A MONSTER LIKE ME by Pamela Sparkman

Heart of Darkness series #2

HELLO STRANGER by Lisa Kleypas

The Ravenels series #4


Companion to the Full Tilt series


Heartbreaker Bay series #7

UNWRITTEN by Jen Frederick

Woodlands series #5

Cross My Heart by L.H. Cosway

Hearts series #5.75

MOONSHADOW by Thea Harrison

Moonshadow series #1

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Spotlight with Excerpt: The Runaway Heiress by Meg Tilly

A brave woman on the run from her vindictive husband faces a dangerous path in the thrilling new romantic suspense novel from Oscar-nominated actress Meg Tilly.

Series: Standalone
Publication date: July 27, 2021
Published by: Berkley
Genre: romantic suspense

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Sarah Rainsford has been on the run for more than three years. She's changed identities yet again in hopes of throwing her violent estranged husband, a police lieutenant, off her trail. Since she's still legally married to him, and he is willing to bend any laws to get his hands on her inheritance, he'll stop at nothing to locate her.

With a new name and fake ID papers, she lands a job as a personal assistant to none other than Hollywood's golden boy director Mick Talford. He's a difficult client but she senses hidden depths to him. Once Mick and Sarah combine forces in a desperate attempt to keep Sarah out of harm's way, they build a strong bond . . . but with danger trailing them, is it enough to keep them both alive?

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Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Berkley | On sale July 27th, 2021

"Rachel . . ." The woman at the employment agency glanced down at the form on her clipboard. 


Sarah got to her feet. "Yes," she said. "That would be me."

"I'm Ellen Davis. This way, please."

Sarah followed the woman into her office, mouth dry.

Ms. Davis flipped to the next page on her clipboard. Sarah could see over her shoulder that the woman was now reading the fake CV and reference letters Sarah had typed and printed at the public library that morning.

"Have a seat." Ms. Davis gestured to a chair in front of her desk as she rounded it and sat down.

As Sarah sat, she surreptitiously slid her palms down along her thighs so the black dress pants could erase the slight dampness before clasping her hands in her lap.

The woman flipped to the last page, scanned it, then placed the clipboard on the desk in front of her. "Everything seems in order," she said. "Your scores on the technical skills test were quite impressive. I don't foresee a problem getting you placed. What sort of hours are you interested in working?"

"I'm pretty flexible. And it doesn't have to be office work. Basically, I'll take whatever job you have available."

"Nights? Weekends? Long hours okay?"


"Huh . . . Interesting. Actually-" Ms. Davis's fingers rapped a quick staccato on the desk as if she were playing descending scales on the piano.

"But I'm not interested in stripping or escort work or anything like that," Sarah hastily added. 
This was Hollywood after all. Best to make sure the woman hadn't gotten the wrong idea.

Ms. Davis didn't look up, her fingers flying over her keyboard. "Of course. Not to worry. We don't handle that kind of 'work placement.'" Then she swiveled slightly in her chair, eyes narrowing as she leaned forward, focused on her computer screen. "Ah! Here we go." A huff of air that could have been laughter escaped her lips. "Well . . . it's worth a try," she murmured. 
"Lord knows, he's burned his way through all my other options." Her birdlike gaze moved away from the screen to settle on Sarah's face, taking in the dark-rimmed glasses. Luckily, the woman's perusal didn't linger on the mousy brown hair Sarah had re-dyed in the bathroom sink of the motel room last night.

Sarah looked back, keeping her expression a blank, calm canvas, a polite smile on her face, determined not to let her nerves peek through.

"Plain. Practical. No-nonsense. Might be just what the doctor ordered." Ms. Davis nodded as her gaze traveled down the conservative cream blouse Sarah had steamed in the shower. She took in the black slacks, the sensible black pumps; then her gaze slid back up to Sarah's face. "This position requires gumption, backbone, plenty of grit. No running for the hills just because the client has a few rough edges."

"No, ma'am." Sarah forced her hands to lie still in her lap. "I understand."

The woman's fingers rapped on the desk again. "Most of the specifications fit." Her unblinking eyes narrowed to a laser-like focus. Suddenly she shrugged and then relaxed in her chair. "The job pays twenty-four dollars an hour. It's live-in. Is that a problem?"

A problem? A heaven-sent gift from God was more like it. Sarah's mind flashed to handing over her last hundred-dollar bill to pay for the motel last night. The eleven o'clock checkout meant returning to the motel after her visit to the library and packing all her belongings in the trunk of her car. She would have preferred for Charlie to have the run of the motel room, as he was not a fan of car travel. It wasn't ideal, but she'd had to leave him in the car with the windows cracked open during this interview, yowling in his carrier bag as if he were being murdered. Didn't have enough to cover another night, $56.95 to her name. "Live-in is fine. Preferable, actually."

