Thriller Thursday Reviews: The House Beyond the Dunes & My Darling Girl

 

Hi Everyone, Sharon here wishing you all happy Thriller Thursday! This week I am so excited to share my thoughts on two amazing books I read.  Mary Burton’s awesome psychological thriller, The House Beyond the Dunes and Jennifer McMahon’s great supernatural thriller, My Darling Girl.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The House Beyond the Dunes & My Darling GirlThe House Beyond the Dunes Goodreads

Author: Mary Burton

Publication Date: September 5, 2023

Publisher: Montlake

I have never read anything by Mary Burton, but when Goodreads suggested The House Beyond the Dunes as a book I may like, I decided to give it a read and now I want to check out more of Mary Burton’s books, because Goodreads was on the mark in suggesting this book.

Kyle Iverson brought his new girlfriend, Lane McCord to his secluded beach house to spend the New Year’s weekend and bring their relationship to the next level, but a romantic weekend this was not. An hour after they arrive, both Kyle and Lane fall down a flight of stairs. Lane wakes up in a hospital with multiple bruises, but Kyle died. As Lane tries to make sense of what happened, she is confronted by Detective Becker, who is not so sure that Kyle’s death was an accident. Detective Becker is also investigating the disappearance of two women from nearby Nags Head, both of whom went missing around the July fourth holiday. Lane returns to the beach house to retrieve her belongings and try to understand what happened to make her and Kyle fall, but she learns things about Kyle and realizes she did not know him as well as she thought. Lane is also getting texts messages with copies of a journal from one of the missing women, Stevie Palmer. Who is Stevie Palmer and why is someone sending her journal to Lane? And what really happened at the beach house?

OMG! Guys, I loved this book so much. The story was told from Lane’s POV as well as Stevie’s journal. I loved getting the story this way. I was equally invested in both POV’s. I also loved both Lane and Stevie. They were both strong and determined women.

With Lane’s POV, we follow her as she goes back to the beach house and tries to unravel what happened, as well as trying to figure out who Stevie is and what happened to her. The more she learned about Kyle the more confusing things became. She kept things she learned to herself because she was not sure who to trust. And I was right there with her on that one. Detective Becker came across as very shady to me, so he immediately was on my radar. As was, Reece, the neighbor that called the police after the accident and Devon, the caretaker of the house.

I loved reading Stevie’s journal. Stevie worked as a bartender at a local pub in Nags Head. It is here that she meets the other woman, Nicki, that went missing. Stevie actually took it upon herself to investigate Nicki’s disappearance and I loved that about her. She didn’t really know Nicki, but as she said, “If I don’t look for her, who will?” The further along we got in Stevie’s journal the more things started to come together on how Stevie, Nicki, Kyle, and Lane were all connected. There was one final connection at the end of the book that took me totally by surprise. It actually brought tears to my eyes.

The House Beyond the Dunes is an amazing psychological thriller.  Mary Burton did a great job of creating this story. I was so caught up in the mystery of what happened at the beach house, as well as what happened to Stevie and Nicki, that by the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat.  4 ½ stars

Trigger warning: This book does deal with rape. Mary Burton does not get into the details, but it is there.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: The House Beyond the Dunes & My Darling GirlMy Darling Girl Goodreads

Author: Jennifer McMahon

Publication Date: October 3, 2023

Publisher: Gallery/Scout Press

I love Jennifer McMahon’s books and how they deal with the supernatural. So, what better time to read her latest book, My Darling Girl, than spooky season.  This book is set around Christmas, so I got all my holiday vibes in one reading. LOL!

Alison O’Connor lives in Vermont with her husband, Mark, and their two children, sixteen-year-old Izzy, and six-year-old Olivia. Alison is estranged from her mother Mavis. Alison and her brother suffered abuse from their mother when they were children. Alison has put her past behind her, but then she gets a call from Mavis’ assistant that will turn her life upside down. Mavis is in the hospital with cancer and only has a few weeks left to live, and she wants to move in with Alison and spend her last few weeks with her and her family. Alison is reluctant at first, but after talking it over with Mark, who knows the whole story of her childhood, they agree to take Mavis in. But not long after Mavis moves in, things start to happen and Alison is forced to revisit her childhood and she discovers that her mother is not who she seems to be and their family’s happy Christmas season is turned into a nightmare. How far will Alison go to keep her family safe?

Not long after Mavis moves in strange things start to happen, but they only seem to happen when Alison is around. Mavis is sweet as pie when anyone else is around, but when she is alone with Alison her demeanor changes. And Mavis knows things that Alison did as a child that no one should know. Alison starts to wonder if her mother is possessed by an evil entity. I was right there with Alison, especially when their dog Moxie would not go into Mavis’ room. He would just look inside and growl. To me if a dog does not like you then something is wrong.  After Mavis’ assistant dies in a car accident, Alison is forced to return to her childhood home to retrieve important documents and it is here that Alison finds her mother’s journal and she knows that something has a hold on Mavis and once Mavis dies this evil being will want a new host. Alison is now in a race against time to figure out how to keep this evil being from destroying her family.

I loved all the characters in this book. I loved how Alison was willing to do anything to protect her family. Even when her husband thought she was going over the deep end and wouldn’t believe Mavis was possessed, she still pushed forward and confronted her past. Little Olivia was such a cutie pie and she loved getting to know her grandmother, which scared me and Alison.

