MINOR DRAMAS & OTHER CATASTROPHES by KATHLEEN WEST is a fascinating, artful, and captivating debut novel that immediately grabbed my attention and held strong right to the very end. There is a full cast of characters here but mainly revolves around Julia Abbott a stage mom who is your typical helicopter parent and a school teacher, Isobel Johnson who Julia is harassing. The soap opera antics of Julia Abbott made this quite entertaining, amusing and definitely a fun one for me to read.
There are quite a few subjects explored here and characters to follow along with but surprisingly this wasn’t a heavy read by no means for me and I didn’t seem to have a problem with keeping everyone straight. The multiple character perspectives made this quite interesting and an easy book to read that I zipped right through.
KATHLEEN WEST delivers an intriguing, witty, and well-written story here that was extremely readable. I really appreciated that while I would say that this was more of a lighthearted tale it did have a substantial amount of truth and value to the storyline. The author did a wonderful job of fully immersing me into this story and keeping me interested. I can totally see this story being made into a movie.
Another winning from our “not our normal read” stack of books that Elisha from Berkley sends our way!!
Minor Dramas & Other Catastrophes by Kathleen West was such a great surprise for me and I loved the different take she took on high school politics, the privileged bubble and those overbearing parents known as helicopter parents. She takes an interesting and sharp look through helicopter mother who becomes the gossip of the school and teacher Isobel whose teaching methods come under fire by those helicopter parent. They find themselves each with a different conflict that catches up to them on social media and through the students’ POV, we see how they become the ones with the voice of reason.
The clean pose and tight plotting around the adults behaving badly keeps the drama low and there is no teenage drama, allowing the story to be fun and entertaining from start to finish.
Norma’s Stats: Cover: Eye-catching, relevant, intriguing, impactful and excellent representation to storyline. Title: The title immediately intrigued me and I think it is a fitting representation to storyline. There was definitely plenty of drama to be had here and some catastrophic decisions that’s for sure. Writing/Prose: Well-written, readable, straightforward, easy to follow, and captivating. Plot: Engrossing, lighthearted, relevant, funny, shocking, thought-provoking, interesting, steadily-paced, and entertaining. Ending: A satisfying, fun, pleasing, and neat resolution. Overall: This was a very good, fun, entertaining, and lighthearted book with some substance that I thoroughly enjoyed. Would recommend!
Thank you so much to Elisha at Berkley Publishing for kindly gifting us a copy of this book.
I can hardly believe that I am describing a post-apocalyptic and zombie book as breathtaking. But the imagery and the words written were absolutely beautiful. I felt like I was right there snap dab in the middle of everything that was happening in this book. The heroine is absolutely fabulous!
THE ONE AND ONLY (The ELI Chronicles #1) by JULIA ASH is an engrossing, exciting, twisty, adventurous, interesting, fast-paced, and refreshing story that I was immediately drawn into. I was totally immersed in this tale and completely devoured all aspects of this storyline. I do not think that this is your typical zombie apocalypse book by no means. There is so much more to this story than initially meets the eye.
JULIA ASH delivers quite the clever, atmospheric, captivating, engaging, suspenseful and well-written story here with exceptionally well-developed and portrayed characters. I absolutely loved our dynamic duel here, Ruby and her husband Clay. It was so refreshing to have a married couple that loved, worked, and fought together for the greater good of mankind. The love that these two shared was absolutely beautiful and palpable. I was totally touched by more than one beautiful passages. There were many!
I’d like to send out a huge thank you to Julia Ash for sending me out a copy of this amazing book to read (she was also kind enough to send me The Tether book #2 as well, which I am going to be diving into very soon)!
Norma’s Stats: Cover: Powerful, suspenseful, intriguing, harrowing, bleak, and a perfectly fitting representation to storyline. Title: A simply perfect, appropriate, chilling, beautiful, impactful and fabulous representation to storyline. Writing/Prose: Well-written, fluid, suspenseful, eloquent, and engaging. I totally loved and connected with the writing style. Plot: Engrossing, clever, refreshing, scary, adventurous, action-packed, exciting, emotional, captivating, haunting, interesting, riveting, fast-paced, and entertaining. Violence and Gore: Mild Ending: Whoa! A twist ending that was both shocking and thrilling. I absolutely loved it! It definitely set the stage for the next book in this series. Overall: This was an all around fabulous book for me and I can definitely see this being made into a movie and I would definitely pre-order myself a ticket if it did. I’m a huge fan and I highly recommend this one!!!
