Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author/publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.
The award-winning diva, C, has got a big problem: someone wants her dead. A team of mercenaries attempts to gun her down in Kuala Lumpur. Lucky for her, Lowcountry Private Investigator, Blu Carraway, is already on the job there for a different client. Double lucky for C, they make their move when she’s chit-chatting with him in a bar. Unlucky for the mercenaries, four of them end up dead.The hunt is on now for the mega-pop star. Where does she go to hide out? The sleepy islands around Charleston, South Carolina—Blu’s backyard. He’s already proven himself once, so C hires the Blu Carraway Investigation Agency to protect her for real. The job takes Blu halfway around the world and several cities in between. The search for the truth reveals what could drive a person to want someone else dead. And Blu Carraway ends up right in the way.
Chapter One Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Mid-July, Saturday late night
Blu Carraway, Private Investigator and sometimes, like at present, private security consultant, handed off his client to her boyfriend’s security team. In truth, there wasn’t an actual handoff. It was more of a formality since Jennifer Kincaid started seeing Mandel, the industrialist’s son. His security team was rivaled only by the Secret Service.
The exclusive club they were in had several levels, each with their own VIP list. Thanks to being a one-percenter and the aforementioned wealthy boyfriend, Ms. Kincaid was at the top of every list which meant Blu was at the top of every list. He parted the strings of beads hanging down as a curtain that was some decorator’s bad idea of kitsch and entered the innermost bar, a darkened room made up of marble, mahogany, gold, and leather— the best of materials.
The only other person in the room was the bartender, a pretty- boy type with short, styled hair, a trimmed beard, a starched white shirt with knife-edge creases, and a nod. He said, “What can I get you, Mr. Carraway?”
It had been a long thirty-six hours. The last batch of Millennials, those currently in their early twenties including his client, apparently did not sleep. Blu had been on the job the whole time along with Mandel’s team. Even with exclusive VIP lists, he did not trust his client’s protection to anyone else while in public places. Blu took a seat at the bar, the soft leather stool offering comfort for his tired glutes. “Black coffee—iced.”
“You got it.” This being the club in the city and Blu being on the list meant he could do pretty much whatever he wanted. Right now he wanted—needed—nicotine. As the bartender set a glass of chilled coffee in front of him, Blu pulled out his vape pen and took a few hits. The coffee and the vapor had been the two things keeping him going but he knew he was set to crash soon.
The bead curtains parted again and C walked in. Twenty-seven years old, shoulder length hair an unnatural shade of orange, various tattoos down her arms, and the prettiest face Blu had seen all evening, C was the reason he was at this particular club. Ms. Kincaid had talked her boyfriend into contracting C for a private show. As the girl whom Rolling Stone called the hottest act of the decade with Grammys and platinum albums, C was in high demand.
Here, this morning, at what Blu felt was the end of a hellacious run, the pop star was alone. With a loud sigh she took the seat next to him. He was not really a fan of her music, some form of synth pop with a mixture of Arabian and Latin influence. He preferred eighties alternative and punk, but she had talent and a pretty face.
To the bartender, she said, “Get me a Guinness, Jesse.” Blu took another hit on his vape pen, realized he was staring, and stopped.
She said, “I saw you with Jennifer and Mandel. I’m Ariel.” C was her stage name. He shook her offered hand. “Blu.” Jesse the bartender set a pint of dark liquid in front of her with a perfect shamrock in the head.
Raising her glass, she said, “To new friends and quiet bars.” As he clinked her glass of stout with his iced coffee, Blu said, “To the end of a long night and a soft bed with my name on it.”
With a smile, she said, “We’re both on the job, aren’t we?” Something wasn’t right about the scene, and if Blu hadn’t been so exhausted he would have picked up on it sooner.
She was alone. Twenty million albums sold, two Grammys, and no personal security at the moment. She had a unit assigned to her. Blu knew the man in charge of her safety, didn’t like him, but thought he was competent. Except that he didn’t have her covered at the moment. It was not professional and left an opening for something bad to happen to C. With as much subtlety as he could muster, Blu checked to make sure he still had his Glock.
As he did that, a clipped sound came from the other side of the beads just before they parted around a suppressor, the kind screwed on the end of a firearm.
Blu had his Glock out and aimed. To Ariel, he said, “You better follow me.”
She saw the look in his eyes and did not question. Because the entrance covered by the beads faced the right side of the room, and he and Ariel were seated at the front, he had time to take Ariel’s hand and guide her to the other end of the massive wood bar. They ducked.
The suppressed automatic fired twice, bullets ricocheting off the bar’s marble surface.
Blu leaned out from the lower part of the bar, sighted in a figure in a black suit holding the gun, and fired. His Glock barked twice and the figure, a young Asian man, went down.
A second figure, another twentyish male, dove for cover on the other side of the bar.
Blu climbed onto the marble surface to give himself a better sightline.
Jesse the bartender lay on the floor behind the bar, two red holes in his chest. His eyes were open but not seeing anything anymore.
The second figure rose up. Blu saw him first and blew him away.
An alarm sounded from somewhere in the club. Hopping off the bar, Blu asked, “Where’s your security detail?” Ariel, obviously in shock by the blanched color of her already white skin and bloodshot eyes, shook her head. She sat on the floor.
This wasn’t good. “We need to move,” he said. “In case they have friends.”
“Friends?” she asked. “More guys with guns,” Blu said. With an arm around her waist, he lifted her up and guided her to the side door of the club, the one he’d seen on the architect drawings of the building when he’d scouted the place two days ago. He kept his gun pointed where he looked, glancing back periodically to watch their six.
Another alarm started blaring when he kicked the door open but he didn’t care. They needed to get out. Who knew how many of the gunmen there were?
Through the door, they found themselves in a narrow landing with stairs leading up and down from where they stood. Blu closed the door behind them and led her down, his gun pointed directly ahead. No one met them as they descended the stairs.
Blu pulled out his phone and hit redial. The call was answered with, “Yo, you on your way or what?”
“I need a car at the back entrance to the club. Now.”
“What? I thought Goldilocks left with the baby bear?” He didn’t have time for this. “Give me an E.T.A. Now.”
“Yeah, um, hold on.” What the hell? His team had been on point the whole day and a half. An hour off the clock and they fell apart?
The man came back on the line, “We’re on our way. I hope two is enough. Are we coming in hot?”
“Safeties off. Don’t shoot until I say otherwise.”
“E.T.A. ten minutes.”
“Roger.” Blu ended the call. At the bottom of the steps, Blu leaned Ariel against the wall and inched the door open, slipping his pistol out the slight opening as he got a read on the situation.
Two men with submachine guns stood guard facing the street along with a waiting van, its side doors open. They were all dressed like the two he’d capped upstairs–nice dark suits, ties, expensive shoes. He fired twice, taking them both out with single head shots.
The van took off down the street, its open doors swinging shut. Blu kicked the back door to the club fully open and unloaded his clip into the speeding vehicle as it bucked and bounced around a corner. When the magazine was empty, he ejected it and jammed in a full one.
He checked the street which was really an alley, saw no one else around, and slipped back inside the building. Sirens wailed in the distance.
Ariel still leaned against the wall. He put an arm around her and guided her to the exit, slipping the door open as before, training his pistol out first. He didn’t see anyone else around besides the two downed mercenaries with the machine guns.
The walkie talkie app on his phone chirped with, “We’re two blocks away.”
“I’m in the alley on the south side. I’ve got a female with me. Safeties still off. Four unfriendlies down. Maybe more around.”
“Roger that.” Thirty seconds later, a black Mercedes SUV charged around the corner and screeched to a stop in front of them.
The front passenger, a man with a military build, got out holding a submachine gun. He opened the back door.
Blu pushed Ariel inside the truck and dove in after her. The armed passenger jumped back in and the driver accelerated away.
The passenger, the one Blu had called on the phone, a man named Colton, said, “What the hell, Blu? I thought we were clear for the night?”
Blu peered out the back window. “So did I.”
“Who’s th—” Colton looked at Ariel and stopped himself. “You’re C. Jesus, Blu. What the hell is going on?”
“Not sure,” Blu said. “Get us to the compound and we’ll figure it out from there.”
The driver, a man named Brack Pelton who’d recently joined Blu’s team as a wheel man, knew to keep quiet. His skills as a mercenary were many, but they paled in comparison to his driving. He hustled the two-and-a-half-ton SUV through the back streets like an ace. Of course it helped that the truck was the AMG model with 600 horsepower.
Brack didn’t drink any more but Blu couldn’t say the same for Colton whose reflexes were not one-hundred-percent at the moment.
While they rode, Blu called the compound to give the new details. He didn’t begin to relax until they’d crossed the Klang River and were almost there. His client’s father, Adam Kincaid, had homes around the world. With his daughter spending more time here since she’d met the prince charming, he’d reinforced the barriers and increased the security detail. Blu had been contracted to make improvements and had complete authority.
Ariel seemed to come out of her shock. She looked over at Blu, then the men up front, and then back at Blu.
He said, “You’re okay. We’re going to Jennifer Kincaid’s house.”
“Can you take me to my hotel?”
“Where’s your security detail?” Blu asked. “I’d feel better handing you over to them.”
Looking down at her lap, she said, “I don’t know. I thought they were at the club.”
Blu said, “There wasn’t anyone left besides you, me, Jesse, and some of the wait staff.”
She looked up. “Jesse? Where is he? Is he okay?”
“Jesse didn’t make it.”
“Huh?” she asked. “They shot him.”
“Oh, God.” With that, she collapsed in her seat again.
The first traces of daybreak peeked out of a halo on the horizon as they arrived. The Kincaid compound was a bungalow in the hills just outside the city. Jennifer had wanted an apartment in town but Blu and her father felt it was safer here. The home sat on the top of a hill overlooking the city.
Pelton circled the fountain and eased to a stop at the entryway of the home.
Colton got out first and opened the rear door. Blu exited and then helped Ariel get out, her tight dress preventing her from too much mobility.
She looked around. “I still don’t know why I can’t go back to my hotel.”
Blu said, “Call Teller. Find out where the h—” He caught himself. “Find out when he can be here to collect you.”
Jack Teller was supposed to be her head of security. While Ariel made her call, Blu phoned Adam Kincaid and explained what had happened. The man had enough money to fix anything. Four dead mercenaries in a foreign country were no big deal. After Blu explained that Kincaid’s daughter was safe, he described the situation. Adam listened and then said he’d call back after he found out what the authorities were doing.
Jack Teller showed up at the Kincaid compound four hours later. Blu watched him exit an Audi SUV, all six-foot-five of himself, blond hair, blue eyes, and tanned muscle.
Blu met him at the door. Before he could speak, Teller said, “I don’t need you butting in on my job, Carraway.”
No “thank you for saving my client” or “I’m glad my client is alive.”
“Really,” Blu said. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see you in the room when the two mercs with suppressed automatics came in blasting.”
Teller scowled. It seemed to Blu that the man was somewhat embarrassed and was trying to save face, but this was a stupid way to do that.
“Where’s Ariel?” Blu motioned toward the sitting room just off of the entryway. The flooring and walls were stone and the ceilings stretched twelve feet at the lowest points. Their footsteps echoed as they walked.
Ariel, sitting on one of the leather couches and hugging a pillow, looked at Teller. Without saying a word, she stood up, tossed the pillow to the other end of the couch, and walked past her head of security.
Blu hadn’t known her very long, but he got the feeling she was not happy with the service she was being provided. He’d used the opportunity of waiting for Teller to hand her a business card earlier in case she felt the need to make a change.
Teller eyed Blu one last time and then followed his client outside.
Ariel was waiting at the SUV for someone to open the door for her.
That showed a couple of things. The first was she was letting Teller and his men know that they still had a job to do, and opening the door for her was part of it. The second was that she was telling them that she was still willing to submit to being in their care.