WOW! My Darling Girl was an awesome read. While not super scary, it had that underlining creepiness to it, and I loved that. McMahon did a great job of bringing the eeriness and supernatural forces to life. I was on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading. And the end! OMG! I did not expect that ending. Well done Jennifer McMahon, well done!   4 ½ stars

Reviews: LOVE INTEREST & FRIENDS DON’T FALL IN LOVE

 

Happy Monday everyone! Knock on wood, but I think I finally have the commenting issue resolved on the blog.  Some research and hours of troubleshooting eventually revealed the issue to be a bad update to a plugin I was using and as soon as I deactivated it, the comments started flowing in again.  I’m not a tech savvy person so it was very frustrating to say the least, as I would have much rather been spending all of that time visiting your blogs instead of trying to figure out why mine was trying to implode, lol.  Anyway, I’m back in business now and I’m also back with two reviews I meant to post last week.  Both of these books are out in the wild now, so if you like the sound of them, you can grab copies today!

 

Reviews:  LOVE INTEREST & FRIENDS DON’T FALL IN LOVELove Interest Goodreads

Author: Clare Gilmore

Publication Date: October 10, 2023

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Set in Manhattan at a magazine publishing firm, Clare Gilmore’s debut novel Love Interest follows Casey Maitland, a 24 year old finance expert who has decided to spread her wings and apply for a project manager position at her company.  Her aspirations for this new career path are dashed, however, when she is passed over and the job is given to Alex Harrison, who happens to be the Chairman of the Board’s son and who also happens to be the mysterious hot guy Casey had an adorable meet cute with before she realized they were vying for the same position.  Alex is well educated, charming, and is immediately well liked by everyone at the company, except for Casey, that is, who can’t stand him.  Everything changes, however, when the two of them are forced to work on a project together.

I really enjoyed Love Interest.  Gilmore’s writing is wonderful, and I especially enjoyed her character development as Casey and Alex slowly begin to open up to one another about their dreams and aspirations. I loved how open and trusting they became with one another, and I especially liked the growth we see in Casey as she realized she has unfairly misjudged Alex, who turns out to be serious book boyfriend material!  Some of the workplace scenes weren’t the most entertaining, but the chemistry Gilmore creates between Casey and Alex nicely balances that out and keeps the story flowing smoothly.

Love Interest is a delightful workplace romance that is sure to please fans of the rivals-to-lovers and forced proximity tropes. 4 STARS

 

Reviews:  LOVE INTEREST & FRIENDS DON’T FALL IN LOVEFriends Don't Fall in Love Goodreads

Author: Erin Hahn

Publication Date: October 17, 2023

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

Erin Hahn’s latest novel Friends Don’t Fall in Love is a friends-to-lovers romance set against the backdrop of the country music industry in Nashville. I enjoyed Hahn’s book Built to Last so much that I requested this one for review without reading the synopsis, so it was a wonderful surprise to realize we were going to revisit my favorite characters from Built to Last.

This story follows Lorelai Jones, a country music superstar who fell from grace when she performed a protest song in support of gun control at a concert. Five years later she decides to mount a comeback and reaches out to the one man who has always been in her corner, her best friend Craig (or Huck as she calls him), who also happens to be a successful music producer.

Huck has issues of his own that he’s dealing with, including a former bandmate who refuses to give him credit for songs that Huck wrote for him.  But no matter what Huck is dealing with, he has never been able to say no to Lorelai. In fact, he has been quietly in love with her for years.  It is this complicated dynamic between Lorelai and Huck that really made this an excellent read for me.  Hahn presents their relationship through both present-day scenes and flashbacks to show just how layered and complicated things are between them and I loved watching their relationship unfold this way and seeing Lorelai slowly wake up to what has been right in front of her all along.

Huck is an absolute cinnamon roll and I adored him, and I’ll always root for an underdog so Lorelai and her comeback story really appealed to me as well.  The presence of the gun control debate and the cancel culture that surrounds it was right on the edge of being too much for me since I read romance to escape things like that, but thankfully Lorelai and Huck’s personal journey was enough to keep the story enjoyable for me. I also really appreciated the behind-the-scenes look at the country music industry.

If slow-burn, friends to lovers romances are your vibe, you’re going to want to pick up a copy of Friends Don’t Fall in Love. 4 STARS

Review – JANE AND THE FINAL MYSTERY by Stephanie Barron

Review – JANE AND THE FINAL MYSTERY by Stephanie BarronJane and the Final Mystery by Stephanie Barron
four-half-stars
Series: Being a Jane Austen Mystery Book #15
Published by Soho Crime on October 24, 2023
Genres: Historical Fiction
Pages: 312
Source: the Publisher
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via the Publisher. All opinions are my own.

 

 

 

MY REVIEW:

Jane and the Final Mystery is the fifteenth and final installment of Stephanie Barron’s entertaining Jane Austen Mysteries series.  As an Austen fan, I was surprised that I hadn’t come across this series before, particularly since the first book was published in 1996, but somehow it flew under my radar and I’m therefore just now beginning my experience with it.  I’m actually quite excited about that though because not only does Jane and the Final Mystery work well as a standalone, but it’s a gem of a book that has me looking forward to checking out the other fourteen books.

