kept the gossip going.
“That’s not as bad as Alice. She brought the guy who cleans her pool to the wedding!
“What do you mean?” Liz asked.
“As a date.”
“No!”
“Scandal much?” Tammy was delighted she had everyone in hysterics.
“Alice Berg?” I asked, not understanding the social sin she’d committed. “Isn’t she single—like, divorced, I thought.”
“Yeah, but she brought The. Pool. Guy. Sad.”
“So sad,” Karen echoed.
“Desperate,” Liz added. She noticed the book in my hands. “What’s that?”
“What do you mean? It’s the book,” I said with a lighthearted scoff.
“Oh, Mel. I’m so sorry I didn’t mention it, I guess I thought everyone just sort of got it—especially since the book was something so random,” Gillian said.
“Got what?”
“We don’t, like, read it. We just need an excuse to get rid of the kids and hubbies for one night. I think we deserve at least that?” she said, glancing around for allies.
“Damn right we do.” Liz held her wine up and gulped it down, a sort of toast to herself. “You didn’t read it, did you?” I didn’t answer. I felt like an idiot. I was joking when I said it was an excuse to drink and have a night away. I was at least half joking. I thought that I may have found a few kindred spirits, perhaps—that they were at least making a half-assed attempt at self-betterment.
“I just skimmed it,” I said.
I was probably visibly blushing, so I picked a strawberry carved into a rose shape from the table and picked at it.
“Mel has a master’s in literature. Did y’all know that?” Gillian said, maybe in an attempt to redeem herself from indirectly embarrassing me.
“Oh my gosh, smarty-smart pants. Look at you.” Karen swatted my leg and smiled, supportively. I wanted the attention off me as soon as possible, so I didn’t correct her and say that it was creative writing…and that I never finished the degree.
“You should give me the name of your caterer,” I said, picking up a skewer of chicken and taking a bite. “I was gonna do a thing for Collin’s birthday. Maybe a trip, but if we stay in town we’ll have people to the house.” The subject is officially changed. Her eyes lit up.
“Oh my gosh, I have their card. I told them they should pay me for how many referrals I’m getting for them. Their almond torte is totally to die for. Seriously. If you don’t do a cake, maybe mini tortes.”
“Oh, cute!” Liz said.
We talked about mini tortes, whose phone carrier is the worst, Karen’s daughter’s (nonexistent) modeling career and Botox for the next two hours until I walked home unsteadily with my plate of cookies that Gillian gracefully sent home with me. I had to laugh a little at the idea that they met weekly, like they’d read that much. Made sense now. I tossed The Catcher in the Rye in Brianna Cunningham’s garbage can, which she’d failed to pull back into the garage (Tammy actually made mention of that particular oversight earlier in the evening), and I didn’t know if the crushing disappointment of the evening was worse than going back home to Claire’s bedpan and the mounting stress of teen angst and Ben’s moods. I wished I could just sit in the Cunninghams’ yard, drunk for a little while, but someone would see, and it would be discussed at some other neighbor’s book club.
The temperate dusk air was dense with mosquitoes and the chatter of crickets. I took my time walking back. When I approached our house, I saw Collin in an orange rectangle of warm kitchen light. He was washing dishes, sort of, but mostly looking past the kitchen island at the TV in the living room. I concentrated on appearing more sober than I was as I entered the kitchen. I sat at the table, pulling off my shoes, and he offered me a glass of wine.
“No, thanks.” I got up and filled a plastic Bob the Builder cup under the tap, then sat on a counter stool. He pulled one up next to me.
“Was it fun?” he asked, hopefully, wanting me to find an outlet—some joy in my life while things are so tough. I didn’t know if I should tell him the truth or make him happy, so I went down the middle.
“It was okay.”
“Just okay?”
“Eh. Not exactly the literary minds I was hoping to connect with.”
“I’m sorry.” He squeezed my hand. “I took Ben to pick out a new chapter book at Classics tonight.”
“Oh fun. What did he pick out?” I asked, thinking Collin was changing the subject.
He handed me a little postcard advert. “There’s a writers’ group starting next week.”
I looked over the glossy square and it had details welcoming any local writers to join the weekly Thursday group to workshop their writing. Before I could dismiss the assertion that I’m a “writer,” he pointed to the bullet point that stated “all levels welcome.” It was so incredibly sweet that he brought this for me, not only to encourage me in pursuing something I care about, but was also willing to hold down the fort every Thursday. I kissed him.
“That’s very thoughtful of you.”
“But?” he asked, anticipating a “no,” but I didn’t have a reason to say no. I mean, except that I had no writing to present to the group. I could write a critical essay on The Catcher in the Rye. That was about it. It sounded thrilling though. Maybe some accountability and pressure would be just what I needed. I glanced past Collin into the living room and saw Bennett asleep in front of WWE SmackDown! on the TV. I gave Collin a look.
“Well, he’s asleep, isn’t he?” he defended himself. Ismiled and shook my head, pressing my thumb into the crumbs on his plate and tasting the remnants of the cookies I left behind for the kids to eat.
“I guess I can try it,” I said, standing and rinsing the plate. Words I’d give anything to take back.