Blu had dealt with Teller before. He might do things differently than Blu, but he wasn’t known for being sloppy. Ariel should never have been alone in that club.
At the sight of the Audi SUV’s exit off the compound and the closing of the gate, Blu turned to Colton and Pelton.
“I’m taking a shower and hitting the sack. We are back on in six hours. I suggest you rest up.”
And with that, he retired to his room.
Three days later, Wednesday, Barrier Lowcountry island south of Charleston, South Carolina, Residence of Blu Carraway
“I think it’s Colic. We need to get him to his feet.”
Blu Carraway didn’t look at the man who’d spoken to him. He kept his eyes on the magnificent creature lying two feet away from him in the shade by his house. The black horse was older than Blu recollected and he was sick.
The man, a local vet named Dick Campbell, knelt by the horse Blu had named Murder and listened to his breathing with a stethoscope.
The other horses stood close by. Dink and Doofus, normally on post by the front door awaiting treats, seemed to be making the rounds comforting the other members of their ragtag herd.
Blu wiped sweat from his brow. “This horse saved my life.” Without an ounce of condescension, the vet gave him a nod. For most of his life, Murder had chosen to live on the opposite side of the island. Blu’s nine acre plot, depending on the tide, had been the place they both called home. Murder had made it his in his own way, leading the rest of the herd of Carolina Marsh Tackeys.
Dick raised himself up. “He’s going to be tough to move, so we need to make him as comfortable as we can where he is. But we need to get him up. Keep him shaded and hydrated. I’ll come back with an I.V.”
Blu wanted Murder patrolling their island forever, not lying on his sickbed, which at the moment was a mixture of crushed shells and pine needles.
“If you want,” Dick said, “I can get a canopy set up.” Blu felt his head droop. An involuntary sigh came out. He shut his eyes and opened them. “Yeah, okay. That would be nice, Dick. Thanks. How do we get him up?”
“If he won’t stand on his own, we’ll have to lift him.” He put a hand on Blu’s shoulder. “Don’t worry. I have some friends who know what to do.”
The vet gave him another nod and walked toward his Suburban which was parked in front of the house.
Murder’s chest rose and fell. If Blu listened hard, he could hear how labored the animal’s breathing had become. This was not something expected. It seemed like yesterday, this horse led the rest in a stampede in front of the house, running from one end of the island to the other. So full of life.
And now this. “Hey, Blu?” Dick called from the tailgate of his truck. “Yeah?”
“One of my assistants is on his way with the canopy and liquids. Should be here within the hour. The sun won’t be on that side of the house until later so we have some time.”
Blu didn’t think Murder really had any time to spare. It wasn’t worth debating. Whatever’s going to happen was going to happen. And it really sucked eggs.
Blu said, “Thanks.” But he didn’t really mean it. At the moment, the rumble of a Harley Davidson could be heard in the distance and getting louder.
Mick Crome idled his way across the bridge and onto Blu’s island paradise. He swung the bike in a semicircle and stopped next to Blu’s four-year-old Nissan Xterra. Wearing his normal biker garb of a do-rag to keep his long hair under control and out of his face, aviator sunglasses, handlebar mustache, black T-shirt advertising a Harley dealership in Bangkok, ripped jeans, and biker boots, Crome looked at Murder and then at Blu.
“What the hell’s wrong with him?”
“Campbell thinks Colic. He’s going to get someone to lift him back onto his feet.”
Crome took out a vape pen and inhaled a lungful. On the exhale, he said, “I guess you told him money’s no object. Cause I’m gonna chip in whatever you need.”
This vet bill could go real high in a hurry and still not save the horse. Blu said, “Thanks.”
Crome put an arm on Blu’s shoulder. “I mean it. Whatever it takes.” Not knowing what else to do for the horse at the moment, and with Dink and Doofus and Sally, another horse from the herd, standing nearby keeping Murder company, Blu felt it was okay to step away.
As they turned to go into the house, the crunch of tires on the crushed shell drive stopped them. They waited to see who it was, Blu hoping and then not hoping it was Tess Ray, the woman in his life at the moment. She was great, but made him feel both younger and older at the same time.
It wasn’t Tess; at least it wasn’t Tess’s convertible Beetle. The grey sedan had rental practically stamped into the doors and the shock of orange hair on the driver confirmed it wasn’t Tess.
Crome said, “I could be wrong, but that looks a hell-of-a-lot like that pop star named C.”
“So it is,” Blu said, suddenly concerned because like the first time he’d met her there was no security detail present. She was alone. Ariel waved and pulled in next to Crome’s bike.
Blu and Crome waved back. “You listen to C?” Blu asked. “You get a look at her?” The biker said. “Remember those pictures?”
Of course. It had nothing to do with the two Grammys she’d earned and had everything to do with the nude photos leaked all over the internet a few months back.
“One question,” Crome said. “Why’s someone as famous as she is and worth thirty-million-bucks driving herself anywhere?”
“I’m guessing, once again, her security detail has come up short.”
“Once again?” Crome asked.
“Long story,” Blu said. “The short version is Jack Teller fell down on the job.”
“Teller? Really? He’s a tool, but I never thought he was incompetent.”
Ariel got out of her car, looked at the horses, and then at Blu and Crome. “I didn’t believe it when I heard you..
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Castaway Cottage comes a novel as captivating as the moonlit sea.
Everything was in place for the perfect beachside gathering. Lace-wrapped jars hung from white chairs on the sand. Paper lanterns and tiki torches glimmered in the twilight evening. A rowboat draped with roses and vines waited in the wings. Love floated on the salt air.
Until the arrival of a mysterious guest named Shane Bradford, a lobster man with a tangled past in this little New England beach town.
Like a sudden sea breeze, the special evening quickly turns. And the residents of Stony Point must tread the darker water Shane brings to their Night Beach.
My Book Review: In Night Beach, author Joanne DeMaio transports the reader back to the tranquil seashore town of Stony Point, Connecticut, where the summer season is coming to a close. The reader will catch up with the lives of friends: Maris, Jason, Eva, Matt, Kyle, Lauren, Elsa, Cliff, Nick, Paige, Vinny, and Celia. In this installment of the popular Seaside Saga Series, the focus is on Kyle and Lauren, and the unexpected appearance of Kyle's estranged brother Shane.
Just like the ebb and flow of the tide, life brings issues and changes to one's life, but the bonds of friendship, sea air, and salt water are cleansing, they cure what ails you. For this group of old friends, the close of the summer season brings some bittersweet painful memories instead of a happy gathering, and a touch of deeply held familial secrets. As time heals all wounds, so does the sea air, and this group of friends lives by the credo: "salt air, not a care" and "cast away your troubles straight into the sea." The shimmering denim blue sea with its calming effect will offer them another summer season of hope, love, family, friendship, heartache, mistakes, forgiveness, redemption, and blissful new beginnings.
The reader will catch up with the friends as many changes have been occurring since their last visit: Elsa's newly renovated beach inn, Ocean Star Inn, is getting ready for the grand opening in September with Celia's help. Meanwhile, Maris continues to complete her late brother-in-law Neil's manuscript, while husband Jason is busy preparing for his new cottage renovation program on the local public television station, and has the approval from Mitch and Carol Fenwick to renovate their beach cottage, and feature it on his cottage renovation program. Finally, there is Kyle and Lauren, who planned a tenth anniversary vow renewal ceremony on the beach at the Ocean Starr Inn. However, their ceremony is abruptly called off that morning with the unexpected appearance of Kyle's estranged brother Shane. Alas ... mistakes, secrets, past painful issues, and a surprising cliffhanger will leave the reader impatiently waiting to read more about Shane in Little Beach Bungalow, the next installment in The Seaside Saga Series.So now that I have whet your interest in the beach friends latest comings and goings, drive under the railroad trestle and enter the enchanting beach town of Stony Point ... pull up a beach chair ... and visit with the close-knit longtime friends in author Joanne DeMaio's delightful novel, Night Beach.
The Seaside Sage Seriesis a heartwarming series of stories of friendship, family, painful secrets, new beginnings and second chances. Author Joanne DeMaio weaves a wonderful tale written in the third person narrative, that is set in the present with flashbacks to the past. The reader is transported to the tranquil seashore town of Stony Point, Connecticut, where they follow along with Celia, Maris, Eva, Matt, Jason, Kyle, Lauren, Nick, Elsa, and Cliff as the summer season draws to a close on their little tranquil coastal town.
In Night Beach, Author Joanne DeMaio easily captivates her readers' attention with this beautifully written tale through a seamless and flowing storyline, and with a wonderful description of a tranquil beach setting that wraps itself around the reader like a sun-warmed beach towel. The characters draw you into their lives with a strong emotional pull, their complexities and flaws are true-to-life, it is easy to relate to them with compassion, empathy, and hope. With a mixture of intrigue, suspense, drama, humor, heartache, hidden secrets, romance, and a strong bond of friendship, this story takes you on an emotional roller coaster ride revolving around Kyle and Lauren's ruined vow renewal ceremony, and an intriguing glimpse into Kyle and Shane's estranged brotherly relationship that will easily keep you turning the pages. But alas, author Joanne DeMaio has teased her readers with a surprising cliffhanger ending that will simply leave them wanting more!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I looked forward to catching up with this special group of close-knit friends. It's like you're a summer visitor, and the beach friends envelop you in a warm hug and offer up enough smiles, laughter, and fun-filled beach bliss as their summer adventures unfold.
Night Beach is an intricate story of interweaving friendships, life events, and deep family secrets and drama. It is a wonderful story that continues to demonstrate the power of the magical sweet salt air that will cure what ails you.
RATING: 5 STARS
About The Author
Joanne DeMaio is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She enjoys writing about friendship, family, love and choices, while setting her stories in New England towns or by the sea. Night Beach is her newest novel. Currently at work on her next book, Joanne lives with her family in Connecticut.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author in exchange for my honest review.
I know who you really are.
Pru has a secret, which she has no plans to reveal – ever. But after a woman is murdered and all clues point to her, she has no choice but to disclose her true identity. When her revelations thwart the killer’s plan to frame Pru for murder, the killer begins stalking her. With each note he sends, he gets closer. The police are stumped. Pru wants to run away. She really, really wants to run, but Ajax has found the woman of his dreams and he’s not letting her go anywhere. He can be patient. In the meantime, he’ll protect her with his life. Pru isn’t feeling very patient, and her friends, Mel and Terri, are definitely not willing to wait until the police discover who the stalker is. The three friends take matters into their own hands and jump headfirst into the investigation.
Will Pru and her friends uncover her stalker before he turns his violence on Pru?
My Book Review:
In Hide Not Seek, the third book in The Not So Reluctant Detectives Series, author D.E. Haggerty continues to weave a delightful cozy mystery series that follows the amateur investigative adventures of best friends and co-workers Terri, Melanie and Prudence.
Pru's secretive past has come back to haunt her. Someone has tried to set Pru up for the murder of a local woman, but that's not all. Pru has a stalker who is leaving her notes, and she is ready to high-tail it out of Milwaukee, but Pru's special guy Ajax isn't going to let her run away, he is determined to keep her safe. And when you have a friend like Melanie who is determined to find the stalker, Pru has no chance but to go along with friends Mel, Terri, Ryder (Terri's private investigator boyfriend), Owen (Melanie's police officer fiance), and Ajax, as they embark on a murder investigation adventure that is sure to find the murderer / stalker before it turns deadly!
Hide Not Seek is a thoroughly entertaining cozy mystery that will keep the reader engaged as they follow the humorous trials and tribulations of Melanie, Terri, and Prudence on their latest amateur investigative adventures.
This was such a fun book to read! The reader can't help but get drawn into the quirky trials and tribulations and intriguing suspense that Pru and friends encounter as they fly by the seat of their pants during their latest murder / stalker investigation.