I absolutely love that the premise of the series is that Austen is an amateur sleuth.   At first the idea might seem farfetched, but if you’ve ever read her novels or any of her letters, you know that Austen was clever and especially astute when it came to reading people and situations. While those qualities made her a phenomenal author, I think those same qualities would make her well suited to detective work as well.

This story is set in 1817, and if you are familiar with Austen, you know that’s the year she died.  Her struggles with her health are accurately portrayed here, but she cannot resist getting involved with one final case, particularly since the case involves her best friend’s son being accused of murder.  I don’t want to give away any spoilers since it is a murder mystery, but I will say that the mystery is well constructed, with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing.

While I found the mystery very engrossing, what I enjoyed most about this book was the obvious care Barron has taken to portray Austen as authentically as possible. As I mentioned, I read many of Austen’s personal letters when I studied her in college, and this portrayal of Austen is just so well done. Barron has clearly done her research when it comes to Jane, and she has perfectly captured Austen’s way of speaking as well as her cleverness and her wry sense of humor.  Barron’s passion for Austen, as well as for the time period she lived in, comes shining through in every page, making this series a treat for any Jane Austen fan.

While I’m sure Jane and the Final Mystery will be a satisfying series finale for those who have been fans of the series from the beginning, it has also made for a wonderful first experience for me and I look forward to continuing my journey with Jane Austen Mysteries.

Thanks so much to the author and Soho Crime for the gifted review copy and to Laurel Ann Nattress from Austenprose for inviting me to take part in this tour.

 

PRAISE FOR JANE AUSTEN AND THE FINAL MYSTERY:

  • “Poignant . . . Elicits deep emotion out of Jane’s struggles against her own mortality. This is a fitting send-off for a beautifully realized series.”— Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
  • “Barron developed Jane’s narrative voice by reading Austen’s collected and published letters, and it is neither spoiler nor surprise to say that series readers will be sorry to say goodbye to Jane Austen, amateur sleuth.”— Booklist
  • “[Barron] has brilliantly combined authentic historical and biographical details with skillful plotting and a credible evocation of Austen’s wry, distinctive voice. She brings the English author’s final investigation to a poignant, unforgettable close. Fans of this historical series will not be disappointed.”— First Clue

PURCHASE LINKS

AMAZON | BARNES & NOBLE | PUBLISHER | GOODREADS | BOOKSHOP

 

 

four-half-stars

About Stephanie Barron

Stephanie Barron is a graduate of Princeton and Stanford, where she received her
Masters in History as an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow in the Humanities. Her novel, THAT CHURCHILL WOMAN (Ballantine, January 22, 2019) traces the turbulent career of Jennie Jerome, Winston Churchill’s captivating American mother. Barron is perhaps best known for the critically acclaimed Jane Austen Mystery Series, in which the intrepid and witty author of PRIDE AND PREJUDICE details her secret detective career in Regency England. A former intelligence analyst for the CIA, Stephanie—who also writes under the name Francine Mathews—drew on her experience in the field of espionage for such novels as JACK 1939, which The New Yorker described as “the most deliciously high-concept thriller imaginable.” She lives and works in Denver, CO.

Review: GUY’S GIRL by Emma Noyes

Review:  GUY’S GIRL by Emma NoyesGuy's Girl by Emma Noyes
four-half-stars
Published by BERKLEY on October 24, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance
Pages: 384
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Thank you so much to Berkley for the free copy of Guy’s Girl and to Yasmine Hassan for the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for this book!

Guy’s Girl is Emma Noyes’ adult debut novel and wow, does it pack an emotional punch!  I was sold on the book as soon as I read the first line of the synopsis:  “The boy who couldn’t love and the girl who wouldn’t.”  I felt myself getting invested in the characters as soon as I read that line and knew I had to find out more about Ginny and Adrian.  I became all the more invested when I read the author’s note and learned just how much of her own personal experience was the basis for Ginny’s journey.  While I’ve not personally struggled with an eating disorder, I’ve known a few people who have and appreciated that this book gave me a little more insight into what my friends might have been going through on their path to recovery.

The story is presented across multiple timelines and I thought this was such an effective way to follow Ginny’s journey.  The path to recovery is rarely ever linear and the author uses the multiple timelines to show Ginny at various points in her life and her successes and setbacks with respect to her eating disorder.  Ginny also struggles with anxiety, which has only compounded the problem over the years and led to her feelings of self-doubt, as well as her feelings that no one could possibly ever love her.  Ginny’s journey over the years is a heartbreaking one at times, full of raw emotion.  I definitely shed a few tears watching her struggle and make frustrating choices that sometimes just didn’t make sense,  but I loved Ginny and these struggles and poor choices made her feel all the more real to me, and I was fully invested in seeing her journey through to the end.

While Ginny’s journey to recovery takes center stage, I also enjoyed the exploration of her personal relationships.  As the title states, Ginny is a guy’s girl.  She has always found it easier to make friends with guys and loves that their friendships are usually drama free, as long as there’s no romance involved.  When she meets Adrian, however, that line gets blurred because Ginny feels so much more than just friendship for him.  Adrian is battling his own personal demons though and has no interest in romance.  He believes it isn’t worth the heartache he witnessed his own mother experience, and therefore, refuses to let love in.  While both Ginny and Adrian clearly need to work through their own issues before a healthy relationship is possible between them, I still love watching the two of them together.  I would definitely consider the romance a slow burn but watching Ginny and Adrian grow to become each other’s biggest supporters is just beautiful to watch.