"Wonderful. When can you start?"

Sarah released the breath she'd been holding. "Whenever," she said, as if she wasn't in dire financial straits and planning on sleeping in her car tonight. "I could start today if you like?"

"Even better." Ms. Davis scribbled something on a slip of paper. "Here's the name and address. Mick Talford. Hopefully, Rachel, you'll last longer than the previous assistants I've sent."

Rachel? For a split second Sarah's mind blanked. Oh yes! Rachel.

"I'll do my best." Sarah smiled in a reassuring manner even though her heart had skipped a beat.

Ms. Davis stood, rounded the desk, and handed the paper to Sarah. "The client is a talented director. Good luck," she said, shaking Sarah's hand. "You'll need it."

Praise for The Runaway Heiress:

“You'll stay up long past your bedtime to finish this fast-paced thrill ride where a couple runs up against the dark side of human nature and an enemy who will stop at nothing to get what he wants.”—#1 New York Times bestselling author Christine Feehan


Meg Tilly may be best known for her acclaimed Golden Globe-winning lead performance in the movie Agnes of God. Other screen credits include The Big Chill, Valmont, and more recently, Bomb Girls, and Netflix's movie War Machine, starring Brad Pitt. After publishing six standout young adult and literary women's fiction novels, the award-winning author/actress decided to write the kind of books she loves to read--romance novels. Tilly has three grown children and resides with her husband in the Pacific Northwest. She is currently at work writing the next Solace Island novel.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review: A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones

From the author of the Charley Davidson books comes a fresh, comedic mystery series that will have you laughing out loud and hanging onto the edge of your seat at the same time.

Series: Sunshine Vicram #2
Publication date: July 27, 2021
Published by: Saint Martin's Press
Genre: mystery, humor

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Running a small-town police force in the mountains of New Mexico should be a smooth, carefree kind of job. Sadly, full-time Sheriff--and even fuller-time coffee guzzler--Sunshine Vicram, didn't get that memo.

All Sunshine really wants is one easy-going day. You know, the kind that starts with coffee and a donut (or three) and ends with take-out pizza and a glass of chardonnay (or seven). Turns out, that's about as easy as switching to decaf. (What kind of people do that? And who hurt them?)

Before she can say iced mocha latte, Sunny's got a bar fight gone bad, a teenage daughter hunting a serial killer and, oh yes, the still unresolved mystery of her own abduction years prior. All evidence points to a local distiller, a dangerous bad boy named Levi Ravinder, but Sun knows he's not the villain of her story. Still, perhaps beneath it all, he possesses the keys to her disappearance. At the very least, beneath it all, he possesses a serious set of abs. She's seen it. Once. Accidentally.

Between policing a town her hunky chief deputy calls four cents short of a nickel, that pesky crush she has on Levi which seems to grow exponentially every day, and an irascible raccoon that just doesn't know when to quit, Sunny's life is about to rocket to a whole new level of crazy.

Yep, definitely a good day for chardonnay.

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Praise for A Bad Day For Sunshine (book one):

"Provides plenty of action. Recommended for fans of Linda Castillo and J.A. Jance." - Library Journal

"Jones has a real talent for balancing suspense with laugh-out-loud humor, never losing the tension from either." - BookPage 

"A Bad Day For Sunshine is a great day for the rest of us - captivating characters, great writing, pace, humor and suspense." - Lee Child, New York Times bestselling author 

"Fans of Jones’ bestselling Charley Davidson series and Janet Evanovich’s romps will devour this steamy series launch, which introduces both an irresistible pair crime-busting Gilmore Girls and a quirky, mysterious setting.” - Booklist 

"Compelling characters and a sexy, angst-filled bunch of mysteries add up to a winning series debut." - Kirkus 

"A Bad Day for Sunshine is everything you want from Darynda Jones … and more! Laugh-out-loud funny, intensely suspenseful, page-turning fun with a sassy new heroine you will love. Prepare to be hooked by this witty, sexy, and thrilling new series from one of my favorite authors!” - Allison Brennan, New York Times bestselling author 


NYTimes and USA Today Bestselling Author Darynda Jones has won numerous awards for her work, including a prestigious RITA, a Golden Heart, and a Daphne du Maurier, and her books have been translated into 17 languages. As a born storyteller, Darynda grew up spinning tales of dashing damsels and heroes in distress for any unfortunate soul who happened by, certain they went away the better for it. She penned the international bestselling Charley Davidson series and is currently working on several beloved projects, most notably the Sunshine Vicram Mystery Series with St. Martin's Press and the Betwixt and Between Series of paranormal women's fiction. She lives in the Land of Enchantment, also known as New Mexico, with her husband and two beautiful sons, the Mighty, Mighty Jones Boys. 