In this latest installment of The Not So Reluctant Detective Series, the reader finally gets to read Pru's story, one that is filled with enough past secrets that will keep you wondering who she really is. I really enjoyed Melanie's sassy humor and wit, you can't help but laugh as this feisty chick coerces her friends to embark on another investigation adventure through her tireless determination, and when you add in the hilarious antics that follows these three cheeky chicks and their boyfriends, you get a delightful cozy mystery that will leave you wanting more! And if the murder /stalker investigation isn't enough, the reader will enjoy the romantic angst that Pru and Ajax share as they go through the trials and tribulations of their blossoming romantic relationship.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I really loved how the author used clever English Literature quotes at the beginning of each chapter.
Cozy mystery fans, I would highly recommend that you read the entertaining The Not So Reluctant Detective Series, you won't regret it!
RATING: 4 STARS
About The Author
I grew up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom's Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn't flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic before returning to the law. But practicing law really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out running a B&B wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where, in between tennis matches and failing to save the world, I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.
Disclaimer: I purchased the book via Book Of The Month Club - January 2019 Book Box Selection.
Alicia Berenson’s life is seemingly perfect. A famous painter married to an in-demand fashion photographer, she lives in a grand house with big windows overlooking a park in one of London’s most desirable areas. One evening her husband Gabriel returns home late from a fashion shoot, and Alicia shoots him five times in the face, and then never speaks another word.
Alicia’s refusal to talk, or give any kind of explanation, turns a domestic tragedy into something far grander, a mystery that captures the public imagination and casts Alicia into notoriety. The price of her art skyrockets, and she, the silent patient, is hidden away from the tabloids and spotlight at the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London.
Theo Faber is a criminal psychotherapist who has waited a long time for the opportunity to work with Alicia. His determination to get her to talk and unravel the mystery of why she shot her husband takes him down a twisting path into his own motivations—a search for the truth that threatens to consume him....
ALICIA BERENSON WAS THIRTY-THREE YEARS OLD when she killed her husband.
They had been married for seven years. They were both artists — Alicia was a painter, and Gabriel was a well-known fashion photographer. He had a distinctive style, shooting semi-starved, semi-naked women in strange, unflattering angles. Since his death, the price of his photographs has increased astronomically. I find his stuff rather slick and shallow, to be honest. It has none of the visceral quality of Alicia's best work. I don't know enough about art to say whether Alicia Berenson will stand the test of time as a painter. Her talent will always be overshadowed by her notoriety, so it's hard to be objective. And you might well accuse me of being biased. All I can offer is my opinion, for what it's worth. And to me, Alicia was a kind of genius. Apart from her technical skill, her paintings have an uncanny ability to grab your attention — by the throat, almost — and hold it in a viselike grip.
Gabriel Berenson was murdered six years ago. He was forty-four years old. He was killed on the twenty-fifth of August — it was an unusually hot summer, you may remember, with some of the highest temperatures ever recorded. The day he died was the hottest of the year.
On the last day of his life, Gabriel rose early. A car collected him at 5:15 a.m. from the house he shared with Alicia in northwest London, on the edge of Hampstead Heath, and he was driven to a shoot in Shoreditch. He spent the day photographing models on a rooftop for Vogue.
Not much is known about Alicia's movements. She had an upcoming exhibition and was behind with her work. It's likely she spent the day painting in the summerhouse at the end of the garden, which she had recently converted into a studio. In the end, Gabriel's shoot ran late, and he wasn't driven home until eleven p.m.
Half an hour later, their neighbor, Barbie Hellmann, heard several gunshots. Barbie phoned the police, and a car was dispatched from the station on Haverstock Hill at 11:35 p.m. It arrived at the Berensons' house in just under three minutes.
The front door was open. The house was in pitch-black darkness; none of the light switches worked. The officers made their way along the hallway and into the living room. They shone torches around the room, illuminating it in intermittent beams of light. Alicia was discovered standing by the fireplace. Her white dress glowed ghostlike in the torchlight. Alicia seemed oblivious to the presence of the police. She was immobilized, frozen — a statue carved from ice — with a strange, frightened look on her face, as if confronting some unseen terror.
A gun was on the floor. Next to it, in the shadows, Gabriel was seated, motionless, bound to a chair with wire wrapped around his ankles and wrists. At first the officers thought he was alive. His head lolled slightly to one side, as if he were unconscious. Then a beam of light revealed Gabriel had been shot several times in the face. His handsome features were gone forever, leaving a charred, blackened, bloody mess. The wall behind him was sprayed with fragments of skull, brains, hair — and blood.
Blood was everywhere — splashed on the walls, running in dark rivulets along the floor, along the grain of the wooden floorboards. The officers assumed it was Gabriel's blood. But there was too much of it. And then something glinted in the torchlight — a knife was on the floor by Alicia's feet. Another beam of light revealed the blood spattered on Alicia's white dress. An officer grabbed her arms and held them up to the light. There were deep cuts across the veins in her wrists — fresh cuts, bleeding hard.
Alicia fought off the attempts to save her life; it took three officers to restrain her. She was taken to the Royal Free Hospital, only a few minutes away. She collapsed and lost consciousness on the way there. She had lost a lot of blood, but she survived.
The following day, she lay in bed in a private room at the hospital. The police questioned her in the presence of her lawyer. Alicia remained silent throughout the interview. Her lips were pale, bloodless; they fluttered occasionally but formed no words, made no sounds. She answered no questions. She could not, would not, speak. Nor did she speak when charged with Gabriel's murder. She remained silent when she was placed under arrest, refusing to deny her guilt or confess it.
Alicia never spoke again.
Her enduring silence turned this story from a commonplace domestic tragedy into something far grander: a mystery, an enigma that gripped the headlines and captured the public imagination for months to come.
Alicia remained silent — but she made one statement. A painting. It was begun when she was discharged from the hospital and placed under house arrest before the trial. According to the court-appointed psychiatric nurse, Alicia barely ate or slept — all she did was paint.
Normally Alicia labored weeks, even months, before embarking on a new picture, making endless sketches, arranging and rearranging the composition, experimenting with color and form — a long gestation followed by a protracted birth as each brushstroke was painstakingly applied. Now, however, she drastically altered her creative process, completing this painting within a few days of her husband's murder.
And for most people, this was enough to condemn her — returning to the studio so soon after Gabriel's death betrayed an extraordinary insensitivity. The monstrous lack of remorse of a cold-blooded killer.
Perhaps. But let us not forget that while Alicia Berenson may be a murderer, she was also an artist. It makes perfect sense — to me at least — that she should pick up her brushes and paints and express her complicated emotions on canvas. No wonder that, for once, painting came to her with such ease; if grief can be called easy.
The painting was a self-portrait. She titled it in the bottom left-hand corner of the canvas, in light blue Greek lettering.
CHAPTER 2 ALCESTIS IS THE HEROINE OF A GREEK MYTH. A love story of the saddest kind. Alcestis willingly sacrifices her life for that of her husband, Admetus, dying in his place when no one else will. An unsettling myth of self-sacrifice, it was unclear how it related to Alicia's situation. The true meaning of the allusion remained unknown to me for some time. Until one day, the truth came to light —
But I'm going too fast. I'm getting ahead of myself. I must start at the beginning and let events speak for themselves. I mustn't color them, twist them, or tell any lies. I'll proceed step by step, slowly and cautiously. But where to begin? I should introduce myself, but perhaps not quite yet; after all, I am not the hero of this tale. It is Alicia Berenson's story, so I must begin with her — and the Alcestis.
The painting is a self-portrait, depicting Alicia in her studio at home in the days after the murder, standing before an easel and a canvas, holding a paintbrush. She is naked. Her body is rendered in unsparing detail: strands of long red hair falling across bony shoulders, blue veins visible beneath translucent skin, fresh scars on both her wrists. She's holding the paintbrush between her fingers. It's dripping red paint — or is it blood? She is captured in the act of painting — yet the canvas is blank, as is her expression. Her head is turned over her shoulder and she stares straight out at us. Mouth open, lips parted. Mute.
During the trial, Jean-Felix Martin, who managed the small Soho gallery that represented Alicia, made the controversial decision, decried by many as sensationalist and macabre, to exhibit the Alcestis. The fact that the artist was currently in the dock for killing her husband meant, for the first time in the gallery's long history, queues formed outside the entrance.
I stood in line with the other prurient art-lovers, waiting my turn by the neon-red lights of a sex shop next door. One by one, we shuffled inside. Once in the gallery, we were herded toward the painting, like an excitable crowd at a fairground making its way through a haunted house. Eventually, I found myself at the front of the line — and was confronted with the Alcestis.
I stared at the painting, staring into Alicia's face, trying to interpret the look in her eyes, trying to understand — but the portrait defied me. Alicia stared back at me — a blank mask — unreadable, impenetrable. I could divine neither innocence nor guilt in her expression.
Other people found her easier to read.
"Pure evil," whispered the woman behind me.
"Isn't she?" her companion agreed. "Cold-blooded bitch."
A little unfair, I thought — considering Alicia's guilt had yet to be proven. But in truth it was a foregone conclusion. The tabloids had cast her as a villain from the start: a femme fatale, a black widow. A monster.
The facts, such as they were, were simple: Alicia was found alone with Gabriel's body; only her fingerprints were on the gun. There was never any doubt she killed Gabriel. Why she killed him, on the other hand, remained a mystery.
The murder was debated in the media, and different theories were espoused in print and on the radio and on morning chat shows. Experts were brought in to explain, condemn, justify Alicia's actions. She must have been a victim of domestic abuse, surely, pushed too far, before finally exploding? Another theory proposed a sex game gone wrong — the husband was found tied up, wasn't he? Some suspected it was old-fashioned jealousy that drove Alicia to murder — another woman, probably? But at the trial Gabriel was described by his brother as a devoted husband, deeply in love with his wife. Well, what about money? Alicia didn't stand to gain much by his death; she was the one who had money, inherited from her father.
And so it went on, endless speculation — no answers, only more questions — about Alicia's motives and her subsequent silence. Why did she refuse to speak? What did it mean? Was she hiding something? Protecting someone? If so, who? And why?
At the time, I remember thinking that while everyone was talking, writing, arguing, about Alicia, at the heart of this frantic, noisy activity there was a void — a silence. A sphinx.
During the trial, the judge took a dim view of Alicia's persistent refusal to speak. Innocent people, Mr. Justice Alverstone pointed out, tended to proclaim their innocence loudly — and often. Alicia not only remained silent, but she showed no visible signs of remorse. She didn't cry once throughout the trial — a fact made much of in the press — her face remaining unmoved, cold. Frozen.
The defense had little choice but to enter a plea of diminished responsibility: Alicia had a long history of mental health problems, it was claimed, dating back to her childhood. The judge dismissed a lot of this as hearsay — but in the end he allowed himself to be swayed by Lazarus Diomedes, professor of forensic psychiatry at Imperial College, and clinical director of the Grove, a secure forensic unit in North London. Professor Diomedes argued that Alicia's refusal to speak was in itself evidence of profound psychological distress — and she should be sentenced accordingly.
This was a rather roundabout way of saying something that psychiatrists don't like putting bluntly:
Diomedes was saying Alicia was mad.
It was the only explanation that made any sense: Why else tie up the man you loved to a chair and shoot him in the face at close range? And then express no remorse, give no explanation, not even speak? She must be mad.
She had to be.
In the end, Mr. Justice Alverstone accepted the plea of diminished responsibility and advised the jury to follow suit. Alicia was subsequently admitted to the Grove — under the supervision of the same Professor Diomedes whose testimony had been so influential with the judge.
If Alicia wasn't mad — that is, if her silence was merely an act, a performance for the benefit of the jury — then it had worked. She was spared a lengthy prison sentence — and if she made a full recovery, she might well be discharged in a few years. Surely now was the time to begin faking that recovery? To utter a few words here and there, then a few more; to slowly communicate some kind of remorse? But no. Week followed week, month followed month, then the years passed — and still Alicia didn't speak.