Guy’s Girl is a powerful story that is also beautifully written, filled with raw emotions that just felt so authentic.  It’s an emotionally heavy read at times, but it’s also a story that is filled with healing, hope, and love.

 

 

four-half-stars

About Emma Noyes

Emma Noyes told her mother she wanted to be an author when she was six. She grew up in a suburb outside Chicago and attended Harvard University, where she studied history & literature. She started her career at a beer company, but left because she wanted to write about mermaids and witches—eventually publishing her first YA fantasy series, The Sunken City. She now lives in Chicago with her Swedish boyfriend and miniature Pomeranian. Guy’s Girl is her adult debut. Learn more online at www.emmavrnoyes.com.

Blog Tour – IRIS KELLY DOESN’T DATE by Ashley Herring Blake @berkleyromance

Blog Tour – IRIS KELLY DOESN’T DATE by Ashley Herring Blake @berkleyromanceIris Kelly Doesn't Date (Bright Falls, #3) by Ashley Herring Blake
Also by this author: How to Make a Wish, Girl Made of Stars
four-half-stars
Series: Bright Falls #3
Published by BERKLEY, Berkley Romance on October 24, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, LGBTQ, Romance
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Thank you so much to Berkley Romance for the free copy of Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date and to Kristin Cipolla for the invitation to take part in the blog tour for this book!

Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date is the third installment in Ashley Herring Blake’s Bright Falls series. I have loved every book in this series and every wonderful character we’ve met along the way so I couldn’t wait to dive in and finally get to know more about Iris.

When we meet Iris in this new book, she has embarked on a new career as an author of romance novels.  Her debut novel went well, but she is struggling to write her second book and her own lackluster love life might be part of the problem.  While Iris is thrilled that Astrid, Delilah, and everyone else in their friend group has found love, she often finds herself the odd man out, so to speak.  One night, she decides to forget all of her troubles and heads to a bar in Portland.  She meets, and is immediately attracted to, a sexy stranger named Stefania, and the two of them really hit it off.  Instead of the hookup Iris was hoping for, however, the night ends in disaster.  What Iris doesn’t realize at the time, however, is that Stefania is about to become a very important person in her life.

Following her agent’s advice to get out there and do something to take her mind off her writer’s block, Iris decides to try out for a local play that is a gender-bent retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing.  When she finds out who is playing the lead, Iris can barely believe it.  It’s Stefania, whose real name turns out to be Stevie, and it becomes apparent that Stevie has told everyone involved with the play that she and Iris are dating.  Stevie begs Iris to go along with it, so as not to embarrass her in front of everyone, and Iris decides to play along, figuring this ought to at least spark some ideas for writing her novel.

I loved this book so much!  In spite of their failed one night stand, it’s obvious that Iris and Stevie have major chemistry.   Iris is a fun and confident bisexual woman, but in this book, we finally get to see a vulnerable side to her that we haven’t seen before.  Stevie is a former actor who has been dealing with anxiety and panic attacks, and the two of them were just so messy and flawed and  honestly just perfect together.  It was wonderful watching their relationship transform from fake to real, and to see how much they grew to care for, respect and support one another. Some of their more in-depth conversations about things they have gone through just really tugged at my heartstrings because it really made their relationship feel so authentic.

It wasn’t just all heartfelt, vulnerable moments between these two characters either. There was of course plenty of steam and humor, plus several fun appearances by the other members of Iris’ friend group.  It also didn’t hurt that Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite Shakespearean comedy. Watching Iris and Stevie actually act out scenes from that play was just icing on what was already a fabulous cake for me.

Iris Kelly Doesn’t Date is another immensely satisfying and heartwarming installment in the Bright Falls series.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys sapphic romance, fake dating, and stories that feature fabulous friend groups/found families.

 

 

four-half-stars

About Ashley Herring Blake

Ashley Herring Blake is a reader, writer, and mom to two boisterous boys. She holds a Master’s degree in teaching and loves coffee, arranging her books by color, and watching Buffy over and over again on Netflix with her friends. She’s the author of the young adult novels SUFFER LOVE and HOW TO MAKE A WISH.

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Everyone Here is Lying & The Coworker

 

Sharon is back for another edition of Thriller Thursday.  I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying spooky season.  This week I have two great mystery/thrillers, Shari Lapena’s, Everyone Here is Lying and Freida McFadden’s, The Coworker. I loved both of these books and they both had twists and turns that made me go “WOW!”.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Everyone Here is Lying & The CoworkerEveryone Here Is Lying Goodreads

Author: Shari Lapena

Publication Date: July 25, 2023

Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books

Shari Lapena’s newest book, Everyone Here is Lying, centers around the search for missing Avery Wooler and as the title suggests not everyone in the small town of Stanhope, New York is telling the truth.