Excerpted from Such A Good Wife by Seraphina Nova Glass, Copyright © 2021 by Seraphina Nova Glass. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

A Gingerbread House by Catriona McPherson @CatrionaMcP @rararesources

About the Book:


An invitation you can’t refuse. You should . . .When shy, lonely Ivy meets a woman who claims to be her long-lost sister, she knows it’s too good to be true. She decides to trust Kate anyway. She wants a family. She wants someone to love.She’s making a mistake.Ivy enters Kate’s fairytale cottage, deep in the heart of Scotland . . . and she doesn’t come out.She’s the first to go missing.She won’t be the last.Meanwhile, in another part of the forest, Tash’s journey is just beginning . . .


Where to Buy:


US Amazon link https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0727850016
UK Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Gingerbread-House-Catriona-McPherson/dp/0727850016/
Severn House: http://severnhouse.com/book/A+Gingerbread+House/9193


About the Author:


Born in West Lothian and educated at Edinburgh University, Catriona McPherson has been a full-time fiction writer since 2001. She is the multi-award-winning author of the Dandy Gilver historical mysteries, the Last Ditch mysteries and a number of standalone psychological thrillers. She lives in northern California.


Contact Catriona:


http://catrionamcpherson.com/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Catriona-McPherson/171725286218342
https://twitter.com/CatrionaMcP

My Review:

A lady in a fairytale house, three missing women and a search….I was drawn in by the synopsis and title of this novel. It seemed to me to be a kind of Little Red Riding Hood retelling.

I liked how the name The Gingerbread House evoked something cosy, trustworthy and safe. Every character was well created and original. Every one was lured inside by Kate’s welcoming and friendly attitude.

Little do they know, they won’t come out…..

I liked this novel but in some parts, like the beginning, the setting description is too descriptive and I felt very scared. I didn’t know if it was going to be my kind of novel and was not sure if I wanted to finish it. I was, however, so gripped by wanting to know what was going to happen to each character out of genuine worry for them that I continued.

Some descriptions of the cellar of the house were graphic and a little gruesome.

The thriller is slow burn, which I think helps build tension.

Thanks to Catriona McPherson, Severn House and Rachel’s Random Resources for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars.

Remember Me (Previously Costa del Lies) by Dawn Terry @sunrise71x @zooloo2008 #zooloosbooktours

About the Author:

Dawn Terry enjoys writing romantic thriller/suspense novels, in which she takes her readers to beautiful locations on an emotional rollercoaster ride of deep suspense and sensual fiery passion. She is the author of Deadly Escape and Remember Me (Previously titled Costa Del Lies).

Having worked in interior design, international stockbroking and banking, advertising, law, marketing and radio, Dawn has been personal assistant to some of the most senior men and women within their fields, and she’s had access to, and enjoyed partying in, some of the most exclusive and famous venues.

Dawn enjoys holidaying in idealistic locations and has travelled extensively around the world, using these life experiences as inspiration for her books. As well as living in her home country of England, she has lived in Spain and South America.

Currently Dawn lives in Bedfordshire with her family, and is working on novels set in the Balearic Islands, South America, Spain and USA.