About the Book from @Goodreads
When bioterrorism threatens to obscure humanity, one woman has the power to restore hope.
Ruby Spencer plans to resign from the U.S. Special Warfare Council. With an escalating Extinction Level Infection (ELI), the SWC needs the best minds acutely focused on the fight ahead. Yet motherhood has shifted her priorities. She’s preoccupied with her newborn’s health and safety. So resigning is the right choice.
For her last assignment, the SWC sends Ruby and husband Clay on a low-risk mission to Taiwan where they’ll consult with scientists analyzing the infection. Too bad Lt. Col. Quinton Oxford—the American Consulate’s embittered military attaché, is waiting in the shadows. Because Ox’s plans for the couple are everything but low-risk.
When the Spencers are separated and kidnapped from Taiwan to Moscow, Ruby is thrust into a perverse war game between superpowers, where she’s the prize. Only she doesn’t know why. Or even how her abduction relates to the ELI crisis.
But her connection with Zoonosis Mutated Bacteria is emerging. And the fate of her family, of the world, awaits her next move.
THE MOONSHINER’S DAUGHTER by DONNA EVERHART is an engaging, fascinating, gritty, heart-wrenching, and soul-stirring southern historical fiction novel that was such a fabulous, compassionate, and heartfelt story. I was immediately sucked into the storyline and it gripped me right until the very end.
I absolutely love these types of gritty southern fiction tales and absolutely loved that this story was centered around moonshining. I’ve always had this fascination for the history of the making and running of moonshine and this definitely fulfilled my curiosity. Along with the moonshining there is some tough themes discussed here within this novel. Very early on we are privy to our main character here, Jessie having an eating disorder. We are given a firsthand look into how she struggles with her appearance and how that ultimately affects her self-esteem. DONNA EVERHART explores and delivers this subject-matter with tender loving care. Jessie and her journey totally consumed my thoughts and my heart, her story definitely resonated with me deeply on a personal level.
DONNA EVERHART delivers a steadily-paced, well-researched, and a beautifully written story here that remarkably captures the essence, time, and place perfectly. I felt like I was experiencing everything in this novel right along with these believable and exceptionally well-drawn characters. This novel deeply affected and touched my heart. It is one that I soon won’t forget.
Norma’s Stats: Cover: Eye-catching, lovely, vintage, and an extremely fitting representation to storyline. I absolutely love this cover and it definitely enticed me in reading this book. Title: An intriguing, relevant, effective, and fitting representation to storyline. I absolutely love this title! Writing/Prose: Easy to read, eloquent, entertaining, vivid, palpable, engaging and captivating. Plot: Gritty, stirring, heart-felt, memorable, atmospheric, plausible, interesting, steadily-paced, and entertaining. Ending: A bittersweet, heart-felt, moving, and satisfying ending. Overall: 4.5 Stars! I have such a deep affection for this story and highly recommend it!
Thank you so much to NetGalley, Donna Everhart and Kensington Books for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.
About the book from Goodreads
Set in North Carolina in 1960 and brimming with authenticity and grit, The Moonshiner’s Daughter evokes the singular life of sixteen-year-old Jessie Sasser, a young woman determined to escape her family’s past . . .
Generations of Sassers have made moonshine in the Brushy Mountains of Wilkes County, North Carolina. Their history is recorded in a leather-bound journal that belongs to Jessie Sasser’s daddy, but Jessie wants no part of it. As far as she’s concerned, moonshine caused her mother’s death a dozen years ago.
Her father refuses to speak about her mama, or about the day she died. But Jessie has a gnawing hunger for the truth—one that compels her to seek comfort in food. Yet all her self-destructive behavior seems to do is feed what her school’s gruff but compassionate nurse describes as the “monster” inside Jessie.