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A Good Day for Chardonnay (Sunshine Vicram)A Good Day for Chardonnay by Darynda Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It's been over four months since I received and read A Good Day for Chardonnay. Just thinking about it and reading my notes in preparation to write my review, I'm already jonesing for a re-read. The minute this book landed on my kindle in March, I was ready to flip to page one and dive in immediately. The anticipation had been building for a whole year and my excitement never wavered. After the resounding success of the first installment, I didn't think it was possible for a second book to top it, but somehow Darynda Jones has pulled it off. This series is shaping up to be on my all-time favorites list. I couldn't be happier that my first series introduction to this author has gone above and beyond my expectations. I owe all of that to my book bestie for giving me the push to go outside my comfort zone and give this author a chance. (Thanks Astrid!)

As I returned to Del Sol and all of its quirky, off-the-wall inhabitants, I was reminded how my addiction built to the level it did. There is an instant, effortless, immersion into the story which has been incredibly hard to come by lately for me as a reader. It was such a relief to open a book and immediately become fascinated with what will happen on the next page and where the story will take me next. If there's one thing I can predict about the bitingly funny Sheriff Sunshine, it's that you NEVER know what's in store for her on any single day on the job. Between the town flasher, petty crime, the Dangerous Daughters, kidnappings, her daughter sneaking out, and Levi Ravinder popping up at unexpected times, she never gets a moment's rest.

I really loved getting Sunshine's daughter Auri's POV-possibly even more than Sunshine's this time. She is such a sweet, old soul inside of a teenager's body. Sometimes she seems wise beyond her years, and others her age shows as she makes impulsive decisions. Of course she inherited her mother's wicked sense of humor, which was absolutely hilarious and had me laughing out loud on too many occasions to count. The same goes for Sun and her best friend Quincy's conversations. They never give an inch when it comes to their banter.

    I’m giving you two days to tell me what’s going on, 
or I’m finding a new best friend.” 
“You can’t do that.” 
“Watch me.” 
“No, I mean you literally can’t do that. No one wants to be friends with you.”

There were so many different plot points, it could have felt chaotic and overwhelming, but I never once felt that it was too much of a mess to wade through. We had Auri meeting a new friend, finding a sweet boyfriend named Cruz, her investigations around town as she tried to identify a killer, Sunshine's complex relationship with the brooding Levi, and finally some secrets unearthed that I have been dying to see come to light. There is a little romance and passion in this installment between the two of them, but it's definitely a very slow progression. That is perfectly fine by me, as I know that there will be many books in the series and this is first and foremost a comedic mystery. Not only was I belly laughing at a lot of the dialogue, I even got emotional at some very heart-wrenching events that occurred towards the end. I was not expecting things to veer on that side emotionally at all, but I really got choked up over what Auri and Cruz in particular were going through.

This book reached me in a wide variety of ways, I was thoroughly entertained from start to finish, and I left the book once again desperate for more. I can't say enough about this FANTASTIC series, and I urge everyone out there to give it a chance. Even if you're not a mystery reader like me, I'm pretty confident that this series may be the one to convert you. Now excuse me while I go count the days left until I get my hands on the next piece of Sunshine's exhilarating adventures.



Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Review: Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas

New York Times bestseller Lisa Kleypas returns with an enthralling and steaming romance between a Scot with a mysterious past and strong-willed lady looking for adventure—and love. 

Series: The Ravenels #7
Publication date: July 27, 2021
Published by: Avon Romance
Genre: historical romance

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Lady Merritt Sterling, a strong-willed young widow who’s running her late husband’s shipping company, knows London society is dying to catch her in a scandal. So far, she’s been too smart to provide them with one. But then she meets Keir MacRae, a rough-and-rugged Scottish whisky distiller, and all her sensible plans vanish like smoke. They couldn’t be more different, but their attraction is powerful, raw and irresistible.

From the moment Keir MacRae arrives in London, he has two goals. One: don’t fall in love with the dazzling Lady Merritt Sterling. Two: avoid being killed.

So far, neither of those is going well.

Keir doesn’t know why someone wants him dead until fate reveals his secret connection to one of England’s most powerful families. His world is thrown into upheaval, and the only one he trusts is Merritt.