There was simply silence.
And so, with no further revelation forthcoming, the disappointed media eventually lost interest in Alicia Berenson. She joined the ranks of other briefly famous murderers; faces we remember, but whose names we forget.
Not all of us. Some people — myself included — continued to be fascinated by the mystery of Alicia Berenson and her enduring silence. As a psychotherapist, I thought it obvious that she had suffered a severe trauma surrounding Gabriel's death; and this silence was a manifestation of that trauma. Unable to come to terms with what she had done, Alicia stuttered and came to a halt, like a broken car. I wanted to help start her up again — help Alicia tell her story, to heal and get well. I wanted to fix her.
Without wishing to sound boastful, I felt uniquely qualified to help Alicia Berenson. I'm a forensic psychotherapist and used to working with some of the most damaged, vulnerable members of society. And something about Alicia's story resonated with me personally — I felt a profound empathy with her right from the start.
Unfortunately, I was still working at Broadmoor in those days, and so treating Alicia would have — should have — remained an idle fantasy, had not fate unexpectedly intervened.
Nearly six years after Alicia was admitted, the position of forensic psychotherapist became available at the Grove. As soon as I saw the advert, I knew I had no choice. I followed my gut — and applied for the job.
CHAPTER 3 MY NAME IS THEO FABER. I'm forty-two years old. And I became a psychotherapist because I was fucked-up. That's the truth — though it's not what I said during the job interview, when the question was put to me.
"What drew you to psychotherapy, do you think?" asked Indira Sharma, peering at me over the rims of her owlish glasses.
Indira was consultant psychotherapist at the Grove. She was in her late fifties with an attractive round face and long jet-black hair streaked with gray. She gave me a small smile — as if to reassure me this was an easy question, a warm-up volley, a precursor to trickier shots to follow.
I hesitated. I could feel the other members of the panel looking at me. I remained conscious of maintaining eye contact as I trotted out a rehearsed response, a sympathetic tale about working part-time in a care home as a teenager; and how this inspired an interest in psychology, which led to a postgraduate study of psychotherapy, and so on.
"I wanted to help people, I suppose." I shrugged. "That's it, really."
Which was bullshit.
I mean, of course I wanted to help people. But that was a secondary aim — particularly at the time I started training. The real motivation was purely selfish. I was on a quest to help myself. I believe the same is true for most people who go into mental health. We are drawn to this profession because we are damaged — we study psychology to heal ourselves. Whether we are prepared to admit this or not is another question.
As human beings, in our earliest years we reside in a land before memory. We like to think of ourselves as emerging from this primordial fog with our characters fully formed, like Aphrodite rising perfect from the sea foam. But thanks to increasing research into the development of the brain, we know this is not the case. We are born with a brain half-formed — more like a muddy lump of clay than a divine Olympian. As the psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott put it, "There is no such thing as a baby." The development of our personalities doesn't take place in isolation, but in relationship with others — we are shaped and completed by unseen, unremembered forces; namely, our parents.
This is frightening, for obvious reasons. Who knows what indignities we suffered, what torments and abuses, in this land before memory? Our character was formed without our even knowing it. In my case, I grew up feeling edgy, afraid; anxious. This anxiety seemed to predate my existence and exist independently of me. But I suspect it originated in my relationship with my father, around whom I was never safe.
In his debut novel,The Silent Patient, author Alex Michaelides weaves a riveting psychological thriller that easily draws the reader into the dark storyline that follows criminal psychotherapist Theo Faber as he tries to unravel the mystery behind the murder of fashion photographer Gabriel Berenson by his artistic painter wife Alicia Berenson, and the reason behind her silence.
Set in London and told in the first person narrative by Theo Faber, the reader follows along as he unravels the layers of Alicia's troubled life and complicated relationships, hoping to shed light on why she murdered her husband, and why she has chosen to live in silence. Theo also provides the reader with snippets from his own troubled childhood past and current life issues. And to add to the intrigue, there are entries from Alicia's diary interspersed throughout the book that adds even more clues as to what was going on in Alicia's troubled life leading up to the night of the murder.
The Silent Patient is a captivating and complex multi-layered tale rich in detail and vivid descriptions. It has intriguing and suspenseful twists and turns, and the author plays a clever cat-n-mouse game with the reader as he provides enough characters and clues to keep the reader guessing if Alicia actually committed the murder, or could it have been someone else. He leaves the reader no other option than to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.
As a diehard fan of psychological thrillers, I must admit that this story exceeded my expectations. The dark intensity of the storyline and the complexity of the intertwining connection between Alicia and Theo's troubled pasts, kept me thoroughly riveted, engrossed, and guessing as the pieces to the puzzle come together.
With a complex and realistic cast of characters, the author does a phenomenal job of delving into the tangled web of secrets, lies, betrayals, and history of emotional trauma and mental instability. The author transports the reader into this fast-paced white-knuckle storyline with his creative interweaving of a psychological cat-n-mouse game between the characters that leaves the reader's heart palpitating until the surprise ending ultimately leaves them completely shocked. It just doesn't get any better than this!
The Silent Patient is one heck of an adrenaline rush that is a must-read for the true diehard psychological thriller junkie!
RATING: 5 STARS
About The Author
Alex Michaelides was born in Cyprus in 1977 to a Greek father and English mother. He studied English literature at Cambridge University and got his MA in screenwriting at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles. He wrote the film The..
Disclaimer: I purchased this book from Once Upon A Book Club - February 2019 Adult Box and Fresh Fiction - February 2019 Book Box.
In the vein of Big Little Lies and Reconstructing Amelia comes an emotionally charged domestic suspense novel about a mother unraveling the truth behind how her daughter became brain dead. And pregnant.
A search for the truth. A lifetime of lies.
In the small hours of the morning, Abi Knight is startled awake by the phone call no mother ever wants to get: her teenage daughter Olivia has fallen off a bridge. Not only is Olivia brain dead, she’s pregnant and must remain on life support to keep her baby alive. And then Abi sees the angry bruises circling Olivia’s wrists.
When the police unexpectedly rule Olivia’s fall an accident, Abi decides to find out what really happened that night. Heartbroken and grieving, she unravels the threads of her daughter’s life. Was Olivia’s fall an accident? Or something far more sinister?
Christina McDonald weaves a suspenseful and heart wrenching tale of hidden relationships, devastating lies, and the power of a mother’s love. With flashbacks of Olivia’s own resolve to uncover family secrets, this taut and emotional novel asks: how well do you know your children? And how well do they know you?
The Night Olivia Fell
“You want the truth? I’m—” My admission was cut off by a streak of blazing hot pain as something exploded against the side of my head. My brain barely registered the blow, my vision a dusky blur of red, pain searing into my skull and down my jaw. I felt my body spin with the force of it.
I reeled backward until my legs whacked against the low cement wall and I tumbled over, my body hurtling sideways across the ledge. A dark fog pressed against my outer vision, and before I knew it I was falling, plunging into empty space.
I hit the river on my back, my eyes fastened on the bridge’s soaring spires illuminated by a flickering streetlamp.
Then the shadowy water tipped me under.
My Book Review:
InThe Night Olivia Fell, author Christina McDonald weaves a riveting suspense thriller that easily draws the reader in with its dark storyline that follows single mother Abi Knight as she deals with a mother's worst fear: how her seventeen year old daughter Olivia's life ended so unexpectedly.
Set in Portage Point, Washington, and told in the alternating first person narrative by Olivia and Abi, the reader follows their story from past to present (Olivia's timeline: April - October // Abi's timeline: October - February). Abi searches for the answers to how Olivia fell from the Zig Zag Bridge into the river and suffered permanent and irreversible brain damage, and even more shocking is that Olivia has to be kept on life support because she is three months pregnant!
This captivating tale is rich in detail and vivid descriptions, has intriguing and suspenseful twists and turns, and will have the reader experiencing the full gamut of emotions, with no other option than to keep turning the pages to find out what happens next.
As a diehard fan of suspense thrillers, I must admit that this story exceeded my expectations. The dark intensity of the storyline and the complexity of the intertwining connection between Abi and Olivia's pasts, and the heartbreaking present journey that Abi endures as she searches for answers and closure, kept me thoroughly riveted, engrossed, and guessing as the pieces to the puzzle come together.
With a complex and realistic cast of characters, the author does a phenomenal job of delving into the tangled web of secrets, lies, and betrayals; and Abi's undying mother's love and emotional quest for the truth about what happened to her daughter. The author transports the reader into this fast-paced white-knuckle storyline with her creative interweaving of a psychological cat-n-mouse game between the characters that leaves the reader's heart palpitating until the surprise ending leaves them emotionally spent. It just doesn't get any better than this!
The Night Olivia Fell is one heck of an adrenaline rush that is a must-read for the true diehard suspense thriller junkie!
RATING: 5 STARS
About The Author
An author, journalist and copywriter, Christina has worked for companies such as The Sunday Times, Dublin, The Connacht Tribune, Galway, Expedia, USAToday.com, Travelex, and Pearson Publishing. Originally from Seattle, WA, she holds an MA in Journalism from the National University of Ireland Galway, and now lives in London, England. She is currently working on her second novel.
The enchanting story of a bookshop, its grieving owner, a supportive literary community, and the extraordinary power of books to heal the heart
Nightingale Books, nestled on the main street in an idyllic little village, is a dream come true for book lovers--a cozy haven and welcoming getaway for the literary-minded locals. But owner Emilia Nightingale is struggling to keep the shop open after her beloved father's death, and the temptation to sell is getting stronger. The property developers are circling, yet Emilia's loyal customers have become like family, and she can't imagine breaking the promise she made to her father to keep the store alive.
There's Sarah, owner of the stately Peasebrook Manor, who has used the bookshop as an escape in the past few years, but it now seems there's a very specific reason for all those frequent visits. Next is roguish Jackson, who, after making a complete mess of his marriage, now looks to Emilia for advice on books for the son he misses so much. And the forever shy Thomasina, who runs a pop-up restaurant for two in her tiny cottage--she has a crush on a man she met in the cookbook section, but can hardly dream of working up the courage to admit her true feelings.
Enter the world of Nightingale Books for a serving of romance, long-held secrets, and unexpected hopes for the future--and not just within the pages on the shelves.
How to Find Love in a Bookshop is the delightful story of Emilia, the unforgettable cast of customers whose lives she has touched, and the books they all cherish.
He would never have believed it if you’d told him a year ago. That he’d be standing in an empty shop with a baby in a pram, seriously considering putting in an offer.
The pram had been a stroke of luck. He’d seen an advert for a garden sale in a posh part of North Oxford, and the bargain hunter in him couldn’t stay away. The couple had two very young children but were moving to Paris. The pram was pristine, of the kind the queen might have pushed—or, rather, her nanny. The woman had wanted only five pounds for it. Julius was sure it was worth far more, and that she was only being kind. But if recent events had taught him one thing, it was to accept kindness. With alacrity, before people changed their minds. So he bought it and scrubbed it out carefully even though it had seemed very clean already, and bought a fresh mattress and blankets, and there he had it: the perfect nest for his precious cargo, until she could walk.
When did babies start to walk? There was no point in asking Debra—his vague, away-with-the-fairies mother, ensconced in her patchouli-soaked basement flat in Westbourne Grove, whose memory of his own childhood was blurry.
According to Debra, Julius was reading by the age of two, a legend he didn’t quite believe. Although maybe it was true, because he couldn’t remember a time he couldn’t read. It was like breathing to him. Nevertheless, he couldn’t and didn’t rely on his mother for child-rearing advice. He often thought it was a miracle he had made it through childhood unscathed. She used to leave him alone, in his cot, while she went to the wine bar on the corner in the evenings. “What could go wrong?” she asked him. “I only left you for an hour.” Perhaps that explained his protectiveness toward his own daughter. He found it hard to turn his back on her for even a moment.