William Wooler is a respected doctor. He and his wife, Erin have two children, twelve-year-old Michael, and nine-year-old Avery who has behavioral problems and ADHD. William is having an affair with his neighbor, Nora Blanchard. Nora has just broken off the affair and William is devastated, so when he goes home expecting the house to be empty and sees Avery there, William loses his temper and strikes Avery. Filled with guilt and shame, William gets in his car and drives off, but when Michael comes home an hour later, Avery is nowhere to be found. After a frantic search, the police are called, and a roller coaster of an investigation begins. An anonymous witness calls and says that they saw Avery get into the car of Nora’s eighteen-year-old son, Ryan.  Ryan denies this, but why would someone lie about that?

Wow! What a ride this book was. Shari Lapena created a very addictive read with such flawed characters, some I liked and some I hoped would never be able to recover after everything was over. William and Nora were in the latter category. I wanted to scream at them so many times. A little girl is missing and all they could think about is that they hoped their affair does not come out and when it does, all they could think about is how they were affected. Nora I could give a little slack to because her son was front and center in the investigation. But not William, it is your daughter that is missing you jerk.

I did have a lot of sympathy for Erin and Michael. Erin is beside herself with worry for Avery, naturally. I think Lapena did a great job of bringing Erin’s emotions to life. And poor Michael, he feels like he is to blame because it was him that had told Avery where the hide-a key was and if he didn’t do that then Avery would have waited for him after school that day and would be safe right now.

I also loved the detectives, Bledsoe and Gully. I liked how they did not get tunnel vision on one person and followed every lead they had. Even when the witness said that Avery got in Ryan’s car, they continued to investigate other possibilities while waiting for forensics to come back on Ryan’s car and phone.  I really enjoyed following along as they worked on the investigation. I really thought I knew who took Avery, but I was so wrong.

Everyone Here is Lying had lots of twists and turns. About three quarters of the way through the book there was a twist that knocked me off my chair. I was literally like “Holy Crap!”. And the ending, well let’s just say I had another holy crap moment and so wished we had more chapters.   4 ½ stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: Everyone Here is Lying & The CoworkerThe Coworker Goodreads

Author: Freida McFadden

Publication Date: August 29, 2023

Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press

I love Freida McFadden’s writing; she always keeps me guessing. And her newest book, The Coworker, is no exception.

Natalie Farrell is a sales Representative and Dawn Schiff is an accountant at Vixed, a nutritional supplement company. Natalie is beautiful and popular, and everything seems to come so easily for her. Dawn is the complete opposite, she is socially awkward, plain looking and her only real friend is her childhood best friend, Mia.  They do have one thing in common though, they both have dark secrets. When Dawn goes missing, Natalie finds herself in the middle and her perfect life is blown apart.

Dawn is always at her desk at 8:45am sharp. So, when Natalie showed up to work at 9:00 and Dawn was not at her desk, she stopped and did a double take. Where is Dawn? She is always on time and has never taken a sick day. No one else in the office is all that concerned that Dawn is not in, but Natalie cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong. When the phone on Dawn’s desk rings, Natalie answers it and the voice on the other end sounds like Dawn and she whispers, “help me”.  Natalie takes it upon herself to drive to Dawn’s house and check on her. When she enters Dawn’s house through the unlocked back door, Natalie is shocked by what she sees. Dawn’s living room is covered in blood, but Dawn is nowhere to be found. When the police start their investigation, they uncover information that makes them set their sights on Natalie. Natalie is now in a cat and mouse game, and she must find out what happened to Dawn and why someone is framing her.

I cannot say too much about what happens because I think it is best to go into this book blind. But I will say I wasn’t sure who to believe or trust while I was reading. At first, I liked Natalie because she came across as such a nice person. Every year she has a charity 5K run event to help raise funds for Muscular Dystrophy, in honor of her friend she lost to the disease. Natalie also always seemed to go out of her way to be nice to Dawn, though they were not best friends, Natalie considered Dawn to be a friend. But then we get Dawn’s POV via emails she sent to her childhood best friend, Mia. In these emails Natalie comes across as a very different person, according to Dawn, Natalie was a bully. I loved getting these two sides because it made both Natalie and Dawn unreliable characters.

The Coworker was full of so many twists and turns. Just when I thought I may know what was going on, a twist would come and point me in another direction. So many times I found my jaw drop and would be like ‘What?!”. If you are looking for a twisty psychological thriller, then I definitely recommend Freida McFadden’s The Coworker.  4 stars

Blog Tour Review – BETTER HATE THAN NEVER by Chloe Liese @berkleyromance

Blog Tour Review – BETTER HATE THAN NEVER by Chloe Liese @berkleyromanceBetter Hate than Never by Chloe Liese
four-half-stars
Series: The Wilmot Sisters #2
Published by Berkley Romance on October 10, 2023
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Romance, Retelling
Pages: 400
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Thank you so much to Berkley Romance for the free e-copy of Better Hate Than Never and to Tina Joell from Berkley Romance for the invitation to take part in the blog tour for this book!

Better Hate Than Never is the second book in Chloe Liese’s The Wilmot Sisters series. I adored the first book in the series, which is a modern day retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and was over the moon to learn this latest book is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, which is one of my favorite Shakespearean comedies.  Hearing that this is also Liese’s steamiest book to date only further added to the appeal!