Their passion blazes with an intensity Merritt has never known before, making her long for the one thing she can’t have from Keir MacRae: forever. As danger draws closer, she’ll do whatever it takes to save the man she loves... even knowing he might be the devil in disguise.

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Praise for Devil in Disguise:

“Undemandingly pleasurable and guaranteed to go on the reread shelf. The novel abounds in the vintage pleasures of her writing: finely drawn characters; a tactile, sensuous style in both the sex scenes and the landscape descriptions; banter that illustrates the emotional compatibility of romantic partners; dual points of view that show both the hero’s and the heroine’s interior lives; moving moments of familial ties; and glimpses of couples from other novels to assure us that love lasts forever.”
-- "Kirkus Reviews (starred review)"


LISA KLEYPAS is the RITA award-winning author of 21 novels. Her books are published in fourteen languages and are bestsellers all over the world. She lives in Washington State with her husband and two children.

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Devil in Disguise (The Ravenels, #7)Devil in Disguise by Lisa Kleypas
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Lisa Kleypas is an unstoppable force in the historical romance genre. Her books are some of the most iconic, widely cherished romances out there, so anytime she has a new release, people (myself included) rush to snatch it up. In Devil in Disguise, there is the added bonus of more time with the Marsdens and Challons. Anytime you see Devil in the title, you can expect to see the Duke of Kingston's family involved. Lillian and Marcus' kids, and Sebastian and Evie's kids have grown up alongside each other and are now adults looking for their own HEA.

Lady Merritt Sterling is the widowed daughter of Lillian and Marcus. After her husband tragically died in an accident out at sea, the responsibility of running their shipping company fell on her shoulders. Her calm, easy mannered personality, and her ability to solve a myriad of problems without breaking a sweat has kept the business running smoothly. As the oldest of six children, she's used to being a peacekeeper. Merritt meets our hero, Keir McRae almost immediately in chapter one. Keir is a whiskey distiller from a remote Scottish island who has come to England to sell his valuable liquor. He's had a miserable trip filled with mishaps and he's not a happy camper. It was funny to see him storm into her office growling like a disgruntled grizzly bear only to be discombobulated and expertly subdued by Merritt.

What came next really threw me off. There was an instant attraction on both their parts which is fine, however, their emotions seemed to escalate from 0-100 in a matter of three days. If you're not a fan of insta-love, this story probably won't work for you. Typically I don't care for it, but there are exceptions where it will work for me. I did feel that the internal/external dialogue at this point in the book was much too intense based on the time spent together, so it affected the authenticity of the romance in the first stages.

    "(...) someday, Luke...you'll meet someone. 
and from one breath to the next, 
everything will change. 
You won't care whether it makes sense. 
All you'll know is that 
a stranger owns your every heartbeat."

This issue did bring down my rating a bit, but it wasn't enough to ruin the whole story. As crazy as it was, there was something sweet about the way a woman like her fell hard and fast. A woman who was level-headed and thought that being practical about your life partner would bring success in the long run. The irony of her falling for someone so different from her idea of a perfect husband was a lesson about not being able to plan and manage love, I suppose.

Keir was another wonderful, sweet hero from Kleypas. He's a strong, steady man who is loyal, honest, and his gruff exterior hides a softie that Merritt easily coaxes out. They may have an abrupt start in their relationship, but eventually they won me over. Although Merritt unequivocally falls for Keir from the start, there is still some hesitation on her part because she feels that she can't give him what he needs. They both have their reasons for attempting to keep their distance from one another at different points, but neither can eventually deny the overwhelming need they have to build a life together.

The other major plot arc besides the romance is that Keir's life is in danger due to a secret in his past. He was adopted as a child, and there are people who know his true identity who don't want that getting out. Attempts were made on Keir's life at several points in the book, and Merritt's "Uncle" Sebastian and Ransom step up to the plate to help find the perpetrators. The person at fault wasn't really in question-you pretty much know early on who is to blame, so the element of mystery isn't there. What I enjoyed about the resolution was the fact that Merritt insisted on taking on the protector role that you typically see in the hero. Because her father is such an expert huntsman, she was raised around guns and is actually the most expert shot in the entire family. I liked seeing that less than traditional side come into play when the man she loved needed her. She won't allow herself to be handled by those wishing to protect her, and she shows that she's far from a helpless female in need of saving.

Overall, this was a fun read based on the interactions between the Wallflower families. I don't think I'll ever get tired of reading about them as they hold a special place in my heart. Anytime I'm gifted with a little more of them, I have such a warm feeling of nostalgia. Keir and Merritt were the type of opposites attract couple that play off of each other's differences and balance each other out beautifully. In the end, I thought the Epilogue was the perfect conclusion, and left me in a very happy place. I can't wait to see who Lisa Kleypas will be giving a story to next.