He looked around the bare walls again. The smell of damp was inescapable, and damp would be a disaster. The staircase rising to the mezzanine was rotten, so rotten he wasn’t allowed up it. The two bay windows on either side of the front door flooded the shop with a pearlescent light, highlighting the golden oak of the floorboards and the ornate plasterwork on the ceiling. The dust made it feel otherworldly: a ghost shop, waiting, waiting for something to happen, a transformation, a renovation, a renaissance.
“It was a pharmacy, originally,” said the agent. “And then an antiques shop. Well, I say antique—you’ve never seen so much rubbish in your life.”
He should get some professional advice, really. A structural survey, a quote from someone for any work needed—yet Julius felt light-headed and his heart was pounding. It was right. He knew it was. The two floors above were ideal for him and the baby to live in. Over the shop.
His search had begun three weeks earlier, when he had decided that he needed to take positive action if he and his daughter were going to have any semblance of a normal life together. He had looked at his experience, his potential, his assets, and the practicalities of being a single father, and decided there was really only one option open to him.
He’d gone to the library, put a copy of the Yellow Pages on the table, and next to it a detailed map of the county. He drew a circle around Oxford with a fifteen-mile radius, wondering what it would be like to live in Christmas Common, or Ducklington, or Goosey: they sounded straight out of Beatrix Potter. Then he worked through all the bookshops listed and put a cross through the towns they were in.
He looked at the remaining towns, the ones without a bookshop at all. There were half a dozen. He made a list, and then over the next few days visited each one, traveling by a complicated timetable of buses. The first three had been soulless and dreary, and he was so discouraged he’d almost given up on his idea, but something about the name Peasebrook pleased him, so he decided to try one more town before relinquishing his fantasy.
Peasebrook was in the middle of the Cotswolds, on the outer perimeter of the circle he had drawn, as far out as he wanted to go. He got off the bus and looked up the high street. It was wide and tree lined, its pavements flanked with higgledy-piggledy golden buildings. There were antiques shops, a traditional butcher with rabbit and pheasant hanging outside and fat sausages in the window, a sprawling inn and a couple of nice cafés and a cheese shop. The Women’s Institute was having a sale outside the town hall: there were trestle tables bearing big cakes oozing jam, and baskets of mud-covered vegetables and pots of herbaceous flowers drooping dark purple and yellow blooms.
Peasebrook was buzzing, in a quiet way but with purpose, like bees on a summer afternoon. People stopped in the street and talked to each other. The cafés looked pleasingly full. The tills seemed to jangle: people were shopping with gusto and enthusiasm. There was a very smart restaurant with a bay tree outside the door and an impressive menu in a glass case boasting nouvelle cuisine. There was even a tiny theater showing The Importance of Being Earnest. Somehow that boded well. Julius loved Oscar Wilde. He’d done one of his dissertations on him: “The Influence of Oscar Wilde on W. B. Yeats.”
He took the play as a good omen, but he carried on scouring the streets, in case his research hadn’t been thorough. He feared turning a corner and finding what he hoped wasn’t there. Now that he was here, in Peasebrook, he wanted it to be his home—their home. It was a mystery, though, why there was no bookshop in such an appealing place.
After all, a town without a bookshop was a town without a heart.
Julius imagined each person he passed as a potential customer. He could picture them all, crowding in, asking his advice, him sliding their purchases into a bag, getting to know their likes and dislikes, putting a book aside for a particular customer, knowing it would be just up their alley. Watching them browse, watching the joy of them discovering a new author, a new world.
“Would the vendor take a cheeky offer?” he asked the estate agent, who shrugged.
“You can ask.”
“It needs a lot of work.”
“That has been taken into consideration.” Julius named his price.
“It’s my best and only offer. I can’t afford any more.”
When Julius signed the contract four weeks later, he couldn’t help but be amazed. Here he was, alone in the world (well, there was his mother, but she was as much use as a chocolate teapot) but for a baby and a bookshop. And as that very baby reached out her starfish hand, he gave her his finger to hold and thought: what an extraordinary position to be in. Fate was peculiar indeed.
What if he hadn’t looked up at that very moment, nearly two years ago now? What if he had kept his back to the door and carried on rearranging the travel section, leaving his colleague to serve the girl with the Rossetti hair . . .
And six months later, after weeks of dust and grime and sawing and sweeping and painting, and several eye-watering bills, and a few moments of sheer panic, and any number of deliveries, the sign outside the shop was rehung, painted in navy and gold, proclaiming Nightingale Books. There had been no room to write purveyors of reading matter to the discerning, but that was what he was. A bookseller.
A bookseller of the very best kind.
Thirty-two years later . . .
What do you do, while you’re waiting for someone to die? Literally, sitting next to them in a plastic armchair that isn’t the right shape for anyone’s bottom, waiting for them to draw their last breath because there is no more hope.
Nothing seemed appropriate. There was a room down the corridor for watching TV, but that seemed callous, and anyway, Emilia wasn’t really a TV person.
She didn’t knit, or do needlepoint. Or sudoku.
She didn’t want to listen to music, for fear of disturbing him. Even the best earphones leak a certain timpani. Irritating on a train, probably even more so on your deathbed. She didn’t want to surf the Internet on her phone. That seemed the ultimate in twenty-first-century rudeness.
And there wasn’t a single book on the planet that could hold her attention right now.
So she sat next to his bed and dozed. And every now and then she started awake with a bolt of fear, in case she might have missed the moment. Then she would hold his hand for a few minutes. It was dry and cool and lay motionless in her clasp. Eventually it grew heavy and made her sad, so she laid it back on the top of the sheet.
Then she would doze off again.
From time to time the nurses brought her hot chocolate, although that was a misnomer. It was not hot, but tepid, and Emilia was fairly certain that no cocoa beans had been harmed in the making of it. It was pale beige, faintly sweet water.
The nighttime lights in the cottage hospital were dim, with a sickly yellowish tinge. The heating was on too high and the little room felt airless. She looked at the thin bedcover, with its pattern of orange and yellow flowers, and the outline of her father underneath, so still and small. She could see the few strands of hair curling over his scalp, leached of color. His thick hair had been one of his distinguishing features. He would rake his fingers through it while he was considering a recommendation, or when he was standing in front of one of the display tables trying to decide what to put on it, or when he was on the phone to a customer. It was as much a part of him as the pale blue cashmere scarf he insisted on wearing, wrapped twice round his neck, even though it bore evidence of moths. Emilia had dealt with them swiftly at the first sign. She suspected they had been brought in via the thick brown velvet coat she had bought at the charity shop last winter—she could never resist a vintage bargain— and she felt guilty they’d set upon the one sartorial item her father seemed attached to.
He’d been complaining then, of discomfort. Well, not complaining, because he wasn’t one to moan. Emilia had expressed concern, and he had dismissed her concern with his trademark stoicism, and she had thought nothing more of it, just got on the plane to Hong Kong. Until the phone call, last week, calling her back.
“I think you ought to come home,” the nurse had said. “Your father will be furious with me for calling you. He doesn’t want to alarm you. But . . .” The but said it all. Emilia was on the first flight out. And when she arrived Julius pretended to be cross, but the way he held her hand, tighter than tight, told her everything she needed to know.
“He’s in denial,” said the nurse. “He’s a fighter, all right. I’m so sorry. We’re doing everything we can to keep him comfortable.” Emilia nodded, finally understanding. Comfortable. Not alive.
He didn’t seem to be in any pain or discomfort now. He had eaten some lime Jell-O the day before, eager for the quivering spoons of green. Emilia imagined it soothed his parched lips and dry tongue. She felt as if she was feeding a little bird as he stretched his neck to reach the spoon and opened his mouth. Afterward he lay back, exhausted by the effort. It was all he had eaten for days. All he was living on was a complicated cocktail of painkillers and sedatives that were rotated to provide the best palliative care. Emilia had come to hate the word palliative. It was ominous, and at times, she suspected, ineffectual. From time to time her father had shown distress, whether from pain or the knowledge of what was to come she couldn’t be sure but she knew at those points the medication wasn’t doing its job. Adjustment, although swiftly administered, never worked quickly enough. Which in turn caused her distress.
It was a never-ending cycle.
Yet not never-ending because it would end. The corner had been turned and there was no point in hoping for a recovery. Even the most optimistic believer in miracles would know that now. So there was nothing to do but pray for a swift and merciful release.
The nurse lifted the bedcover and looked at his feet, caressing them with gentle fingers. The look the nurse gave Emilia told her it wouldn’t be long now.
His skin was pale gray, the pale gray of a marble statue.
The nurse dropped the sheet back down and rubbed Emilia’s shoulder.
Then she left, for there was nothing she could say. It was a waiting game. They had done all they could. No pain, as far as anyone could surmise. A calm, quiet environment, for incipient death was treated with hushed reverence. But who was to say what the dying really wanted? Maybe he would prefer his beloved Elgar at full blast, or the shipping forecast on repeat? Or to hear the nurses gossiping and bantering, about whom they’d been out with the night before and what they were cooking for tea? Maybe a distraction from your imminent demise by utter trivia would be a welcome one? Emilia sat and wondered how she could make him feel her love, as he slipped away. If she could take out her heart and give it to him, she would. This wonderful man who had given her life, and been her life, and was leaving her alone.
She’d whispered to him, memories and reminiscences. She told him stories. Recited his favorite poems.
Talked to him about the shop.
“I’m going to look after it for you,” she told him. “I’ll make sure it never closes its doors. Not in my lifetime. And I’m never going to sell out to Ian Mendip, no matter what he offers, because the shop is all that matters. All the diamonds in the world are nothing in comparison. Books are more precious than jewels.” She truly believed this. What did a diamond bring you? A momentary flash of brilliance. A diamond scintillated for a second; a book could scintillate forever.
She doubted Ian Mendip had ever read a book in his life. It made her so angry, thinking about the stress he’d put her father under at a vulnerable time.
Julius had tried to underplay it, but she could see he was agitated, fearful for the shop and his staff and his customers. The staff had told her how unsettled he had been by it, and yet again she had cursed herself for being so far away. Now she was determined to reassure him, so he could slip away, safe in the knowledge that Nightingale Books was in good hands.
She shifted on the seat to find a more comfortable position. She ended up leaning forward and resting her head in her arms at the foot of the bed. She was unbelievably tired.
It was 2:49 in the morning when the nurse touched her on the shoulder. Her touch said everything that needed to be said. Emilia wasn’t sure if she had been asleep or awake. Even now she wasn’t sure if she was asleep or awake, for she felt as if her head was somewhere else, as if everything was a bit treacly and slow.
When all the formalities were over and the undertaker had been called, she walked out into the dawn, the air morgue-chilly, the light gloomy. It was as if all the color had gone from the world, until she saw the traffic lights by the hospital exit change from red to amber to green. Sound, too, felt muffled, as if she still had water in her ears from swimming.
Would the world be a different place without Julius in it? She didn’t know yet. She breathed in the air he was no longer breathing, and thought about his broad shoulders, the ones she had sat on when she was tiny, drumming her heels on his chest to make him run faster, twisting her fingers in the thick hair that fell to his collar, the hair that had been salt and pepper since he was thirty. She picked up the plain silver watch with the alligator strap he had worn every day. She had taken it off toward the end, as she didn’t want anything chafing his paper-thin skin, leaving it on the table next to his bed in case he needed to know the time, because it told a better time than the clock over the nurse’s station, a time that held far more promise. But the magic time on his watch hadn’t been able to stop the inevitable.
She got into her car. There was a packet of buttermints on the passenger seat she had meant to bring him. She unpeeled one and popped it in her mouth. It was the first thing she had eaten since breakfast the day before. She sucked on it until it scraped the roof of her mouth, and the discomfort took her mind off it all for a moment.
