Blog Tour & Book Review: Nanny Dearest by Flora Collins

Confession Time: I enjoy a good thriller – nothing too scary, but something with enough stakes and edge to creep me out just a little. It doesn’t have to be action-movie intense, or slasher-film gory, I just want that “what did I just read factor?” by the time I close the book. Strangely enough, I’m also the girl who doesn’t like walking through the woods at night, who wakes up to every little creak in the house, and thinks that everyone has a closet full of skeletons (perhaps I just have an active imagination?) Hoping to find a bit of a rush that doesn’t involve heights or jump scares, I thought a domestic suspense might be the cure. Enter “Nanncy Dearest” by Flora Collins – a digital copy was provided for me to read in exchange for my thoughts as a stop on the HTP Books Fall 2021 Mystery & Thriller Blog Tour. (Second confession: sometimes I feel guilty that I don’t post anything in a long time and then you get content I’m “obligated” to schedule. Hang in there for personal stuff again one day. I’ll have some deep thoughts and wisdom to impart eventually…)

ABOUT THE BOOK:

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

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

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

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

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

MY THOUGHTS:

First, this book has some content warnings for a number of things. If you want them, let me know. Secondly, it is definitely a slow burn. It took a while to get going and through that time, the characters were both sympathetic, pathetic, and utterly detestable. I didn’t like them, but I felt sorry for both the protagonist and antagonist in turns. It wasn’t particularly thrilled or suspenseful – I guess I like a bit more speed at times – but I was left questioning what was wrong with people by the end and I didn’t see every twist coming my way. It was entertaining in its own right despite the slow pacing, and let’s just say I’m glad I don’t have a nanny to come haunt my future and play on my frailties, thank you very much.

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

Fan Club Blog Tour – Novel by Erin Mayer – An Excerpt

Fan Club by Erin Mayer published earlier this week. I got my hands on a digital Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher, Mira Books, and am lucky enough to share the first chapter excerpt with you. It was interesting – a weirdly twisted rat’s nest of obesssive behaviour and the drawbacks of living in the spotlight of a digitally-reliant, social media driven society, heavy with a crafted “facade of intimacy.”

ABOUT THE BOOK:

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


CHAPTER 1 EXCERPT:

I’m outside for a cumulative ten minutes each day before work. Five to walk from my apartment building to the subway, another five to go from the subway to the anemic obelisk that houses my office. I try to breathe as deeply as I can in those minutes, because I never know how long it will be until I take fresh air into my lungs again. Not that the city air is all that fresh, tinged with the sharp stench of old garbage, pollution’s metallic swirl. But it beats the stale oxygen of the office, already filtered through distant respiratory systems. Sometimes, during slow moments at my desk, I inhale and try to imagine those other nostrils and lungs that have already processed this same air. I’m not sure how it works in reality, any knowledge I once had of the intricacies of breathing having been long ago discarded by more useful information, but the image comforts me. Usually, I picture a middle-aged man with greying temples, a fringe of visible nose hair, and a coffee stain on the collar of his baby blue button-down. He looks nothing and everything like my father. An every-father, if you will.

My office is populated by dyed-blonde or pierced brunette women in their mid-to-late twenties and early thirties. The occasional man, just a touch older than most of the women, but still young enough to give off the faint impression that he DJs at Meatpacking nightclubs for extra cash on the weekends.

We are the new corporate Americans, the offspring of the grey-templed men. We wear tastefully ripped jeans and cozy sweaters to the office instead of blazers and trousers. Display a tattoo here and there—our supervisors don’t mind; in fact, they have the most ink. We eat yogurt for breakfast, work through lunch, leave the office at six if we’re lucky, arriving home with just enough time to order dinner from an app and watch two or three hours of Netflix before collapsing into bed from exhaustion we haven’t earned. Exhaustion that lives in the brain, not the body, and cannot be relieved by a mere eight hours of sleep.

Nobody understands exactly what it is we do here, and neither do we. I push through revolving glass door, run my wallet over the card reader, which beeps as my ID scans through the stiff leather, and half-wave in the direction of the uniformed security guard behind the desk, whose face my eyes never quite reach so I can’t tell you what he looks like. He’s just one of the many set-pieces staging the scene of my days.

The elevator ride to the eleventh floor is long enough to skim one-third of a longform article on my phone. I barely register what it’s about, something loosely political, or who is standing next to me in the cramped elevator.

When the doors slide open on eleven, we both get off.