All he knew was that after he left, 
he’d have to learn how to live with 
his heart beating somewhere far away.



Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Review: The Second Blind Son by Amy Harmon

A lost girl and a blind boy discover their greatest strength is their bond with each other in a beguiling fantasy by the New York Times bestselling author of The First Girl Child.

Series: The Chronicles of Saylok #2
Publication date: July 20, 2021
Published by: 47 North
Genre: fantasy

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An insidious curse is weakening the Norse kingdom of Saylok, where no daughters have been born in years. Washing up on these plagued shores is Ghisla, an orphaned stowaway nursed back to health by a blind cave dweller. Named for a mysterious god, the boy, Hod, is surrounded by prophecy. To Ghisla, he’s a cherished new friend. To Hod, the girl is even more so. For when Ghisla sings, Hod can see.

Unable to offer safe shelter, Hod urges Ghisla onward to become a daughter of the temple, where all the kingdom’s girl children have been gathered. But because of a magical rune, the two cannot be separated, no matter the time or the distance.

Now, subject to a ruthless king, Ghisla enters a desperate world of warring clan chieftains and catastrophic power struggles. Who among them can be trusted is unknowable. So are the sacrifices Ghisla and Hod must make to defeat the cursed forces that could destroy a kingdom and the fated bond between two souls.

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Praise for The Second Blind Son:

“Harmon’s accessible second Chronicles of Saylok fantasy (following The First Girl Child) works just as well as a standalone…fantasy fans will find plenty to enjoy.” —Publishers Weekly


Amy Harmon is a Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and New York Times Bestselling author. Amy knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story. Her books are now being published in two dozen languages, truly a dream come true for a little country girl.

Amy Harmon has written eighteen novels including the USA Today Bestsellers, Making Faces and Running Barefoot, as well as The Law of Moses, Infinity + One and the New York Times Bestseller, A Different Blue. Her fantasy novel, The Bird and the Sword, was a Goodreads Book of the Year finalist. 

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The Second Blind SonThe Second Blind Son by Amy Harmon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

    "You are color. You are sound. 
You are the song on the wind and the hope in my heart."

The Second Blind Son's predecessor, The First Girl Child, is one of my favorite Amy Harmon books to date. So to say that I was excited to read another book in the same world is a huge understatement. I couldn't download it fast enough when I spotted it on Netgalley. It saddens me to say that the follow up didn't quite meet my high expectations. I wanted to love this one so bad but the honest truth is that I became bored about halfway in. It felt like I was endlessly waiting for something to happen that would trigger me to get fully immersed in what was going on.

This book is told on the same timeline as TFGC, and focuses heavily on the main female protagonist Ghisla's experiences getting acclimated to life inside the temple. We learn more about the Daughters of Freya: how they meet, their relationships with one another, and how they grow and mature together. While this does delve much deeper into these things than book one, strangely I never felt a close attachment to any of these characters. There was no urgency or emotion over the friendships, and perhaps an even deeper detachment for the couple in the book, Ghisla and Hod. I remember feeling such an overwhelming rush of tenderness while watching Bayr and Dragmar's relationship unfold in TFGC. I teared up at Ghost and Dragmar's forbidden love. And I yearned so acutely for Bayr and Alba to be together, feeling the love that they had for one another down to my bones. I wanted that back. Instead, I left the book feeling somewhat indifferent and moderately relieved.

Ghisla washes up on Hod's shoreline broken in spirit and body. She has traveled far after a devastating plague destroyed everyone and everything she once knew. Bitter over being the sole surviver and left to fend for herself, she seems almost indifferent over where her life will take her next. Then she meets a blind boy who nurses her back to health and shows her the care and compassion she desperately needs. Hod is an orphan who is being raised in a cave by a keeper named Arwin. Unlike the touching relationship between Dragmar and Bayr, Arwin and Hod's felt irritating. Arwin treats Hod horribly, especially when it came to his instant attachment to Ghisla. He's insensitive, harsh, and shrewish towards Ghisla when he discovered what her singing did to Hod. I honestly didn't understand Hod's loyalty to him all those years, and it annoyed me a little that he didn't rebel and find a way to seek freedom from his situation sooner.

I guess you could say that this book verged on depressing a lot of the time as well as very slow moving-which is not the best combination. Both Ghisla and Hod spend years upon years (over a decade) feeling lonely, unhappy, and completely powerless over their own lives.