She’d eaten half the packet by the time she turned into Peasebrook high street, and her teeth were furry with the sugar. The little town was wrapped in the pearl-gray of dawn. It looked bleak: its golden stone needed sunshine for it to glow. In the half- light it looked like a dreary wallflower, but in a couple of hours it would emerge like a dazzling debutante, charming everyone who set eyes upon it. It was quintessentially quaint and English, with its oak doorways and mullions and latticed windows, cobbled pavements and red letter boxes and the row of pollarded lime trees. There were no flat-roofed monstrosities, nothing to offend the eye, only charm.
Next to the stone bridge straddling the brook was Nightingale Books, three stories high and double fronted, with two bay windows and a dark blue door. Emilia stood outside, the early morning breeze the only sign of movement in the sleeping town, and looked up at the building that was the only home she had ever known. Wherever she was in the world, whatever she was doing, her room above the shop was still here; most of her stuff was still here. Thirty-two years of clutter.
She slipped in through the side entrance and stood for a moment on the tiled floor. In front of her was the door leading up to the flat. She remembered her father holding her hand when she was tiny, and walking her down those stairs. It had taken hours, but she was determined, and he was patient.
When she was at school, she had run down the stairs, taking them two at a time, her school bag on her back, an apple in one hand, always late. Years later, she had sneaked up the stairs in bare feet when she came in from a party. Not that Julius was strict or likely to shout; it was just what you did when you were sixteen and had drunk a little too much cider and it was two o’clock in the morning.
To her left was the door that came out behind the shop counter. She pushed open the door and stepped into the shop. The early morning light ventured in through the window, tentative. Emilia shivered a little as the air inside stirred. She felt a sense of expectation whenever she entered Nightingale Books, the same feeling of stepping back in time or into another place.
She could be whenever and wherever she wanted. Only this time she couldn’t.
She would give anything to go back to when everything was all right.
She felt as if the books were asking for news. He’s gone, she wanted to tell them, but she didn’t, because she didn’t trust her voice. And because it was silly.
Books told you things, everything you needed to know, but you didn’t talk back to them.
As she stood in the middle of the shop, she gradually felt a sense of comfort settle upon her, a calmness that soothed her soul. For Julius was still here, amid the covers and the upright spines. He claimed to know every book in his shop. He may not have read each one from cover to cover, but he understood why they were there, what the author’s intent had been and who might, therefore, like to read them, from the simplest children’s board book to the weightiest, most indecipherable tome.
There was a rich red carpet, faded and worn now. Rows and rows of wooden shelves lined the walls, stretching right up to the ceiling—there was a ladder to reach the more unusual books on the very top shelves. Fiction was at the front of the shop, reference at the back, and tables in the middle displayed cookery and art and travel. Upstairs, on the mezzanine, there was a collection of first editions and secondhand rarities, behind locked glass cases. And Julius had reigned over it all from his place..
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by the St. Martin's Press.
An emotionally layered novel about family, loss and what it means to be a military wife.
A young widow embraces a second chance at life when she reconnects with those who understand the sacrifices made by American soldiers and their families in award-winning author Laura Trentham’s The Military Wife.
Harper Lee Wilcox has been marking time in her hometown of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina since her husband, Noah Wilcox’s death, nearly five years earlier. With her son Ben turning five and living at home with her mother, Harper fights a growing restlessness, worried that moving on means leaving the memory of her husband behind.
Her best friend, Allison Teague, is dealing with struggles of her own. Her husband, a former SEAL that served with Noah, was injured while deployed and has come home physically healed but fighting PTSD. With three children underfoot and unable to help her husband, Allison is at her wit’s end.
In an effort to re-energize her own life, Harper sees an opportunity to help not only Allison but a network of other military wives eager to support her idea of starting a string of coffee houses close to military bases around the country.
In her pursuit of her dream, Harper crosses paths with Bennett Caldwell, Noah’s best friend and SEAL brother. A man who has a promise to keep, entangling their lives in ways neither of them can foresee. As her business grows so does an unexpected relationship with Bennett. Can Harper let go of her grief and build a future with Bennett even as the man they both loved haunts their pasts?
Winters in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, were temperamental. The sunshine and a temperate southerly breeze that started a day could turn into biting, salt-tinged snow flurries by afternoon. But one thing Harper Lee Wilcox could count on was that winter along the Outer Banks was quiet.
The bustle and hum and weekly rotation of tourists that marked the summer months settled into a winter melancholy that Harper enjoyed. Well,perhaps not enjoyed in the traditional sense . . . more like she enjoyed surrendering to the melancholy. In fact, her mother may have accused her of wallowing in it once or twice or a hundred times.
In the winter, she didn’t have to smile and pretend her life was great. Not that it was bad. Lots of people had it worse. Much worse. In fact, parts of her life were fabulous. Almost five, her son was happy and healthy and smart. Her mother’s strength and support were unwavering and had bolstered her through the worst time of her life. Her friends were amazing.
That was the real issue. In the craziness of the summer season, she forgot to be sad. Her husband, Noah, had been gone five years; the same amount of time they’d been married. Soon the years separating them would outnumber the years they’d been together. The thought was sobering and only intensified the need to keep a sacred place in her heart waiting and empty. Her secret memorial.
She parked the sensible sedan Noah had bought her soon after they married under her childhood home. Even though they were inland, the stilts were a common architectural feature up and down the Outer Banks.
Juggling her laptop and purse, Harper pushed open the front door and stacked her things to the side. “I’m home!”
A little body careened down the steps and crashed into her legs. She returned the ferocious hug. Her pregnancy was the only thing that had kept her going those first weeks after she’d opened her front door to the Navy chaplain.
“How was preschool? Did you like the pasta salad I packed for your lunch?”
“It made me toot and everyone laughed, even the girls. Can you pack it for me again tomorrow?”
“Ben! You shouldn’t want to toot.” Laughter ruined the admonishing tone she was going for.
As Harper’s mom said time and again, the kid was a hoot and a half. He might have Harper’s brown wavy hair, but he had Noah’s spirit and mannerisms and humor. Ben approached everything with an optimism Harper had lost or perhaps had never been gifted with from the start. He was a blessing Harper sometimes wondered if she deserved.
“Where’s Yaya?” She ruffled his unruly hair.
Of course, her mom had picked an unconventional name. “Grandmother” was too old-fashioned and pedestrian. Since she’d retired from the library, she had cast off any semblance of normalcy and embraced an inner spirit that was a throwback to 1960s bra burners and Woodstock.
“Upstairs painting.” Ben slipped his hand into Harper’s and tugged her toward the kitchen. Bright red and orange and blue paint smeared the back of his hand and arm like a rainbow. At least, her mom had put him in old clothes. “Yaya gave me my own canvas and let me paint whatever I wanted.”
“And what did you paint?” Harper prayed it wasn’t a nude study, which was the homework assignment from her mom’s community college class.
“I drew Daddy in heaven. I used all the colors.” The matter-of-factness of his tone clawed at her heart.
No child should have to grow up only knowing their father through pictures and stories. Her own father had been absent because of divorce and disinterest. He’d sent his court-ordered child support payments regularly until she turned eighteen but rarely visited or shown any curiosity about her. It had hurt until teenaged resentment scarred over the wound.
Noah would have made a great dad. The best. That he never got the chance piled more regrets and what-ifs onto her winter inspired melancholy.
“I’m sure he would have loved your painting.” Luckily, Ben didn’t notice her choked-up reply.
He went to the cabinet, pulled out white bread and crunchy peanut butter, and proceeded to make two sandwiches. It was their afternoon routine. Someday he would outgrow it. Outgrow her and become a man like his daddy.
She poured him a glass of milk, and they ate their sandwiches, talking about how the rest of his day went—outside of his epic toots. His world was small and safe and she wanted to keep it that way for as long as possible.
Her mom breezed into the kitchen, her still-thick but graying brown hair twisted into a messy bun, a thin paintbrush holding it in place. Slim and attractive, she wore paint-splattered jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt that read: I make AARP look good. Harper pinched her lips together to stifle a grin.
“How’s your assignment coming along?” Harper asked.
“I’m having a hard time with proportions. It’s been a while, but I’m pretty sure my man’s you-know-what shouldn’t hang down to his kneecaps.”
Harper shot a glance toward Ben, who had moved to the floor of the den to play with LEGOs. As crazy as her mom drove her, she was and would always be Harper’s rock. The irony wasn’t lost on her. As hard as she’d worked to get out of Kitty Hawk and out of her mother’s reach when she was young, she’d never regretted coming home.
“It’s been a while for me, too, but that’s not how I remember them, either.”
“A pity for us both.” Her mother pulled a jar of olives out of the fridge and proceeded to make martinis—shaken, not stirred. She raised her eyebrows, and Harper answered the unspoken question with a nod. Her mom poured and plopped an extra olive in Harper’s. “How was work?”
Harper handled bookkeeping and taxes for a number of local businesses, but a good number closed up shop in the winter. “Routine. Quiet.”
“Exactly like your life.”
Harper sputtered on her first sip. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I hate seeing you mope around all winter.” Her mom poked at the olive in her drink with a toothpick and looked toward Ben, dropping her voice. “He’s been gone five years, sweetheart, and you haven’t gone on so much as a date.”
“That’s not true. I went to lunch with Whit a few weeks ago.”
“He was trying to sell you life insurance. Doesn’t count.”
Harper huffed and covered her discomfort by taking another sip. “What about you? You never date.”
“True, but your father ruined me on relationships. I have trust issues. You and Noah, on the other hand, seemed to get along fine. Or am I wrong?”
“You’re not.” Another sip of the martini grew the tingly warmth in her stomach. Their marriage hadn’t been completely without conflict, but what relationship was? As she looked back on their fights, they seemed juvenile and unimportant. It was easier to remember the good times. And there were so many to choose from.
She touched the empty finger on her left hand. The ring occupied her jewelry box and had for three years. But, occasionally, her finger would ache with phantom pains as if it were missing a vital organ.
“You’re young. Find another good man. Or forget the man, just find something you’re passionate about.”
“I’m happy right where I am.” Harper hammered up her defenses as if preparing for a hurricane.
“Don’t mistake comfort for happiness. You’re comfortable here. Too comfortable. But you’re not happy.”
“God, Mom, why are you Dr. Phil–ing me all of sudden? Are you wanting me and Ben to move out or something?” Her voice sailed high and Ben looked over at them, his eyes wide, clutching his LEGO robot so tightly its head fell off.
“You and Ben are welcome to stay and take care of me in my old age.” Her mom shifted toward the den. “You hear that, honey? I want you to stay forever.”
Ben gave them an eye-crinkling smile that reminded her so much of Noah her insides squirmed, and she killed the rest of her drink. She was so careful not to show how lonely she sometimes felt in front of Ben.
“Harper.” Her mom’s chiding tone reminded her so much of her own childhood, she glanced up instinctively. Her mom took her hand, and her hazel eyes matched the ones that stared back at Harper in the mirror. “You’re marking time in Kitty Hawk. Find something that excites you again. Don’t let Ben—or Noah— be your excuse.”
Harper looked to her son. His chubby fingers fit the small LEGO pieces together turning the robot into a house. She had built her life brick by brick adding pieces and colors, expanding, taking pride, until one horrible day she’d stopped. Maybe her mom was right. Was it time to build something new?
My Book Review:
If you are looking for a wonderful military romance that will pull at your heartstrings, then look no further, The Military Wifeis that book.
Author Laura Trentham weaves an intriguing tale that follows the complex relationship between military widow Harper Lee Wilcox and her late husband's best friend and ex-Navy SEAL veteran Bennett Caldwell.
Set in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, it has been five years since Harper Lee Wilcox's Navy SEAL husband Noah Wilcox was killed in action. Since that time, Harper Lee has been busy taking care of her five year old son Ben, and working as a bookkeeper for local businesses. Harper's mom thinks that Harper's life has been routine and lonely, and that she needs to move on with her life.