In the dim eleventh-floor lobby, a humming neon light shaping the company logo assaults my sleep-swollen eyes like the prick of a dozen tiny needles. Today, a small section has burned out, creating a skip in the letter w. Below the logo is a tufted cerulean velvet couch where guests wait to be welcomed. To the left there’s a mirrored wall reflecting the vestibule; people sometimes pause there to take photos on the way to and from the office, usually on the Friday afternoon before a long weekend. I see the photos later while scrolling through my various feeds at home in bed. They hit me one after another like shots of tequila: See ya Tuesday! *margarita emoji* Peace out for the long weekend! *palm tree emoji* Byeeeeee! *peace sign emoji.*

She steps in front of me, my elevator companion. Black Rag & Bone ankle boots gleaming, blade-tipped pixie cut grazing her ears. Her neck piercing taunts me, those winking silver balls on either side of her spine. She’s Lexi O’ Connell, the website’s senior editor. She walks ahead with her head angled down, thumb working her phone’s keyboard, and doesn’t look up as she shoves the interior door open, palm to the glass.

I trip over the back of one clunky winter boot with the other as I speed up, considering whether to call out for her attention. It’s what a good web producer, one who is eager to move on from the endless drudgery of copy-pasting and resizing and into the slightly more thrilling drudgery of writing and rewriting, would do.

By the time I regain my footing, I come face-to-face with the smear of her handprint as the door glides shut in front of me.

Monday.

I work at a website.

It’s like most other websites; we publish content, mostly articles: news stories, essays, interviews, glossed over with the polished opalescent sheen of commercialized feminism. The occasional quiz, video, or photoshoot rounds out our offerings. This is how websites work in the age of ad revenue: Each provides a slightly varied selection of mindless entertainment, news updates, and watered-down hot takes about everything from climate change to plus size fashion, hawking their wares on the digital marketplace, leaving The Reader to wander drunkenly through the bazaar, wielding her cursor like an Amex. You can find everything you’d want to read in one place online, dozens of times over. The algorithms have erased choice. Search engines and social media platforms, they know what you want before you do.

As a web producer, my job is to input article text into the website’s proprietary content management system, or CMS. I’m a digitized high school janitor; I clean up the small messes, the litter that misses the rim of the garbage can. I make sure the links are working and the images are high resolution. When anything bigger comes up, it goes to an editor or IT. I’m an expert in nothing, a master of the miniscule fixes.

There are five of us who produce for the entire website, each handling about 20 articles a day. We sit at a long grey table on display at the very center of the open office, surrounded on all sides by editors and writers.

The web producers’ bullpen, Lexi calls it.

The light fixture above the table buzzes loudly like a nest of bees is trapped inside the fluorescent tubing. I drop my bag on the floor and take a seat, shedding my coat like a layer of skin. My chair faces the beauty editor’s desk, the cruelest seat in the house. All day long, I watch Charlotte Miller receive package after package stuffed with pastel tissue paper. Inside those packages: lipstick, foundation, perfume, happiness. A thousand simulacrums of Christmas morning spread across the two-hundred and sixty-one workdays of the year. She has piled the trappings of Brooklyn hipsterdom on top of her blonde, big-toothed, prettiness. Wire-frame glasses, a tattoo of a constellation on her inner left forearm, a rose gold nose ring. She seems Texan, but she’s actually from some wholesome upper Midwestern state, I can never remember which one. Right now, she applies red lipstick from a warm golden tube in the flat gleam of the golden mirror next to her monitor. Everything about her is color-coordinated.

I open my laptop. The screen blinks twice and prompts me for my password. I type it in, and the CMS appears, open to where I left it when I signed off the previous evening. Our CMS is called LIZZIE. There’s a rumor that it was named after Lizzie Borden, christened during the pre-launch party when the tech team pounded too many shots after they finished coding. As in, “Lizzie Borden took an ax and gave her mother forty whacks.” Lizzie Borden rebranded in the 21st century as a symbol of righteous feminine anger. LIZZIE, my best friend, my closest confidant. She’s an equally comforting and infuriating presence, constant in her bland attention. She gazes at me, always emotionless, saying nothing as she watches me teeter on the edge, fighting tears or trying not to doze at my desk or simply staring, in search of answers she cannot provide.