Resenting her father’s insistence that moonshining runs in her veins, Jessie makes a plan to destroy the stills, using their neighbors as scapegoats. Instead, her scheme escalates an old rivalry and reveals long-held grudges. As she endeavors to right wrongs old and new, Jessie’s loyalties will bring her to unexpected revelations about her family, her strengths—and a legacy that may provide her with the answers she has been longing for.
Hello everyone and thank you so much for stopping by! Today is our stop on the Harlequin Trade Publishing Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour for Good Girls Lie by J. T. Ellison. We are so excited and it is our absolute pleasure to share our individual reviews with you. Thanks so much to Justine for the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour.
Today we are sharing Brenda’s & Norma’s review with you!
The Traveling Sisters ~ Brenda, Norma & Lindsay! xoxo
J. T. ELLISON – About the author
J. T. Ellison is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of more than 20 novels, and the EMMY-award winning co-host of A WORD ON WORDS, Nashville’s premier literary show. With millions of books in print, her work has won critical acclaim, prestigious awards, and has been published in 26 countries. Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband and twin kittens.
Perched atop a hill in the tiny town of Marchburg, Virginia, The Goode School is a prestigious prep school known as a Silent Ivy. The boarding school of choice for daughters of the rich and influential, it accepts only the best and the brightest. Its elite status, long-held traditions and honor code are ideal for preparing exceptional young women for brilliant futures at Ivy League universities and beyond. But a stranger has come to Goode, and this ivy has turned poisonous.
In a world where appearances are everything, as long as students pretend to follow the rules, no one questions the cruelties of the secret societies or the dubious behavior of the privileged young women who expect to get away with murder. But when a popular student is found dead, the truth cannot be ignored. Rumors suggest she was struggling with a secret that drove her to suicide.
But look closely…because there are truths and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened.
J.T. Ellison’s pulse-pounding new novel examines the tenuous bonds of friendship, the power of lies and the desperate lengths people will go to to protect their secrets.
Good Girls Lie but not here in this in this elite all-girls boarding school where honor is a code??? Well, appearance is everything, but things are not always as they appear. There are a few secrets hidden in the dark corner and behind closed doors in this school and not everyone seems to following that code.
Good Girls Lie is a simple and easy read with a little dark to it. With a story that centres around teens, I was a bit worried about the teen drama however I thought the drama was kept low here between the Goode girls. There is some cattiness, games, and competition here between them, but I thought just enough to create some conflict between them that added to the suspense and tension to the story.
The setting is interesting and I seemed to find myself drawn to stories where the setting is characters themselves. With this school, it also harbored some secrets here with our characters making it even more exciting.
The story does start off with a dark scene that is a little chilling to catch your attention and the mystery starts to form there. You don’t need too many detective skills here to pick up on the clues and figure out what is going on, making this a fun and easy read.
Menacing, edgy, & an engrossing page-turner!
GOOD GIRLS LIE by J.T. ELLISON is a riveting, spooky, dark, gritty, and twisty thriller that has quite the seductive and intriguing storyline. It opens up with a brutally chilling scene when one of the students is found dead and then it has us going back in time to learn the events of what happened leading up to this horrific tragedy. This is probably one of my favourite tactics, it definitely caught my attention, freaked me out a little bit and kept my interest piqued right to the very end.
J.T. ELLISON delivers a quick, clever, taut, well-written story here that has an absolutely fantastic creepy atmospheric setting to it that was both haunting and suspenseful. The Goode School is a prestigious all-girls boarding school that was a character all in itself that I was thoroughly entertained by. I loved all the spooky, claustrophobic, creepy, and gothic vibes that surrounded it.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that I was totally engaged the whole time I was reading this or surprised by the twists but there were definitely parts to the story that I found quite appealing and immersive. The way that the story was told through alternating perspectives was another tactic that definitely appealed to me.
I like to go in completely blind and see if I can figure out the direction and the storyline all by myself. Sometimes I must admit that there are a few books where I’ve been a few chapters in that I had no clue where the story was headed, needing to read the synopsis. I didn’t have a problem figuring this one out or knowing where it was headed. Even though I thought it was a little bit predictable, I wasn’t disappointed at all with the reveals.