    It was better not to let them—any of them—
see her react at all. 
Her feelings were the only thing that were hers, 
and she vowed that she would not share them with strangers. 
And everyone present was a stranger.

Ghisla becomes increasingly more sad as the years go by and as her separation from Hod stretches on, that sadness eventually turns into anger. She isolates herself at the temple as a form of self preservation, but that gives her a coldness that I could never really warm up to. Yes, there were times where her vulnerable side peeked out, but she never fully reached my heart. Some of the early reviewers are saying that the romance was stronger here than in the previous book, but I felt the complete opposite. They spent too much of the book apart from each other and their communication was few and far in between. That was frustrating. I knew how the political conflict would end, so there was no suspense from that aspect, and the romance felt so incredibly slow moving.

I still loved seeing my favorite characters from TFGC from a different perspective, and spending a little more time with them could never be wasted time. So in the end, I'm glad that I finished the book. The writing is as lyrical and exquisite as I've come to expect from this author as a long time reader of her work, so for that alone this is worth the read.

    “I have thought many times that the gods had forsaken me . . . 
or never cared to begin with. 
But I cannot think thus when I am with you.”

I wasn't able to fall in love with this story as I had hoped, but I'm okay with that. Hopefully the next time around I will feel that special Amy Harmon magic once again.



Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Spotlight with Author Q&A: The Stranger Behind You by Carol Goodman

In the tradition of Daphne du Maurier, Michelle Richmond, and Shari Lapena, comes the newest mystery thriller from Edgar Award–winning, bestselling author Carol Goodman—a twisty, chilling story set in a former Magdalen Laundry in Manhattan that explores today’s #MeToo complexities.

Series: standalone
Publication date: July 6, 2021
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: thriller, suspense

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It’s taken Joan Lurie three years to write her article exposing a famous newspaper tycoon as a sexual predator. On the eve of its publication, she celebrates at a party thrown in her honor and is riding high…only to be brutally attacked as she is returning home late that night. Traumatized and suffering the effects of a concussion, she moves to a highly secure new apartment building in northern Manhattan called the Refuge. Safely sequestered away, she tries to begin writing a book that expands her much-lauded exposé.

At the Refuge, Joan encounters a frail 96-year-old woman who has been living in the building since the 1940s when it was a Magdalen Laundry and Refuge for Fallen Women. When Lillian first arrived, she was hiding out from the infamous Murder, Inc mobsters. As Lillian relates her story about the long-ago incriminating incident she witnessed that forced her into hiding, Joan recalls certain details of her own investigation.

The more Joan learns about Lillian and the fabled story of the Refuge, the more she realizes they may be linked to the book she is writing—and to her attacker that fateful night. As Joan starts to connect the clues and unravel decades worth of history, she must stay one step ahead of those who are desperate to make sure Joan never uncovers the final truth. 

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Praise for Carol Goodman:

“The Stranger Behind You is a captivating exploration of sexual harassment, friendship, ambition, and how women join together to overcome trauma. It is as classic as it is timely, as heartbreaking as it is suspenseful. Stunning. I couldn’t put it down.” -- Danielle Trussoni, New York Times bestselling author of Angelology and The Ancestor

"Carol Goodman’s The Stranger Behind You is at once a ripped-from-the-headlines thriller, a powerful meditation on the deep bonds and power of female friendship, and a colorful glimpse of New York City old and new. In a twisting, mesmerizing story that is as beautifuly written as it is utterly propulsive, Goodman weaves a dream that blends the past and the present, takes us deep into the hearts and souls of her characters, and keeps us breathlessly turning the pages right to the shocking and poignant end. I absolutely loved this layered and moving novel!” -- Lisa Unger, New York Times bestselling author of Confessions on the 7:45

"Carol Goodman is a superb writer, and she explores family and small-town dynamics in a way that's both suspenseful and touchingly real. The Sea of Lost Girls features a fascinating cast of characters, intriguing setting -- and enough shocking twists to leave you breathless. I loved it." -- Alison Gaylin, Edgar Award-winning author of Never Look Back, on The Sea of Lost Girls

“You can always call upon Carol Goodman when you need an atmospheric and twisting tale. Full of half-truths and vengeful ghosts of the past, The Night Visitors will inspire readers to linger long into the night.” -- Lori Rader-Day, Mary Higgins Clark Award-winning author of Under a Dark Sky, on The Night Visitors  

“Blends a perfect gothic premise...with modern mysterious twists....I couldn’t put it down but I didn’t want it to end.” -- Wendy Webb, bestselling author on The Night Visitors