My eyes droop in their sockets as I scan the articles that were submitted before I arrived this morning. The whites threaten to turn liquid and splash onto my keyboard, pool between the keys and jiggle like eggs minus the yolks. Thinking of this causes a tiny laugh to slip out from between my clenched lips. Charlotte slides the cap onto her lipstick, glares at me over the lip of the mirror.

“Morning.”

That’s Tom, the only male web producer, who sits across and slightly left of me, keeping my view of Charlotte’s towering wonderland of boxes and bags clear. He’s four years older than me, twenty-eight, but the plush chipmunk curve of his cheeks makes him appear much younger, like he’s about to graduate high school. He’s cute, though, in the way of a movie star who always gets cast as the geek in teen comedies. Definitely hot but dress him down in an argyle sweater and glasses and he could be a Hollywood nerd. I’ve always wanted to ask him why he works here, doing this. There isn’t really a web producer archetype. We’re all different, a true island of misfit toys.

But if there is a type, Tom doesn’t fit it. He seems smart and driven. He’s consistently the only person who attends company book club meetings having read that month’s selection from cover to cover. I’ve never asked him why he works here because we don’t talk much. No one in our office talks much. Not out loud, anyway. We communicate through a private Morse code, fingers dancing on keys, expressions scanned and evaluated from a distance.

Sometimes I think about flirting with Tom, for something to do, but he wears a wedding ring. Not that I care about his wife; it’s more the fear of rebuff and rejection, of hearing the low-voiced Sorry, I’m married, that stops me. He usually sails in a few minutes after I do, smelling like his bodega coffee and the egg sandwich he carefully unwraps and eats at his desk. He nods in my direction. Morning is the only word we’ve exchanged the entire time I’ve worked here, which is coming up on a year in January. It’s not even a greeting, merely a statement of fact. It is morning and we’re both here. Again.

Three hundred and sixty-five days lost to the hum and twitch and click. I can’t seem to remember how I got here. It all feels like a dream. The mundane kind, full of banal details, but something slightly off about it all. I don’t remember applying for the job, or interviewing. One day, an offer letter appeared in my inbox and I signed.

And here I am. Day after day, I wait for someone to need me. I open articles. I tweak the formatting, check the links, correct the occasional typo that catches my eye. It isn’t really my job to copy edit, or even to read closely, but sometimes I notice things, grammatical errors or awkward phrasing, and I then can’t not notice them; I have to put them right or else they nag like a papercut on the soft webbing connecting two fingers. The brain wants to be useful. It craves activity, even after almost three hundred and sixty-five days of operating at its lowest frequency.

I open emails. I download attachments. I insert numbers into spreadsheets. I email those spreadsheets to Lexi and my direct boss, Ashley, who manages the homepage.

None of it ever seems to add up to anything.

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


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

Books, Balance, and Boundaries

We’re half-way into September, and while life hasn’t returned to normal, our days in the Brown household are fairly normalish. The last few months have had some hurdles, milestones, and adjustments – we’ve celebrated (a 14th birthday, 17 years of marriage, a 40th birthday, and a birthday we’ve stopped counting) and we’ve grieved (our good boy, Diesel, passed away suddenly this summer.) We’ve had to adjust to changes – both boys in high school, different/more work responsibilities, later school hours, decisions for the future (trades vs. university track) and life in general.

I, myself, have made the decision to invest in me. I had my second personal training session today and I was frustrated and embarrassed to the point of tears. Thankfully, the woman I’m working with is safe and patient and reminded me that I showed up and I pushed through. I may not be able to move tomorrow, but these little steps will make for a healthier, happier me and u can’t wait to see my core strength, respiratory & cardiovascular systems, and range of motion inprove. Aside from my physical health, I continue to try to maintain boundaries, protect my heart, and work on healthy habits – spirit, soul, and body.

I’ve been big into books as always. Unfortunately, August felt like a bit of a blah reading month, but gratefully, September has been ripe with good book pics. Some misses, but overall I’ve found thought-provoking, attention-grabbing, or just downright entertaining novels.

Here are 5 titles I’m recommending but reader discretion is advised for various content warnings. Some of them had some difficult scenes.

The Four Winds by Kristin Hannah, originally a complimentary ARC courtesy of NetGalley, this has been out for a while. One of Hannah’s best, in my opinion, it was both captivating and heartbreaking.

Frying Plaintain by Zalika Reid-Benta, familiar due to it’s setting and Jamaican Canadian references. While I obviously couldn’t relate to many of the issues, I felt connected in this coming-of-age collection of short stories that explores the tenuous mother-daughter relationship and cross-cultural experiences.