Contact Dawn:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dawnterry71xInstagram: https://www.instagram.com/dawnterry71x/Twitter: https://twitter.com/sunrise71x

Amazon UK : https://www.amazon.co.uk/Costa-Del-Lies-Dawn-Terry-ebook/dp/B08YNZJB48
Amazon US : https://www.amazon.com/Costa-Del-Lies-Dawn-Terry-ebook/dp/B08YNZJB48

About the Book:


Grab yourself a glass of Sangria and escape with the sexiest thriller of the Summer
Sun, Sea Sex & Lies

When Sergeant Michael Sanchez of the Costa Blanca Policia finally finishes a long night shift he didn’t expect to see a woman wandering the beach, soaked and disoriented. When she collapses in front of him from a head wound, he rushes her to hospital.

Helen Jones wakes up in hospital with the headache from hell and a hunky policeman watching her but absolutely no memory of who she is or why she’s been attacked. With only an ankle bracelet with the name Helen on, she has to find out what happened to her.

Read on for an extract of the book:

Thanking Juan, and bidding him ‘good night’, Sergeant Michael Sanchez finished his coffee and headed back to his car. As he reached for the door-handle he paused for a moment. Something in the distance had caught his eye. ‘Another drunk holidaymaker no doubt,’ Michael thought. But as he stood still, looking across the promenade, he sighed deeply; it was a shame to see someone in such a state. The woman was so drunk she couldn’t even walk straight, and her body swayed ragdoll-like from side to side.

He raised one dark eyebrow; and what a body that was! He watched as her tiny gold dress stuck to her curvy frame, barely reaching her slender mid-thighs, whilst the fabric clung to the swell of her hips and breasts like a second skin. Her hair fell around her shoulders messily, hanging over her face, obscuring any possibility of a view as she stumbled along. He watched as her hands grasped at her head, unsuccessfully trying to pull her hair out of the way.

Michael looked hard, trying to get a clear view of the woman’s face. But even if her hair hadn’t been hiding her, she was too far away. As her hands now grasped at the thin air, she looked more confused by the second. Completely disorientated. Turning her head from left to right, she tried to see as she clasped again at her hair.

He tutted, “Oh for fuck’s sake!” He could never understand why someone would be stupid enough to get into such a state; completely drunk, stumbling around with barely anything on, and in no fit state to look after herself. He raised his eyes skywards and grunted. ‘Drive away. Ignore her. It’s late, I’m tired and my shift’s done,’ he told himself, trying to pretend he hadn’t seen her; after all it wasn’t his business if she wanted to stumble around like a drunken lush! But something inside him wouldn’t let him do it. The policeman or his conscience? He didn’t know which. But whatever it was pulled him away from his car and he walked towards her. “Señorita!” he called out impatiently.

As he approached, Michael eyed the woman’s curvy legs. Following them down to her feet he noticed she wasn’t wearing shoes, and again he swore under his breath. This was getting worse by the minute! Then something inside him, instinct perhaps, sped him up just in time to see her body slump.

The Life She Wants by J.M. Hewitt @canelo_co @jmhewitt @rararesources

About the Book:


You want to save your marriage. She wants to destroy it.
Paula worries that her marriage to Tommy is hanging by a thread. She loves how safe her husband makes her feel, but lately, it seems like he’s pulling away from her, and he keeps avoiding a much-needed conversation about finally having children.
When Tommy suggests a cruise getaway for the two of them, Paula is thrilled. He’s fighting for this marriage, and he’s even promised that they will talk about growing their family. It’s Paula’s dream come true. Until the couple meets beautiful Anna.
From the moment Anna appears in their lives, things start to go wrong for Paula. She finds herself trapped in a sauna. Her hair is destroyed at the salon. Money goes missing from her cabin. At first, Paula thinks she’s paranoid in suspecting Anna is turning her dream holiday into a nightmare. But soon, it becomes clear that Paula may not be the only woman fighting for Tommy’s affections. 
How far will Anna go to get what she wants? What lines will Paula cross to protect her marriage? And whose dark past will return to destroy them first?
The Life She Wants is a suspenseful psychological thriller with a twist. Perfect for fans of Catherine Ryan Howard, Ruth Ware, and Lisa Jewell.