I really enjoyed everything about this book. While the story contains many references to the original play, Liese does a wonderful job creating a fresh and unique enemies-to-lovers story. In her story, the protagonists, Katerina Wilmot and Christopher Petruchio are childhood enemies who have now grown into adults, and if possible, hate each other even more.  Their friends and family know they could actually be pretty great for one another if they could just get past the old flames of hatred, but Katerina and Christopher aren’t having it.  That is, until one drunken moment when Katerina confesses to Christopher that she only really hated him because she thought he hated her first.  After hearing this, Christopher vows to find a way to make peace with Katerina once and for all, but Katerina isn’t sure she buys his new act. Can Christopher win her over?

The banter between Christopher and Katerina was what really stole the show in this story. I found myself outright cackling at them several times as I was reading because they were both just so good at pushing each other’s buttons. Liese’s dialogue is sharp, witty, and just filled with clever barbs.  The romance is a slow burn one, but I was so thoroughly entertained by the banter that the story just flew by.

Not only was I thoroughly invested in the budding romance between Christopher and Katerina, but I also thought Liese did a wonderful job creating such well developed characters.  I was especially a big fan of Liese’s mental health rep in Better Hate Than Never. One character suffers from chronic migraines and panic attacks, while the other is dealing with ADHD, and Liese portrays each of these conditions thoughtfully and accurately.

If you’re a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope and are in the mood for a steamy, slow-burn romance, be sure to pick up a copy of Better Hate Than Never. You won’t regret it!

four-half-stars

About Chloe Liese

Chloe writes romances reflecting her belief that everyone deserves a love story. Her stories pack a punch of heat, heart, and humor, and often feature characters who are neurodivergent like herself. When not dreaming up her next book, Chloe spends her time wandering in nature, playing soccer, and most happily at home with her family and mischievous cats.

Chloe is represented by Samantha Fabien at Root Literary.

Holiday Reviews: A WINTER IN NEW YORK & WRECK THE HALLS

 

Happy Monday everyone! As you can tell by how late I’m making a post today, it has been a day! We have two big work deadlines coming up on 10/15 so things have been a bit hectic.  I have gotten a ton of reading done but have been too tired to actually sit down and write reviews.  I did read two fabulous holiday romances last week though and wanted to share my thoughts now that they’re both available in stores.

 

Holiday Reviews: A WINTER IN NEW YORK & WRECK THE HALLSA Winter in New York Goodreads

Author: Josie Silver

Publication Date: October 3, 2023

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Dell

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley and a complimentary ALC from Penguin Random House Audio.  All opinions are my own.

 

Set in New York City around the holidays, Josie Silver’s new novel A Winter in New York follows Iris Raven, a young chef who, following the death of her mother, has just moved to New York City, looking for a fresh start.  Iris and her mom spent countless evenings watching movies set in New York while eating delicious gelato from her mom’s favorite recipe.  Those movies, however, did nothing to prepare Iris for just how huge the city really was.

Thankfully, Bobby, Iris’ neighbor and immediate best friend, makes it his mission to get her out into the city to experience it to the fullest.  When he takes her to a food festival in Little Italy, Belotti’s, a family-run gelateria immediately catches Iris’ eye.  She recognizes it from an old cherished photo of her mom’s and wants to visit the shop as a way to feel close to her mom again.  What Iris doesn’t realize as she’s making plans to return the next day, is how truly life changing visiting this shop will actually be.

Iris returns the next day and is surprised to see Gio behind the counter, only because she has just recently met him in an awkward encounter at the bookstore.  Gio and Iris get reacquainted, and he informs her that the shop is actually in danger of closing. His uncle Santo, the owner, is sick and in a coma, and because of a strict family rule, no one else knows the secret family recipe for their beloved gelato.  As Gio tells this story, Iris starts to suspect that the recipe she and her mother have enjoyed for years may, in fact, be the Belotti secret recipe.  Why would her mother have this family’s top secret recipe?  Is there any way she can hand over the recipe without creating drama for this family since they’ll know that someone, probably Santo, gave the recipe to someone outside of the family?  Iris decides the best course of action is to volunteer to help try to recreate the recipe.  Her hope is to help save the business in time for the holiday season while also protecting both her mother and Santo.

This story really was a delightful and heartwarming read.  I loved watching Gio and Iris work together every day to try to recreate this recipe.  They of course have wonderful chemistry that Silver brings to life beautifully, but they are also both very much dealing with grief and loss.  While Iris is still mourning the loss of her mom, Gio is grieving the loss of his wife.  Working comfortably side by side every day allows both Iris and Gio to start moving past that grief and to find their way to one another.  They had so many sweet moments together in that shop.  The Belotti family was also fantastic and I adored them.  They were a big-hearted, loud, loving family and it was just such a joy every time they appeared on the scene.

Another wonderful element of the story was Iris following the clues to figure out what exactly Belotti’s shop meant to her mother.  We get some beautifully done flashback scenes to when Iris’ mom was a young woman living in the city.  I love a good dual timeline story so I very much enjoyed watching this aspect of the story unfold.

I alternated between the e-book and the audio and thoroughly enjoyed both. Emma Appleton narrates the audiobook and she just did such a magnificent job creating distinct voices for each character and capturing both the humorous and the heartfelt moments of the story.