What Storm, What Thunder by Myriam J.A. Chancy, just released in Canada, is a poignant look at the lives of 10 fictional interconnected individuals in the time leading up to and immediately following the devastating earthquake that shook Haiti in 2010. Told in distinctive voices, it goes beyond the grief and loss of the catastrophe and provides deep introspection and a commentary on some issues with foreign aid. It wasn’t always pretty or easy to read – it needed digesting – but it was spectacular in its own right.

The Santa Suit by Mary Kay Andrews, another complimentary digital ARC via NetGalley, publishes September 28. This was a novella, short and sweet but with that magical cozy feel you want in a Christmas story.

Daughter of Black Lake by Cathy Marie Buchanan, a find in a local Little Free Library. I enjoyed this from an educational and historical aspect. Set in early Roman Britain, tge author explores life and love in a pagan community, the influence of the Druids, and changes that came with the Roman invasion, it was an immersive book rich in historical detail. Published in 2020.

Book Review: The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable – A Harlequin Summer Reads Historical Fiction Title

A number of titles are being buzzed about on blogs and bookstagram this summer including a few historical fiction releases from Harlequin. My most recent read was The Bookseller’s Secret by Michelle Gable. It comes out August 17th at all major booksellers and is available for pre-order now. As usual, I’d encourage you to hit your favourite local indie bookstore to pick up a copy if you think it might just be your cup of tea.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

From New York Times bestselling author Michelle Gable comes a dual-narrative set at the famed Heywood Hill Bookshop in London about a struggling American writer on the hunt for a rumored lost manuscript written by the iconic Nancy Mitford—bookseller, spy, author, and aristocrat—during World War II.

In 1942, London, Nancy Mitford is worried about more than air raids and German spies. Still recovering from a devastating loss, the once sparkling Bright Young Thing is estranged from her husband, her allowance has been cut, and she’s given up her writing career. On top of this, her five beautiful but infamous sisters continue making headlines with their controversial politics.

Eager for distraction and desperate for income, Nancy jumps at the chance to manage the Heywood Hill bookshop while the owner is away at war. Between the shop’s brisk business and the literary salons she hosts for her eccentric friends, Nancy’s life seems on the upswing. But when a mysterious French officer insists that she has a story to tell, Nancy must decide if picking up the pen again and revealing all is worth the price she might be forced to pay.

Eighty years later, Heywood Hill is abuzz with the hunt for a lost wartime manuscript written by Nancy Mitford. For one woman desperately in need of a change, the search will reveal not only a new side to Nancy, but an even more surprising link between the past and present…

MY THOUGHTS:

I went into this one without any real knowledge about it other than it involved a bookseller and a secret and was set in London during WWII. That alone made me think it would be a good match for my reading tastes. I had some preconceived idea that it would follow a similar plot line to “every other” WWII historical novel hitting the shelves in the last few years. I was wrong to make any assumptions as it centered more on the life of Nancy Mitford in the past timeline and an author’s interest in Nancy Mitford in the present timeline.

Michelle Gable is a new to me author and has a distinctive voice. She focuses on exploring the struggles and social life of Nancy Mitford and her contemporaries during WWII. The novelization was less World War II themed and more of a fictional biography than I anticipated. It wasn’t a quick read – not one of my one and done sit down in a single session reads – it was heavy on detail but well written. The contemporary angle was more to my taste but even still I wish it had been fleshed out a little more. There was a definite parallel between the past and present with a mystery manuscript to tie both timelines together.

I would recommend for fans of Nancy Mitford, those who have read or watched an adaptation of In The Pursuit of Love, or anyone who enjoys a glimpse into the often “sordid” life of Britain’s historical upper class.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

MICHELLE GABLE is the New York Times bestselling author of A Paris Apartment, I’ll See You in Paris, The Book of Summer, and The Summer I Met Jack. She attended The College of William & Mary, where she majored in accounting, and spent twenty years working in finance before becoming a full-time writer. She grew up in San Diego and lives in Cardiff-by-the-Sea, California, with her husband and two daughters. Find her at michellegable.com or on Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, @MGableWriter.

Author website: https://michellegable.com/ 
Twitter: https://twitter.com/MGableWriter 
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mgablewriter/

The Bookseller’s Secret : A Novel of Nancy Mitford and WWII Michelle Gable
On Sale Date: August 17, 2021
ISBN 9781525806469
Trade Paperback
400 pages

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy. All opinions are my own.