Ex-Navy SEAL Bennett Caldwell returned home from a traumatic tour five years ago with a wounded body and painful memories that haunts him everyday. Bennett's emotional baggage and secrets that he carries revolve around the death of his best friend and fellow SEAL Noah Wilcox, and the promise he made to Noah to take care of his family if something happened to him. Bennett retired from the Navy and now owns the Caldwell Survival School in Virginia Beach, VA.
Harper Lee was never given the real story behind Noah's death, so she seeks answers from Noah's SEAL teammate and best friend, Bennett. Harper Lee and Bennett's meeting results in a multi-layered and complex relationship, but below the surface simmers an attraction that may help them heal from the painful emotional baggage that they both carry, and guide them to discover love along the way.
The Military Wife is a wonderful military romance tale that easily draws the reader into Harper Lee and Bennett's story. You can't help but feel empathy for them as they battle with their private demons.
This is a fast paced and multilayered tale that has an intriguing mixture of emotion, drama, angst, and romance that keeps the reader turning the pages. The story is told in the 3rd person narrative that alternates between Harper Lee and Bennett's past and present. I really enjoyed this story line, especially when it is about two people whose connection and attraction is so powerful and palpable that they can't resist each other, especially when their mutual attraction simmers under the surface. I loved how their witty banter and sassy playfulness helped their unexpected romantic relationship blossom, especially since it is their shared personal emotional baggage that has brought them together, and showed them that they really need each other, and that there is so much more to life.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how realistic and emotionally powerful this story is, especially when it deals with the serious issues of PTSD, loss, grief, suicide prevention, and the variety of issues that arise when living a military lifestyle. You can't help but feel compassion and empathy for our military personnel and their families, they sacrifice so much for our country, we should always lift them up and give them the support they so rightly deserve. The Military Wife is a compelling, raw, and realistic military romance story that will leave you wanting more!
RATING: 5 STARS
About The Author
Author Laura Trentham is an award-winning author of contemporary and historical romance. She is a member of RWA, and has been a finalist multiple times in the Golden Heart competition. A chemical engineer by training and a lover of books by nature, she lives in South Carolina.
From the show's creators comes the groundbreaking novel inspired by the hit Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen.
Dear Evan Hansen,
Today's going to be an amazing day and here's why...
When a letter that was never meant to be seen by anyone draws high school senior Evan Hansen into a family's grief over the loss of their son, he is given the chance of a lifetime: to belong. He just has to stick to a lie he never meant to tell, that the notoriously troubled Connor Murphy was his secret best friend.
Suddenly, Evan isn't invisible anymore--even to the girl of his dreams. And Connor Murphy's parents, with their beautiful home on the other side of town, have taken him in like he was their own, desperate to know more about their enigmatic son from his closest friend. As Evan gets pulled deeper into their swirl of anger, regret, and confusion, he knows that what he's doing can't be right, but if he's helping people, how wrong can it be?
No longer tangled in his once-incapacitating anxiety, this new Evan has a purpose. And a website. He's confident. He's a viral phenomenon. Every day is amazing. Until everything is in danger of unraveling and he comes face to face with his greatest obstacle: himself.
A simple lie leads to complicated truths in this big-hearted coming-of-age story of grief, authenticity and the struggle to belong in an age of instant connectivity and profound isolation.
Show Clips: DEAR EVAN HANSEN starring Ben Platt - YouTube
It all began with a letter to oneself that leads to a tangled web of lies ... but out of it comes a social discussion and movement with a powerful message that "you are not alone, and that you matter!"
Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel is a more in-depth coming-of-age adaptation of the hit Broadway musical that examines the important social issues of mental health (anxiety, isolation, the struggle to belong, invisibility, self-importance, self-acceptance, depression) and suicide.
Told in the alternating first person perspectives from high school seniors Evan Hansen (mental health issues) and Connor Murphy (suicide), the reader follows Connor's perspective of witnessing the aftermath of his death, and Evan's perspective as he tries to deal with his downward spiral after his letter to himself morphs into a tangled web of lies about being Connor's best friend, all done in the name of trying to fit in and help Connor's family deal with their grief.
I saw the Broadway musical Dear Evan Hansen at the beginning of January, and it was such a profound story that had me feeling the full gamut of emotions as Evan and Connor's story unfolded. I applaud the author for adapting this amazing musical into an unforgettable book that everyone should read. While I loved the musical, it did leave me with some questions, and I am so glad that Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel went more in-depth into Evan and Connor's story, it cleared up a lot of the questions, and really made more sense.
Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel is an emotional and inspirational story about serious social issues that affects everyone. Mental health and suicide are important issues that needs to have a perpetual conversation in our society. The story and musical's powerful message says it all: "you are never alone, you matter, and there will always be a tomorrow."
*Note: At the end of the novel, there is an important listing of mental health and suicide prevention resources available.
RATING: 5 STARS
About The Author
Dubbed a "Renaissance Man" by the New York Post, Val Emmich is a writer, a singer-songwriter, and an actor. His first novel, The Reminders, was a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers selection and his follow-up, Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel, based on the hit Broadway show, was a New York Times bestseller. He's had recurring roles on Vinyl and Ugly Betty, as well as a memorable guest role as Tina Fey's coffee-boy fling, Jamie, on 30 Rock. Emmich lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchange for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.
Boise Montague’s life in Los Angeles has fallen apart. After his wife dies, he returns to the tiny island where he grew up. Unfortunately, coming home doesn’t bring him the peace he’s looking for. Things have changed drastically since his last visit. The island has moved on and so have the people he once knew. When Boise tries to find the one friend he thinks he can count on to be there for him, he’s confronted with another death. A murder. A murder that the police did not think important enough to investigate thoroughly. Boise wants answers. He enlists a local reporter named Dana, who has theories of her own, to help him dig deeper. With not much left to lose, a bone to pick with the justice system, and a relentless partner, Boise sets out to do what the police would not: solve the murder of Roger Black. The island of St. Thomas is a gleaming tropical paradise. Welcome to the Caribbean, where murder is as common as sunshine.
Behind me, the door I’d entered through opened. A very tan redhead showing signs of aging from many days spent in the sun entered carrying a laptop bag and shouldering a camera. A red Carnegie Mellon University baseball cap that looked like it had been run over by a garbage truck covered part of her tough, but beautiful face. She looked me over like I was a mongrel who’d wandered in begging for table scraps.
“You need something?” She dropped her stuff down on the cushioned chair next to the counter.
“Uh, yes, I wondered if I could get some clippings or microfilm or copies or whatever it is newspapers give for issues two to eight years old. Are they digitized yet?” I stammered.
“Seriously, what do you want?” She pulled her Ray-Bans off and the gray-blue of her eyes stunned me for a moment. Using her sunglasses, she tapped my shoulder. “Hello?”
“Clippings, you know, news from the past,” I said.
As she slipped the glasses into a case from her purse she said, “Yes, but you implied that something here was digitized.” She pursed her thin lips. “This newspaper went online three years ago, so, the last three years are available online in the archives section if you buy a subscription. You a subscriber?”
“I don’t have a subscription,” I said defensively.
“Figures. This is why my job is constantly in danger. Everyone expects news for free.” Her fine hair moved in a blur as she shook her head derisively while she rummaged for something in her bag.
“Hey, I’m happy to buy a subscription. I support journalism,” I said. It sounded lame.
We both flinched as a thunderous banging rang through the room as something or someone hit the other side of a door to my left.
She threw her hands up, exclaiming, “Not again!”
“What? What’s that?” I said.
“Calling the cops,” she sang out. “They said they’re gonna start charging us if this happened again,” she whispered.
Another, more urgent banging erupted through the room. The reporter had her cell out.
“Wait,” I said. “Is it really that dangerous?”
“No, just annoying.” She pressed a button on her phone. “You believe this? Now I’m on hold. I could probably walk over to the police station faster. He’ll probably take a dump on the floor by the time we get back.”
In Dark Paradise, the debut novel and first book of the Boise Montague Series, author Gene Desrochers weaves an intriguing murder mystery tale that follows private investigator Boise Montague's investigation into the murder of his childhood friend Roger Black.
This dark Caribbean noir mystery tale is set in the tropical island setting of St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. Boise returns to his Caribbean childhood home from Los Angeles after the death of his wife Evelyn. The police thought that Evelyn's death was an accident, but Boise thought it was murder but he couldn't prove it, and the police had threatened to arrest him for interference in the investigation. Heartbroken and defeated, Boise hoped that by coming home to St. Thomas, he would be able to pick up the pieces of his life, but the island isn't the same as when he grew up there, and he finds out that his childhood best friend Roger Black had turned into a drug dealer and died two years ago on Christmas Eve. Boise decides to look into Roger's death, thinking he was murdered, and solicits the help of Dana Goode, a local reporter for The Daily News. While investigating Roger's death, Boise and Dana find themselves unexpectedly getting involved in a kidnapping investigation of a sixteen year old local girl that entangles them in more danger than they bargained for all in the name of getting justice.
Author Gene Desrochers provides a multi-layered storyline that has enough mystery, suspense, drama, treachery, secrets, and intriguing twists and turns that keeps the reader guessing, while weaving an intricate and complicated web of what the motive of Roger's murder and the local girl's kidnapping could have been, and the spectrum of possible participants who could have been involved in committing them.
Told in the first person perspective, Boise takes the reader along for the ride on his stealthy investigative adventures. This engaging Caribbean noir mystery story has realistic characters; witty island dialogue and humorous interactions; a rich description of the island setting of St. Thomas; and a multi-layered storyline that easily draws the reader into the interconnection between Boise's childhood past and the present, and how the pieces of the murder and kidnapping investigations puzzles comes together and are solved.
Dark Paradise is the kind of island murder mystery that easily keeps the reader captivated, guessing, on their toes, and wanting more!
RATING: 4 STARS
About The Author
Gene Desrochers hails from a dot in the Caribbean Sea called St. Thomas. He grew up with minimal supervision and free-roaming animals in a guesthouse that also served as a hospital during wartime. He has spent his life steadily migrating west, and now finds himself in Los Angeles with a beautiful wife, cats, and kids. After a lifetime of writing and telling short stories, he ventured into the deep end, publishing his first novel, Dark Paradise in 2018. If you ask, he will regale you with his Caribbean accent and tennis prowess.
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Gene Desrochers. There will be 2 winners of one (1) Amazon.com Gift Card each. The giveaway begins on January 1, 2019 and runs through February 1, 2019. Void where prohibited.
Get all three books of Death by Cupcake series in one bundle! A cozy mystery series with a heap of laughs, a generous portion of romance, and just a smidgeon of suspense. The bundle includes Never Trust a Skinny Cupcake Baker, Bring Your Own Baker, and Self-Serve Murder.
Come join us at Callie’s Cakes, where murder investigations are on the menu.
Warning: This is NOT your mom’s cozy mystery. The books in this series may be a ‘clean’ reads, but if gangs, illegal gambling, strip clubs, and pimps make you turn your nose up at your e-reader, you might want to skip it. The final book in the series also deals with the very real issue of rape on college campuses.
Never Trust A Skinny Cupcake Baker
Callie’s life is rather awesome. She owns a successful bakery and teaches German literature at the local university. There’s just one tiny problem. She has no self-confidence when it comes to her body. And then there’s the little matter of her being accused of murdering her pole dancing instructor. There’s no way Callie’s going to risk losing her teaching position and thus she embarks, with her best baker bud Anna, on a journey to discover the real killer. Between stripper auditions and a detective who insists Callie is the woman of his dreams, it’s a roller coaster adventure.
Bring Your Own Baker
Anna just wants to earn enough money on the side to buy into the bakery, Callie’s Cakes, where she works together with her best nerd pal Callie. The last thing she expects to see when she walks into Arthur’s apartment to do some moonlighting is a blood bath. Callie’s ready to jump into the investigation into Arthur’s murder, and she’s bringing another bakery worker, Kristie, into their hijinks whether Kristie wants to or not. But things aren’t as they seem. There are gang affiliations, illegal gambling dens, and ladies of the night to wade through. Will Anna and Callie discover who murdered Arthur or will Callie’s detective boyfriend and Anna’s self-appointed protector put a stop to such aspirations?