If you’re looking for a heartwarming, heartfelt holiday read, be sure to check out A Winter in New York. 4.5 STARS

 

Holiday Reviews: A WINTER IN NEW YORK & WRECK THE HALLSWreck the Halls Goodreads

Author: Tessa Bailey

Publication Date: October 3, 2023

Publisher:  Avon and Harper Voyager

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley.  All opinions are my own.

 

I know that I can always count on Tessa Bailey for an entertaining rom-com so I, of course, couldn’t resist her latest book, Wreck the Halls, a holiday-themed rom-com that features the adult children of two estranged former rock band mates who team up to try to convince their moms to reunite for a Christmas Eve concert.

Melody Gallard may be the daughter of a rock legend, but one awkward tabloid photo when she was a teen was enough to make Melody shun the spotlight and the attention that goes hand and hand with fame.  Instead, she has chosen a quieter path for herself and spends her days restoring old books.  When a producer comes forward and offers her a huge sum of money if she can convince her mom to reunite with her band on live TV, Melody wonders if this is a sign it’s time to step out of her comfort zone.  She loves the idea of having enough money to be financially independent and is also very intrigued by the fact that she’ll have to team up with the only other person who can possibly convince the estranged band members to get back together, Beat Dawkins.

Beat is the son of the band’s lead singer.  Charming, handsome, and not at all awkward in front of the cameras, Beat’s experience with fame was quite different from Melody’s.  When he and Melody met as teenagers while the band was still together, Beat immediately felt very protective of Melody, especially when he saw how the media treated her so differently from the way they treated him.  Beat thought they might become friends but instead, they lost touch after the band broke up.  These days Beat finds himself dealing with one of the serious downsides of fame, someone with a secret about his mom’s past, is blackmailing him.  Every time Beat thinks he’s done with the guy, he shows up again demanding more money.  When Beat is approached about trying to reunite the band, he truly hopes the payout is enough to get the blackmailer off his back once and for all. Plus, there’s the added bonus of finally getting to see Melody again.

This book was such a fun ride! I loved that the premise of this reunion was done in the vein of a reality TV show, with both Beat and Melody mic’d up and followed by camera crews at all times.  Trying to get these two rock divas to reunite was basically Mission Impossible for the two of them, but I loved every minute of the rom-com style shenanigans that took place. I also loved that it gave Melody and Beat a chance to get reacquainted as adults and finally explore the sparks that flew between them when they first met as teens.  Tessa Bailey is the queen of the spicy rom-com so of course things heat up between these two and I was here for it and cheering them on.

If you’re looking to add a little spice to your holiday romance TBR, you’ll definitely want to pick up a copy of Wreck the Halls. 4 STARS

Thriller Thursday Reviews: In a Quiet Town & Finders Keepers

 

Hi everyone! Time for another edition of Thriller Thursday with Sharon. 🙂   This week I have two psychological thrillers, Amber Garza’s, In a Quiet Town and Natalie Barelli’s, Finders Keepers. I really like both of these authors and they did not disappoint with these books.

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: In a Quiet Town & Finders KeepersIn a Quiet Town Goodreads

Author: Amber Garza

Publication Date: August 8, 2023

Publisher: Mira

Amber Garza’s newest book, In a Quiet Town, is a psychological thriller that follows a determined mother as she searches for her missing daughter.

Tatum has finally reconnected with her daughter Adrienne after not seeing or talking to her for a couple of years. Tatum’s husband, Shane, is the Pastor at the local church and he and Adrienne had always had a strained relationship. Adrienne could do nothing right in Shane’s eyes. A couple of years ago Shane cut off all contact with Adrienne. Tatum went along with it because she never questioned her husband, but now she has secretly been visiting Adrienne at the bar she works at on Wednesday nights when Shane is at his men’s club meetings. But one Wednesday night Adrienne does not show up for work. When no one has heard from her for a couple of days Tatum goes looking for her, but Adrienne is not at her apartment or anywhere in town.  When Tatum reports her as missing to the police, they do not take her seriously because Adrienne as always been on the wild side, “She probably just went off for a few days” they said. The only other person that is taking Adrienne’s disappearance seriously is her fiancé Seth, Who Tatum didn’t even know existed until she met him at Adrienne’s apartment. Together they work to find Adrienne, but the more time Tatum spends with Seth, the more suspicious she becomes of him. Can Tatum find her daughter before it is too late?

The story is told in dual timeline. The present-day chapters are titled “The Mother” and are told from Tatum’s POV and the past chapters are titled “The Daughter” and are told from Adrienne’s POV and also chapters titled “The Fiancé”.   Now I don’t want to talk about the fiancé’s chapters, well I do but I cannot LOL, because anything I say will be a major spoiler. I’ll just say that I really enjoyed trying to piece things together while reading those chapters.

In Tatum’s chapters we get to follow her as she works to find Adrienne. I really liked Tatum, the whole time she was married to Shane she had to act a certain way because she was the pastor’s wife. She never stood up to Shane and always took his side over Adrienne’s. She was excited to be reconnecting with Adrienne. When Adrienne went missing, Tatum’s momma-bear persona came out and I loved watching her get a backbone and stand up to Shane.

I really liked getting the lead-up to what happened in Adrienne’s chapters. In these chapters, we get a look into what life was like for her with her father, as well as her relationship with Seth. The whole time I was reading Adrienne’s chapters, I was hoping that she was alright.