Content warning for infidelity, war, and some profanity.

5 Books I’m Recommending Right Now

I have been ever so slowly making my way through my NetGalley shelf.  While I am absolutely thrilled with the generosity of the publishers in granting my requests, I may overestimate my reading capacity when they all seem to be approved at once.  

These are titles that I’m received as Advanced Readers Copies that I am recommending for various readings.  I’m including a few different genres and a note that they are not all new releases because I am that far behind.

Also, they weren’t all books that I’d necessarily “rave about” or read again, but are titles I belive have inherent entertainment or educational value – so perhaps not 5 star reads, but books I enjoyed for one reason or another and wouldn’t have regretted if I had purchased.

5 Books I’m Recommending Right Now:

The Beach House by Jenny Hale is a heartwarming summer romance.  This was a quick read, but would be perfect for tucking into your beach bag.  Bonus points for a beautiful cover. From Bookouture – June 9, 2021.

Silence In The Library by Katherine Schellman is an engaging historical romance (and in exciting news, there is more Lily Adler to come!) This is the second book in the series and I have truly enjoyed both books. The writing works for me and I like the characters. From Crooked Lane Books – July 13, 2021.


No Days Off by Max Domi – I didn’t love the hockey references and in fact, my eyes may have glazed over at times (but I am admittedly not a sports girl!) – so I obviously didn’t read it from the fandom perspective. I did appreciate Domi’s transparency in sharing his journey to the NHL while attempting to balance Type 1 and celiac disease without giving up on his dreams.  I couldn’t relate to all of the “perks” he has had in learning to manage his diagnosis, but I could relate to much of his experience and feelings. (Side note, I apologize for the things I’ve said when high or low!) I recommend as inspiring non-fiction that encourages you to keep on going or for anyone interested in an accurately descriptive glimpse of what living with Type 1 can be like. As an extra bonus, a portion of proceeds of the sales has been donated to the JDRF.  From Simon & Schuster Canada – October 29, 2019


Trisha’s Kitchen by Trisha Yearwood – this cookbook is rife with some good ol’ comfort food recipes. I want to order a copy for my collection but don’t think I could cook from it every day without gaining a zillion pounds.  They are “accessible” recipes for the most part containing nothing too exotic and a lot of pantry basics, presented with a down home twist and glimpses into the Yearwood/Brooks home.  From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – September 28, 2021


In The Mirror, A Peacock Danced by Justine Bothwick was a descriptive dual-timeline historical novel about a woman’s journey to find herself, set amidst lush backgrounds of early 20th-century India and the slightly greyer background of mid 20th-century England. it was a slow paced but enthralling read. From Agora Books – June 24, 2021

My thanks to each of the publishers for the complimentary reads.  I’ve listed the release dates and publishers.  As you can see, some are readily available, some may need a pre-order, or even re-order.  If you’ve read any of these titles, let me know which ones in the comments! And as always, share your thoughts.

Book Review: An Earl, The Girl, and A Toddler

If you know me, you probably know that one of my guilty pleasures is historical romance. I want to blame my mother in law, passing along books she has read, but I’m quite certain she just cultivated roots that were already there. I passed many an hour in my teen years silently observing as early settlers fell in love on wagon trains, in the wilderness, or in small western towns thanks to the likes of Janette Oke.

As I’ve matured, my reading list has expanded to other authors and other settings and I like a good Regency romp or Victorian escape – fluff pieces, often, but easy to read and distracting from the laundry baskets piling up around me or the never ending emails flooding my inbox. When I saw An Earl, the Girl, and a Toddler by Vanessa Riley I was intrigued. I jumped in thinking it would, once again, just be a bit of mindless drivel – enjoyable but not impactful. Oh, but how I was mistaken. I should have paid more attention to the publisher’s notes.

Acclaimed author Vanessa Riley infuses the ballroom settings of Regency England with hints of Demerara Island and Jamaican flair in Rogues and Remarkable Women, her series revolving around The Widow’s Grace, a secret society of widows battling society to regain their money and a chance at love everlasting. In this sweeping, swoon-worthy second installment, a shipwrecked woman searches for her memories and becomes entangled with a conflicted nobleman who holds more answers than he realizes…

An OMag.com & Bibliolifestyle Most Anticipated Romance of 2021
PopSugar Best Romance of April
Publishers Weekly Top 10 Romance of Spring 2021

A witty and moving story from the acclaimed author of A Duke, the Lady, and a Baby, about the lengths to which a woman will go for the love of her child…and the love of a man who knows her worth. Breaking with traditional Regency rules and customs, Vanessa Riley pens an unforgettable story perfect for fans of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton, Evie Dunmore, and Eloisa James looking for something fresh and stirring!