Kristie may be a sweetheart out to save the world, but sticking her nose into an investigation of rapes across campus makes her the target of a murderer. Before she knows it, Kristie is smack dab in the middle of a murder investigation with her colleagues from the cupcake bakery. If that’s not enough to drive a sane person up the wall, a friend has decided he’s going to keep her safe whether she wants him to or not. And, oh yeah, he’s her man and that’s that.
Never Trust A Skinny Cupcake Baker
“Why don’t you sit back down, Ms. Muller?” Detective Duchamp’s use of my last name concerns me. I sit back down and stare at him, hoping my elevated heart rate isn’t obvious. “Why did you rush off after class on Tuesday without showering?” “I never shower at the gym.” I shiver. “I’m not comfortable with showering in front of other people.” The detective sneers at that. “You better get used to it. No private showers in prison.” I throw my hands in the air. “I know you’re trying to goad me into making some sort of confession or slip up or something, but I didn’t kill anyone. Why in the world would I kill Dolly? She’s not even a blip on my radar. I’m a successful business owner, I have a PhD, I teach at the University. Why would I risk all that for someone like her?” Unfortunately, my voice has turned condescending. Probably not the best attitude when accused of murder. That’s when Duchamps pulls a card out of the file. It’s in a clear plastic bag, which I assume is an evidence bag, but it’s still obvious what the card is – a Callie’s Cakes postcard. The yellow and white striped postcards are free with a gift box. “I assume you know what this is.” “Of course, I know what that is.” There’s no sense denying the truth even though I’m a bit apprehensive as to why they have a card from my bakery. The detective pushes the card across the table, and I look down. “Sorry about your car, Callie.” I push the card back and stare at the detective. “Seriously? This is your evidence?” The detectives look smug. I’m going to enjoy bringing them down a peg. “First of all, I can prove that I didn’t key her car.” I count off on my fingers. “And secondly, that’s not my handwriting. Not even close.” I see a moment of doubt in Duchamps face before he recovers, and his face is once again a mask. He grabs the evidence bag and puts it back in the file. “We’ll see about that.” He stands. “In the meantime, you’ll be rotting away in jail.” The door opens, and a man I don’t know enters. “Oh no, she won’t.” He turns to me and holds out his hand. “Dr. Muller, if you will.” I will!
Bring Your Own Baker
Logan grabs my wrist as I’m about to face-plant on my bed. He pulls and twists, turning my body towards him. Before I have a chance to ask him what in the world he’s doing, his lips are on mine. There’s nothing gentle about this kiss. It’s desperate and possessive all in one. I hang on for the ride. Before I realize what’s happening, I’m lying on the bed with Logan over me. He releases my lips but keeps me trapped by his own body on top of mine.
“I’ve been dying to do that all night,” he whispers as he closes his eyes and buries his head in the joint connecting my neck and shoulder.
“I’m keeping this dress,” I proclaim.
Logan chuckles. “Babe, the dress is hot and you were scorching in it, but you always turn me on, even dressed in your cupcake pajamas.”
I roll my eyes and huff. “Whatever.”
“Now.” He sits back on his heels while pulling me up so that my back is leaning against the headboard. “Fill me in on what happened in the hallway.”
There’s a knock on the door before I have a chance to open my mouth, probably because it’s taking me a while to form thoughts with Logan’s hard muscles on full display. When did he lose his shirt? Logan immediately jumps off the bed and stalks to the bedroom door. “Stay here,” he orders as he leaves. Yeah right, that won’t be happening.
I’m wiping down the counters when I get ambushed by Callie and Anna. Callie grabs my arm and together with Anna she pushes me into the corner furthest from the students. “What in the world of coffee beans are you guys up to now?” I cross my arms over my chest to make it perfectly clear that I’m not okay with whatever cockamamie scheme they’ve cooked up now.
Anna looks at me and smiles in an obvious but unsuccessful attempt to look innocent. “It’s just that we think it’s time we see the Youth Center where you spend all your time.”
Yeah, right. I roll my eyes at her. “You don’t really expect me to believe that you want to see the Youth Center to check out my life’s work.”
Callie bobs her head. “We’ve been meaning to go down there for ages.”
“Yeah,” Anna jumps in. “Logan always made it sound like the first circle in hell.”
I raise an eyebrow at the troublemaking pixie. Of course, she would want to jump into the first circle of hell. “Most people try to avoid Dante’s Inferno.” I don’t know why I bother trying to dissuade her. She obviously has no fear of things ‘normal’ people avoid like gangs and violence and such. She even admits to starting to fall for Logan before she realized he was an undercover cop.
“We just need to make sure we can eliminate anyone from the Youth Center as possible suspects. You know – up close and personally – then we need to find this rapist before he strikes again. It’s time to get to the bottom of this.” Callie makes an impassioned speech. I look down but, to my surprise, no soap box has magically appeared under her feet.
“I thought you guys promised not to go to the Youth Center.” I make one last ditch effort to keep Callie and Anna safely away from this investigation.
“I promised to not go running around. I will definitely not be doing any running.” Anna shakes her head and points at her feet. As if those high-heeled boots would ever stop her from running head-on into turmoil.
Callie shrugs. “I never actually said the words ‘I promise’. There’s definitely some kind of loophole there.”
“Fine!” I throw my hands in the air in defeat. “We’ll head over in my car after the bakery closes this afternoon.”
The dynamic duo immediately jumps up and down before rushing back into the kitchen giggling. And I’m the young one?
My Book Reviews: Never Trust A Skinny Cupcake Baker In Never Trust A Skinny Cupcake Baker, the first book in the Death By Cupcake Series, author D.E. Haggerty weaves a delightful cozy mystery that follows the amateur investigative adventures of bakery owner / college professor Callie Muller.
Callie owns a successful bakery and is a professor of German literature at the local university. But there is only one thing missing in her life ... a non-existent love life. After getting dumped by her ex-boyfriend for being overweight in his eyes, Callie's self-esteem and self-confidence is extremely low, even though local hottie police detective Ben has asked her out numerous times. Callie's best friend and bakery co-worker Anna signs them up for a pole dancing class at the local gym, but when Dolly, the obnoxious pole dancing instructor is found murdered, Callie finds herself accused of the murder. Callie is determined to clear her name and prove her innocence in order to save her teaching position. So with the help of Anna, Callie embarks on a murder investigation adventure to find the real killer.
Never Trust A Skinny Cupcake Baker is a thoroughly entertaining cozy mystery that will keep the reader in stitches. Written in the first person narrative, the reader follows the humorous trials and tribulations of Callie's investigative adventures.
This was such a fun book to read! The reader can't help but get drawn into the quirky trials and tribulations and intriguing suspense that Callie and Anna encounter during the investigation. I could relate to Callie, she is a normal woman with everyday issues, and I really enjoyed the humor and wit between Callie and Anna. And when you add in some romance with the hot police detective Ben into the mix, you get a delightful cozy mystery that will leave you wanting more!
RATING: 5 STARS
Bring Your Own Baker
In Bring Your Own Baker, the second book in the Death By Cupcake Series, author D.E. Haggerty weaves a delightful cozy mystery that follows the amateur investigative adventures of baker Anna Moore.
Anna is a sassy little pixie with spiky pink hair, who works as a baker at her best friend Callie's bakery, Callie's Cakes. She has been working on the side doing finance and invoicing for her friend Arthur, a genius computer programmer / hacker, in order to get enough money together to buy into fifty percent of the bakery. When Anna goes to Arthur's apartment, she finds his door ajar and he is lying on the floor dead with his face covered in blood. Anna is determined to find Arthur's killer, so with the help of Callie, Ben (Callie's detective boyfriend), co-worker Kristie, and a hot undercover cop named Logan, Anna embarks on a murder investigation adventure to find the real killer.
Bring Your Own Baker is a thoroughly entertaining cozy mystery that will keep the reader in stitches. Written in the first person narrative, the reader follows the humorous trials and tribulations of Anna and friends latest amateur investigative adventures.
This was such a fun book to read! The reader can't help but get drawn into the quirky trials and tribulations and intriguing suspense that Anna and friends encounter during the murder investigation. I really enjoyed Anna's sassy humor and wit, she makes following her madcap adventure so much fun, and when you add in some romance with the hot undercover cop Logan into the mix, you get a delightful cozy mystery that will leave you wanting more!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I really loved how the author used very clever and intriguing step-by-step recipe ingredients to solving a mystery quotes at the beginning of each chapter.
Cozy mystery fans, I would highly recommend that you read the entertaining Death By Cupcake Series, you won't regret it!
RATING: 5 STARS
In Self-Serve Murder, the third book in the Death By Cupcake Series, author D.E. Haggerty continues to weave a delightful cozy mystery series that follows the amateur investigative adventures of Kristie, Callie's Cakes twenty-three year old barista and social work grad student.
Kristie is a social work grad student who works part time at the local youth center and part time as a barista at her friend Callie's bakery, Callie's Cakes. Kristie wakes up naked and next to a dead guy in bed, and she has no recollection of what happened the night before. Kristie has been conducting a secret investigation the past few months into a string of college rape incidents where all the female victims have the same MO, they were all drugged (roofies) and woke up in their dorm rooms not remembering what happened, but having been sexually violated. As the latest victim (but not violated), Kristie is determined to find the rapist/murderer, so with the help of Callie, Ben (Callie's detective boyfriend), Anna, and Logan (Anna's detective boyfriend), they embark on a murder investigation adventure that is sure to stir up the pot on the college campus.
Self-Serve Murder is a thoroughly entertaining cozy mystery that will keep the reader in stitches. Written in the first person narrative, the reader follows the humorous trials and tribulations of Kristie, Callie, and Anna on their latest amateur investigative adventures.
This was such a fun book to read! The reader can't help but get drawn into the quirky trials and tribulations and intriguing suspense that Kristie and friends encounter during the college rape and murder investigation. I really enjoyed Kristie's sassy humor and wit, you can't help but feel compassion for her determination to bring the rapist to justice, and when you add in the hilarious antics that follows these three cheeky chicks and their detective boyfriends Logan and Ben, you get a delightful cozy mystery that will leave you wanting more!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I really loved how the author used clever coffee facts and quotes at the beginning of each chapter.
Cozy mystery fans, I would highly recommend that you read the entertaining Death By Cupcake Series, you won't regret it!
RATING: 5 STARS
About The Author
I grew up reading everything I could get my grubby hands on, from my mom's Harlequin romances, to Nancy Drew, to Little Women. When I wasn't flipping pages in a library book, I was penning horrendous poems, writing songs no one should ever sing, or drafting stories which have thankfully been destroyed. College and a stint in the U.S. Army came along, robbing me of free time to write and read, although on the odd occasion I did manage to sneak a book into my rucksack between rolled up socks, MRIs, t-shirts, and cold weather gear. After surviving the army experience, I went back to school and got my law degree. I jumped ship and joined the hubby in the Netherlands before the graduation ceremony could even begin. A few years into my legal career, I was exhausted, fed up, and just plain done. I quit my job and sat down to write a manuscript, which I promptly hid in the attic before returning to the law. But practicing law really wasn’t my thing, so I quit (again!) and went off to Germany to start a B&B. Turns out running a B&B wasn’t my thing either. I polished off that manuscript languishing in the attic before following the husband to Istanbul where I decided to give the whole writer-thing a go. But ten years was too many to stay away from my adopted home. I packed up again and moved to The Hague where, in between tennis matches and failing to save the world, I’m currently working on my next book. I hope I’ll always be working on my next book.Picture Not Perfect is my fourteenth novel.