“Foreboding and moody...As you’re pulled deeper into its crumbling corridors and gothic history, you’ll never guess where its true threats lie.” -- Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, New York Times-bestselling author of Bittersweet and June, on The Widow's House

A Conversation with Carol Goodman, author of


CG: There were a number of threads that began this book, but the moment that stands out was hearing Dr. Christine
Blasey Ford describe the “sequelae” of being sexually assaulted. I recognized the symptoms she described—anxiety,
claustrophobia, panic attacks—from my mother, who had been sexually assaulted when she was a teenager. I realized,
then, that my mother had suffered from these post-traumatic stress symptoms all her life. At the time, the news was
full of women coming forward with their own stories of sexual assault and harassment and it made me think of previous
generations who had these experiences but had no recourse or anyone they could really talk to about it. It made me
want to write something about a woman of another generation living with that aftermath and being “stuck” in that
awful moment alongside a story of contemporary women dealing with the aftermath of assault.

The second inspiration came when I read an article about Michelle Jones, the historian who researched the history of
women’s prisons and wrote about a Magdalen Laundry in Inwood, a neighborhood in Manhattan where my husband
lived for many years and my daughters live in today. I was shocked to learn that there had been Magdalen laundries in
this country and that all memory of the institution seemed to have vanished from the neighborhood. This seemed like
the same kind of erasure as my mother’s experience and it created the setting of the book—an apartment building in an
old Magdalen Refuge where my modern heroine would go seeking safety.

Q: What is your writing process? Do you come up with the plot first? And are you ever surprised by where the story
takes you?
CG: I usually begin with a character or a voice telling a story about something that’s happened to them. I follow that
voice until I know enough about the story to begin. I keep writing notes and thinking about what happens next, but I am
always surprised by where the writing takes me! I keep learning about the characters and story as I write. It often takes
me until the end of the first draft to know what happened. Then I have to go back and revise—often, many times—to
shape the novel to tell the story I want to tell.

Q: Did you conduct research for THE STRANGER BEHIND YOU? Did you learn anything while writing the book?
CG: Yes, lots! The first bit of research was learning about the Magdalen Refuge in Inwood. I read newspaper articles
about the Refuge, including some hair-raising accounts of escapes and riots. There isn’t a lot of documentation about
that particular Refuge, so I read about Magdalen Laundries in Ireland and the U.S. Because my character Lillian was
involved in organized crime in the 1940’s I also read about Murder Inc and other syndicates, and the Abe Reles “suicide”
at the Half Moon Hotel.
For the modern section of the book, I read newspaper accounts of how reporters investigate accusations of sexual
assault. While my reporter’s story is fictional, I wanted it to have the feel of the investigative reporting that goes into
exposing a sexual predator. I followed stories in the news (unfortunately there was never a shortage of those) and read
accounts such as Ronan Farrow’s book on his reporting of the Weinstein case. I also consulted friends with journalism
backgrounds to get a sense of how an investigation takes place.

Q: THE STRANGER BEHIND YOU tackles themes of revenge and resentment, while also addressing the #MeToo
movement and a culture of complicity. What were you hoping to accomplish by addressing such difficult themes?
CG: One of the themes I am constantly interested in is the effect of trauma on people’s lives, the long-lasting
consequences of that trauma, and whether it’s possible to ever overcome the legacy of trauma. What fascinates me is
that while many of the aftereffects—the sequelae—of trauma are similar, each individual processes and copes with that
trauma differently. It makes me wonder what enables one person to survive and lead a productive life, while another is
unable to move on. I read somewhere that one of the keys to recovery is being able to have the event that caused the
trauma acknowledged. To me that means that in order to heal, as an individual and as a society, we have to
acknowledge the cruelties and injustices that have been perpetrated in the past. As individuals, too, I think we need to
acknowledge our own complicity in the silencing of victims, whether by being blind to the abuses of power around us or
from an unwillingness to listen to the accounts of survivors of assault. It’s not easy for victims to tell their stories or for
the rest of us to listen to them, but I think it’s necessary. Again, I think of Christine Blasey Ford’s bravery in coming
forward and telling her story and how listening to her story enabled so many women to feel like they could tell their own
stories. I hope that when I address these difficult themes in my books I am opening the door to that kind of
conversation in my readers.