One comment I think important to note is that I don’t think the comparison to Bridgerton is fair. Ms. Riley has created a well-crafted world in her own right, worthy of it’s own success. While both series are remarkable, they are not the same, although I can see how fans of the Bridgertons will enjoy the Rogues & Remarkable Women Series – with less, um, heaving bosoms. Both authors are talented and acclaimed.

In reviewing this novel itself, I say there was a depth of emotion and feeling that I didn’t expect. It was full of high stakes drama and flawed but likeable characters. And a ferocity – oh the ferocity and strength – were balanced with heart break, humour, and romance. Motherhood, strong women, unfair societal constraints, prejudice, loss – this title had it all along with danger and daring. What I particularly noted was a lack of ‘skip scenes’ – all the steam was closed door – so no objectionable content for anyone trying to avoid blatant intimacy. (I will note that this is actually one of the complaints I’m seeing from other reviewers – not everyone wants a “clean read” but this novel didn’t need intimate scenes. There was heat and chemistry between the characters but it’s not in-your-face.)

Best of all, in a world where representation matters, Riley delivers a beautiful story with diversity and multi-culturalism as an #OwnVoices author. I enjoyed this title so much that I then went and bought the previous title in the series (but know this title can be read as a standalone) and have flagged Riley as must-read author as I work my way through her backlist. What an enjoyable adventure that will be!

My thanks to Kensington Books for the Advanced Readers Copy via NetGalley. This title will be published April 27th and if you’re a fan of Regency romance, you should probably check it out! While I received a complimentary copy from the publisher, all opinions are my own.

Book Review & Blog Tour: Tell No Lies by Allison Brennan

Way back in January of last year, I had the opportunity to preview a copy of Allison Brennan’s The Third to Die. You can find my blog post here. It was the first in her book-a-year Quinn & Costa series. While I don’t remember the plot in it’s entirety, I remember it as a knock out thriller with twists and turns and heart pounding action. Last week, I finished up my review copy of the second title in the series, Tell No Lies, and I think it was even better than the first!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
New York Times bestselling author Allison Brennan’s newest thriller again features an edgy young female LAPD detective and an ambitious special agent, both part of a mobile FBI unit that is brought in to investigate the unsolved murder of a college activist and its alleged ties to high stakes crime in the desert Southwest.

Something mysterious is killing the wildlife in the desert hills just south of Tucson, Arizona. When Emma Perez, a college-intern-turned activist, sets out to collect her own evidence, she too ends up dead. Local law enforcement seems slow to get involved. That’s when the mobile FBI unit goes undercover to infiltrate the town and the copper refinery located there in search of possible leads. Costa and Quinn find themselves scouring the desolate landscape that keeps on giving up clues to something much darker—greed, child trafficking, other killings. As the body count continues to add up, it’s clear they have stumbled on more than they bargained for. Now they must figure out who is at the heart of this mayhem and stop them before more innocent lives are lost.

Brennan’s latest novel brims with complex characters and an ever-twisting plotline, a compelling thriller that delivers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets.

MY THOUGHTS:
Tell No Lies kept me up way past my bedtime. The deeper I got into the novel, the less I wanted to put it down. I feel it started off a bit slower paced than I anticipated, but quickly picked up speed as the mystery deepened, the danger increased, and the team unravel a myriad of secrets in a small town. Edgy, interesting, and absolutely rife with layers of crimes, you’ll find more than you expected as Costa and Quinn and associates start digging into life in the desert. If you are a fan of crime team thrillers, you’ll love Tell No Lies. It releases March 30th, but you can pre-order now through all major booksellers and your favourite independent bookstores.

I’m leaving my pickier book friends with the same disclosure as last time:
Reader discretion is advised for violence, mature situations, and strong language.  It’s dark and gritty, dealing with some uncomfortable situations as the plot unveils some of the worst of human nature.

My thanks to the publisher, MIRA books, for the complimentary ARC.