In a Quiet Town is full of twists and turns that kept me guessing and turning the pages. The tension and suspense slowly inched its way up and by the end of the book I was on the edge of my seat.   4 stars

 

Thriller Thursday Reviews: In a Quiet Town & Finders KeepersFinders Keepers: An absolutely gripping psychological thriller Goodreads

Author: Natalie Barelli

Publication Date: August 23, 2023

Publisher: Furphies Press

I have enjoyed all of Natalie Barelli’s books, so I was excited to read her latest, Finders Keepers, and I am happy to report that this did not disappoint.

Emily Harper is an entitled influencer who found a laptop at an airport a couple of years ago. The only thing on the laptop was a diary, which Emily decided to publish as her own. She changed a few things up and now she is the successful author of a novel called, Diary of an Octopus. Rose is the real owner of the laptop and diary and when she sees the book in the window of Barnes and Noble, she stops dead in her tracks. No, she thinks, the book name is just a coincidence. But when she reads a few paragraphs of the book she knows that Emily did not write this book, because this is her diary, the one she kept when she was thirteen years old. Rose needs to get her laptop back, because this diary is not just about a schoolgirl crush, it is also about a murder that could land Rose in jail.

This book is broken up into two parts. The first part of the book is when Rose comes up with her plan to get close to Emily so she can get her laptop back. I loved Rose. She made me laugh quite a few times while I was reading. The plans she kept coming up with sounded so good in her mind, but they never worked out. I loved how she would roll her eyes at Emily and then be thinking in her head how easy it would be to just kill her. She has already committed one murder, what is one more? LOL!

I have to say I did not like Emily at all. Right from the start she came off as so condescending. She thinks she is all that and everyone should be ready to serve her when needed. Plus, Hello! She stole the laptop and used the diary for her own gain.

The first part of the book ends in a twist that I did not see coming. This twist starts the suspense and tension in the second part of the book. I cannot say what the twist was, but I will say it made me hate Emily more than I did in the first part.  I also did not trust anyone in this half of the book.

We also get excerpts from the diary Rose kept when she was thirteen, and the more I read the more sympathy I had for Rose. I couldn’t tell though if what she was writing was truth or just the wild imagination of a teenage girl. But either way I loved Rose even more.

Finders Keepers is a psychological thriller that is full of twists and turns that kept me guessing until the end.  4 stars

Blog Tour – FAKING CHRISTMAS by Kerry Winfrey

Blog Tour – FAKING CHRISTMAS by Kerry WinfreyFaking Christmas by Kerry Winfrey
five-stars
Published by BERKLEY on September 26, 2023
Genres: Fiction, Holiday, Romance
Pages: 288
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Bookshop
Goodreads

FTC Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

 

Thank you so much to Berkley Romance for the free copy of Faking Christmas and to Tina Joell for the invitation to take part in the blog tour for this book!

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know I’m a huge fan of holiday reads and that I also love Kerry Winfrey’s books so I was over the moon to learn her newest novel was a holiday romance.  Faking Christmas is an enemies to lovers romance that also features fake relationships and the coziest of Christmas vibes.  I devoured this book in a day and adored every page of it!

The story follows Laurel Grant, who works as the social media manager for Buckeye State of Mind, an Ohio tourism publication.  When she landed this job, Laurel unintentionally led her boss, Gilbert, to believe she owns Meadow Rise Farm, which is actually owned by her twin sister, Holly.  She thinks nothing of this little white lie until Gilbert’s wife dumps him right before Christmas and he invites himself to the farm to partake in all of the holiday festivities that Laurel has chronicled in detail on the farm’s social media page as if she were the one hosting them even though she can’t even make Easy Mac without creating a kitchen hazard. Now all she has to do is switch places with her sister and pretend she is basically the Martha Stewart of the Midwest. Oh and that she is married to Max Beckett, a man she has loathed ever since she met him at her sister’s wedding.  What could possibly go wrong?

Everything about this read was pure perfection to me! Laurel is such an endearing character that I couldn’t help but root for her to somehow pull off this crazy plan.  I also loved how Laurel’s sister, Holly, was immediately onboard like “Sure, let’s do this. I’ll find you a fake husband!” Her cooperation provided the setup for the perfect blend of hilarious romcom antics, that snarky banter that goes hand in hand with enemies to lovers romances, and all of the festive and cozy holiday vibes.  The chemistry between Laurel and Max was also off the charts, so if you like a little sizzle in your holiday romances, Winfrey has you covered there as well.  Lastly, there’s even a lovely found family feeling as Laurel’s family practically adopts Gilbert to infuse his broken heart with a little holiday cheer.

If you’re looking for a delightful, feel good romance to add to your holiday TBR, you’ll definitely want to check out Faking Christmas!

 

 

five-stars

About Kerry Winfrey

Kerry Winfrey is the author of the adult romantic comedies WAITING FOR TOM HANKS, NOT LIKE THE MOVIES, VERY SINCERELY YOURS, and JUST ANOTHER LOVE SONG, as well as the teen romantic comedies LOVE AND OTHER ALIEN EXPERIENCES and THINGS JOLIE NEEDS TO DO BEFORE SHE BITES IT. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her family.