Q: THE STRANGER BEHIND YOU has a mobster storyline from the 1940s interwoven throughout the novel. What
inspired this historical element of the story?
CG: I grew up listening to my mother’s stories of living in Coney Island in 1941. She glimpsed legendary figures like the
Kiss of Death Girl and Abe Reles, the notorious Murder Inc assassin known as Kid Twist. When she got off the subway at
night a local mobster would walk her home to “make sure she was safe.” She didn’t worry that she would be hurt,
because she would never “go with” that kind; as long as she kept to the right side of the tracks she would be okay. It
made me wonder what would have happened if she had strayed over to the wrong side.

Q: THE STRANGER BEHIND YOU takes place in a former Magdalen Laundry in Manhattan. What significance does
setting play in the story?
CG: When I read about the Magdalen Laundry I was fascinated by the idea that such a place existed in northern
Manhattan. The building itself was described as quite grand—like a French Chateau—and I could imagine it being
transformed into a luxury apartment building called “The Refuge.” Just as the original use of the word “refuge” for a
woman’s prison was ironic, the modern use of the term to imply a place of safety would come to be ironic when my
characters were threatened there. On a larger scale, I think that often the institutions that were created to “protect”
women—both physical institutions like prisons, reformatories, and refuges, and cultural ones like marriage and
restrictive laws—ended up limiting women’s options and confining them to narrow roles. And I loved the idea of setting
the story in Inwood, a vibrant multi-cultural Manhattan neighborhood with a rich history, on the banks of the Hudson

Q: In your behind the book essay, your write, “we can only find true refuge by knowing the truth.” Can you speak to
this idea?
CG: As I mention above, I’ve read—and I believe—that trauma can be overcome if the injustice that caused the trauma
is uncovered and acknowledged and justice is done. Often, though, there’s a conspiracy of silence around injustice,
especially around sexual assault. That silence makes it harder for survivors to talk about what happened to them and
creates an atmosphere of shame that perpetuates sexual assault and harassment.

Q: What do you hope readers take away from your book?
CG: I always hope my readers are absorbed enough by my story to forget their own troubles for a little while. For this
book, I hope they also reflect on all the stories they may not know, stories of our grandmothers, our mothers, our
sisters, our daughters, our friends. I hope this book encourages them to listen to those stories.


Carol Goodman is the author of The Lake of Dead Languages, The Seduction of Water, which won the Hammett Prize, and The Widow's House, which won the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She is also the co-author, with her husband Lee Slonimsky, of the Watchtower fantasy trilogy. Her work has appeared in such journals as The Greensboro Review, Literal Latte, The Midwest Quarterly, and Other Voices. After graduation from Vassar College, where she majored in Latin, she taught Latin for several years in Austin, Texas. She then received an M.F.A. in fiction from the New School University. Goodman currently teaches literature and writing at The New School and SUNY New Paltz and lives with her family in the Hudson Valley.

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Friday, July 2, 2021

Spotlight: West End Earl by Bethany Bennett

From the series guaranteed to "win the hearts of Regency fans” comes a story of secret identities, unlikely love, and forbidden romances that will warm even the coldest of hearts (Publishers Weekly).

Series: Misfits of Mayfair #2
Publication date: June 29, 2021
Published by: Forever
Genre: historical romance

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While most young ladies attend balls and hunt for husbands, Ophelia Hardwick has spent the last ten years masquerading as a man. As the land steward for the Earl of Carlyle, she’s found safety from the uncle determined to kill her and freedoms a lady could only dream of. Ophelia’s situation would be perfect—if only she wasn’t hopelessly attracted to her employer.

Calvin, Earl of Carlyle, is determined to see his sister married this season. And he’ll do it with the help of his trusted right-hand man. But when he finds out his man is a woman, and that her life is in danger, his priorities change. Their attraction is passionate, all-consuming, and if they aren’t careful, it could turn downright deadly—for both of them.

Purchase your copy now!
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Praise for Bethany Bennett:

"Packed with disguises, debts, and debutantes, this delightful Regency does not disappoint."―Publishers Weekly

"In [a] splendid Regency-set debut . . . Bennett turns a spotlight on the class distinctions and gender restrictions of 1819 England, with a formidable leading lady and a swoon-worthy hero with lower-class roots. Filled with gripping drama, strong characters, and steamy seduction, this tantalizing story is sure to win the hearts of Regency fans."―Publishers Weekly on Any Rogue Will Do

"Everything I adore in a Regency--wit, steam, and heart!"―Grace Burrowes, New York Times bestselling author


Bethany grew up in a small fishing village in Alaska where required learning included life-skills like cold-water survival, and several other things that are utterly useless as a romance writer. Eventually settling in the Northwest with her real-life hero and two children, she enjoys mountain views from the comfort of her sofa, wearing a tremendous amount of flannel, and drinking more coffee than her doctor deems wise.

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