Tell No Lies : A Novel 
Allison Brennan
On Sale Date: March 30, 2021
ISBN 9780778331469
Hardcover

Book Review: Bookshop by the Sea by Denise Hunter

Sophie Lawson should be enjoying her sister’s wedding day. But nothing could have prepared her to see the best man again.

After her mother became bedridden and her father bailed on the family, Sophie found herself serving as a second mother to her twin brother, Seth, and younger sister, Jenna. Sophie supported her siblings through their college years, putting aside her own dream of opening a bookshop in Piper’s Cove—the quaint North Carolina beach town they frequented as children.

Now it’s finally time for Sophie to follow her own pursuits. Seth has a new job, and Jenna is set to marry her college beau in Piper’s Cove. But the destination wedding reunites Sophie with best man Aiden Maddox, her high school sweetheart who left her without a backward glance.

When an advancing hurricane strands Aiden in Piper’s Cove after the wedding, he finds the hotels booked to capacity and has to ask Sophie to put him up until the storm passes. As the two ride out the weather, old feelings rise to the surface. The delay also leaves Sophie with mere days to get her bookshop up and running. Can she trust Aiden to stick around? And will he find the courage to risk his heart?

Denise Hunter has delivered another charming contemporary romance with Bookshop by the Sea. In this hopeful easy-to-read novel, our female protagonist is a bit of a mess personally even though she seems to have it all together when it comes to managing everyone around her. Sophie finds herself at a juncture in life when she can finally pursue her own interests. Throw in some speedbumps in the form of old love, natural disasters, and emotional setbacks – can Sophie bring her dreams to life?

I am a big fan of Hunter’s writing style, balancing inspirational fiction with real, messy life. Her characters are flawed and therefore a bit more realistic as they face their doubts, insecurities, and questions of faith. The relationship development in this novel is heartfelt and sweet. The setting is as charming as the tale itself, a cozy bookshop in a small coastal town where neighbours look out for each other. There’s everything to love about this feel-good contemporary read and you’ll be cheering on Sophie and Aidan.

Bookshop by the Sea is set to hit booksellers on April 13th. Be sure to pre-order now! My thanks to the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the complimentary digital copy via NetGalley.

Book Review & Blog Tour: The Jigsaw Man by Nadine Matheson

When it comes to entertainment, every once in a while I really enjoy a good heart-poundingly intense police drama – bad guys, mystery, the gruff but lovable detective – crime thriller at it’s most interesting. Sign me up for all the tropes, I am in. I was fortunate to get my hands on an advanced readers copy of The Jigsaw Man by debut novelist Nadine Matheson, courtesy of the publisher, and the description had my interest piqued!

FROM THE PUBLISHER:
In THE JIGSAW MAN (March 16, 2021; Hanover Square Press), Detective Inspector Anjelica Henley has a lot to deal with on her first day back her from leave from the Serial Crimes Unit of Scotland Yard. After nearly becoming a victim of the vicious serial killer, The Jigsaw Man, just before he was put behind bars, she also has to contend with the subtle digs and microaggressions that come with being the unit’s only black female detective. Add a new trainee and a rocky marriage to the mix, and DI Henley nearly has a full plate. Until the first call comes in…

Along the Thames, a fan of the Jigsaw Man and copycat killer has scattered two dismembered bodies along the shores like a jigsaw puzzle. When DI Henley sees one of the victims, a young black woman, is already being written off by her colleagues, she makes it her mission to solve the case, driving her to seek help from the original Jigsaw Man himself, Peter Oliver. Oliver, however, is determined to get to his copycat before Henley can, and sets into motion a series of events that puts Henley and her family in the crosshairs of two monstrous serial killers. 

MY THOUGHTS:
This book had a gentle acceleration. While I was expecting for edge of my seat thrills throughout, I found it slowly worked it’s way to the peak, lulling me into a bit of reader’s complacency, and then we plummeted for a white knuckle roller coaster ride. Packed with twists and turns that I didn’t see coming, the heart racing drama is definitely found in the second half of the title while the first half reads more like a procedural with the investigation and the build up.

Matheson’s protagonist is both strong and vulnerable, fierce and feminine. She is no stranger to racial prejudice or gender bias. She’s intelligent but flawed and I absolutely loved her. The secondary characters were also well drawn, creating a team with both likeable and dislikeable traits – flawed, damage, loveable. In speaking of flawed, the charismatic psychopath was absolutely detestable and yet, reflected the charisma that was his trademark. I hated him intensely, and yet… the copycat, however, didn’t shine, but I also don’t believe they were meant to. We were kept guessing as to their identity and the why behind their crimes, but ultimately, the focus was on DI Henley and her encounters with the Jigsaw Man.