Where to Buy:


Ebook – https://geni.us/TLSWebookPaperback – https://geni.us/TLSWpaperback


About the Author:


J.M. Hewitt is the author of five crime fiction novels. Her work has also been published in three short story anthologies. Her books usually incorporate twentieth and twenty-first century events and far-flung locations, and her novels explore the darker side of human behaviour. In contrast to the sometimes dark content of her books, she lives a very nice life in a seaside town in Suffolk with her dog, Marley.

Contact JM Hewitt:


Websitewww.jmhewitt.net

Twitter
@jmhewitt

Facebook Author Page
J.MHewittauthor

Instagram
j.mhewitt

My Review:

Paula and Tommy. Tommy and Paula. They love each other, don’t they? Paula feels so safe with Tommy, but after a conflict, things get tense.

Tommy suggests a cruise. A dream holiday should be a dream, shouldn’t it? They are both looking forward to it.

Then they meet Anna…

Paula doesn’t know who to trust when it seems she’s the target of an incident. Are she and Tommy still solid? Or is it Anna?

I enjoyed how gripping this was and the plot about the cruise. I found I was holding my breath in anticipation as to what may happen. There were so many twists and turns.

I found myself wondering if Tommy and Paula would save their marriage, or if they would even get off the cruise ship alive at some points.

The Life She Wants certainly kept me guessing.

Thanks to J.M Hewitt, Canelo and Rachel’s Random Resources for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars

The Temple House Vanishing by Rachel Donohue @algonquinbooks @rachellucydonohue

About the Book:

An Irish Bestseller
Finalist for the Irish Book Awards’ Newcomer of the Year

Perched high atop a seaside cliff in Ireland, a lonely Victorian mansion is home to Temple House School. And at Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems.

Louisa is the new, brilliant scholarship student. Finding most of the other students at the all-girls Catholic boarding school as icy and unfamiliar as the drafty mansion, she forms a fierce bond with the intense and compelling Victoria, an outlier and student provocateur.

Their close bond is soon unsettled by the young, charismatic art teacher, Mr. Lavelle—igniting tension and obsession in the cloistered world of the school. Then one day, Louisa and Mr. Lavelle disappear.

There is no trace of either one. It’s the unsolved mystery that captivates the whole country. Year after year, the media revisit it, and the conspiracy theories persist. Now, on the twenty-fifth anniversary, a journalist—a woman who grew up on the same street as Louisa—delves into the past to write a series of articles and uncover the truth. She finds stories of jealousy and revenge, power and class. But will she find Louisa and Mr. Lavelle, too?

Because remember—at Temple House, nothing is ever as it seems.

Told through alternating points of view, Rachel Donohue’s debut novel skillfully, gradually, lets the reader into the hearts and minds of both Louisa and the determined reporter.

This page-turner is perfect for fans of Elisabeth Thomas’s Catherine House or Kate Elizabeth Russell’s My Dark Vanessa.

Pre-order the book here:

$16.95 (US)


Amazon:


Barnes & Noble:


Books-A-Million:


Bookshop

https://bookshop.org/books/the-temple-house-vanishing/9781643750279


IndieBound:

https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781643750279?aff=workmanpub

My Review:

Temple House is a Roman Catholic boarding school run by nuns.

In 1990, Victoria and Louisa are two students there and they become friends. Edward Lavelle is their art teacher. He’s 25 and has the good looks of a movie star.

When Edward and Louisa disappear, the investigation starts.

I was hooked by the title of this as well as the synopsis and was also really wanting to review it since I went to an all-girls’ school too although not one as sinister as Temple House. The school prides itself on its status, but does it really live up to its claims?

I was immersed in this debut novel, and what a wonderful debut it is. We have everything that goes along with the goings on at a girls’ school (fights, jealousy rivalry making friends).

I was scared, surprised wanting to know what was going to happen and concerned for Louisa.

What really happened? Who is guilty? Can she trust Victoria like she thought she could? Is she, and anyone, safe at the school?

A must-read if you like twisty thrillers.

Thanks to Rachel Donohue and Algonquin Books for my ARC in exchange for an honest and voluntary review.

4 stars.