Overall, I found this debut title to be a very fascinating work of fiction. My attention was held throughout and the pacing worked well. As with many crime & justice novels, it’s dark and gritty, dealing with the ugliest side of human nature and it highlights the burden and wear the quest for justice can take, physically, mentally, and socially. The subject matter can be disturbing and mature language and mature themes occur – reader discretion advised. By the final chapter, the author wrapped up the mystery in such a way that the audience is satisfied, but there are enough loose threads that we could easily enjoy a sequel (pretty please?) I, for one, want more of Anjelica Henley.

Debut Novelist
Nadine Matheson

AUTHOR BIO: 
Nadine Matheson is a criminal defense attorney and winner of the City University Crime Writing competition. She lives in London, UK.

THE JIGSAW MAN
Author: Nadine Matheson
ISBN: 9781335146564
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
Publisher: Hanover Square Press

My thanks to the publisher for the complimentary copy of this title and the opportunity to share my thoughts.

Book Review: A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy

As I was browsing Bethany House titles available for request through NetGalley a few weeks back, something about the cover of A Tapestry of Light by Kimberly Duffy caught my eye. As I read the description it piqued my interest further and I thought I’d give it a shot, requesting it, but not quite knowing what to expect. Thankfully, the publisher approved my request and I tucked it away on my shelf to read at a later date. A few days later, as I was trying to select a new book to read, I accidentally clicked on the title while swiping through my Kindle library and decided to roll with it. I had zero expectations going in, but I was absolutely blown away.

This novel was exquisite in its attention to detail – not in a monotonous or droning way – but in the essence of how the author captured the senses in every paragraph. With some well-crafted wording, we’re transported from 2021 into a time and place far from home. I don’t generally read about the British colonization of India, for no other reason than it just hasn’t struck my fancy. Duffy has changed that for me by bridging the two worlds of British society and Indian culture and highlighting the plight of a people caught in the middle.

Ottilie (how would you pronounce that name?) is incredibly transparent – she’s suffered enormous loss. She is struggling with acceptance. She has questions and is struggling with faith in God in a land that has many. It’s a bit of the age-old “how can bad things happen to good people” presented in fiction form. Even though Ottilie and I had very little in common, I could relate to her in many of her day to day struggles on one level or another.

Ottilie also struggles with acceptance and belonging due to the harsh realities of her dual-heritage, facing outright prejudice and hate due to her mother’s blood. She’s smart. She’s independent. She’s loyal. She’s beautifully gifted in an art that is rare and lovely. (Google: Beetlewing Embroidery.) Ottilie is also very lost and struggles in her mourning and her identity as everyone she cares for seems to be taken away.

My heart broke for the injustice of this novel and the theme of searching for home – the longing for acceptance, love, and belonging. At the same time, as the author struck a chord with her tale, in a desire to recognize that not everyone can or should tell another person’s story, did she do justice in a book whose very core message highlighting difficulties due to one’s family tree or the people group they belong to? I actually struggled with that throughout the entire novel. Yes, it was beautifully written, but was it Duffy’s story to tell? After the final chapter and a few days of musing, I’m no closer to a concrete answer on that front, but I think Duffy told Ottilie’s story well. She also created an awareness that prods me to dig deeper into learning about the history of Anglo-Indians – to hear their stories and to learn. I don’t often read the author’s notes or afterword, but in this instance I did and some of my musings were quelled – the author addressed some of my concerns in her notes after the novel itself, acknowledging her sensitivity reader and other resources. Was it enough? I don’t know, but again, this novel was beautifully crafted and didn’t hide from difficult issues.

Overall, this was a moving page-turner of a tale. It brought me to tears, to frustration, to empathy. It didn’t coat over messy moments. It made me want to dig deeper, and that’s not something that every piece of fiction can do. It was an engaging work of fiction with notes of bittersweet honesty. Thankfully, it wasn’t just darkness and uncertainty, struggle and loss, but also a richly captivating beacon of beauty, hope, and welcome. I’d recommend you pre-order for yourself today!

I received a complimentary Advanced Readers Copy of this title from Bethany House.
All opinions are entirely my own.

A Tapestry of Light
Kimberly Duffy
Bethany House Publishers
Publication Date: March 16, 2021
ISBN 9780764235641