Norma’s Stats: Cover: This cover immediately appealed and intrigued me and definitely enticed me to want to read this book. I think it is an extremely fitting representation to storyline. Title: An intriguing, relevant, and totally effective representation to storyline. I loved how it played so fittingly into storyline. Goode girls don’t lie…hahaha we will see about that!!! Writing/Prose: Easy to follow, intense, entertaining, suspenseful, magnetic, engaging and compulsively readable. Plot: Dark, twisted, disturbing, atmospheric, creepy, interesting, fast-paced, twisty, and entertaining. Ending: I wouldn’t say that the ending was all that surprising but the Epilogue was downright fantastic, exciting, and utterly creepy! Overall: 3.5 Stars! I do love me some drama and angst in my thrillers and throw in lots of juicy secrets along with a spooky and eerie setting then I’m one happy camper! If that appeals to you as well then I think you are going to absolutely love this one!! Would recommend!
Thank you so much to Harlequin / MIRA for kindly sending us a copy of this book!
Harlequin Books were kind enough to allow us to share an excerpt of this fabulous book with all of you…..
The girl’s body dangles from the tall iron gates guarding the school’s entrance. A closer examination shows the ends of a red silk tie peeking out like a cardinal on a winter branch, forcing her neck into a brutal angle. She wears her graduation robe and multicolored stole as if knowing she’ll never see the achievement. It rained overnight and the thin robe clings to her body, dew sparkling on the edges. The last tendrils of dawn’s fog laze about her legs, which are five feet from the ground.
There is no breeze, no birds singing or squirrels industriously gathering for the long winter ahead, no cars passing along the street, only the cool, misty morning air and the gentle metallic creaking of the gates under the weight of the dead girl. She is suspended in midair, her back to the street, her face hidden behind a curtain of dirty, wet hair, dark from the rains.
Because of the damage to her face, it will take them some time to officially identify her. In the beginning, it isn’t even clear she attends the school, despite wearing The Goode School robes.
But she does.
The fingerprints will prove it. Of course, there are a few people who know exactly who is hanging from the school’s gates. Know who, and know why. But they will never tell. As word spreads of the apparent suicide, The Goode School’s all-female student body begin to gather, paying silent, terrified homage to their fallen compatriot. The gates are closed and locked—as they always are overnight—buttressed on either side by an ivy-covered, ten-foot-high, redbrick wall, but it tapers off into a knee-wall near the back entrance to the school parking lot, and so is escapable by foot. The girls of Goode silently filter out from the dorms, around the end of Old West Hall and Old East Hall to Front Street—the main street of Marchburg, the small Virginia town housing the elite prep school—and take up their positions in front of the gate in a wedge of crying, scared, worried young women who glance over shoulders looking for the one who is missing from their ranks. To reassure themselves this isn’t their friend, their sister, their roommate.
Another girl joins them, but no one notices she comes from the opposite direction, from town. She was not behind the redbrick wall.
Whispers rise from the small crowd, nothing loud enough to be overheard but forming a single question.
Who is it? Who?
A solitary siren pierces the morning air, the sound bleeding upward from the bottom of the hill, a rising crescendo. Someone has called the sheriff.
Goode perches like a gargoyle above the city’s small downtown, huddles behind its ivy-covered brick wall. The campus is flanked by two blocks of restaurants, bars, and necessary shops. The school’s buildings are tied together with trolleys—enclosed glass-and-wood bridges that make it easy for the girls to move from building to building in climate-controlled comfort. It is quiet, dignified, isolated. As are the girls who attend the school; serious, studious. Good. Goode girls are always good. They go on to great things.
The headmistress, or dean, as she prefers to call herself, Ford Julianne Westhaven, great-granddaughter several times removed from the founder of The Goode School, arrives in a flurry, her driver, Rumi, braking the family Bentley with a screech one hundred feet away from the gates. The crowd in the street blocks the car and, for a moment, the sight of the dangling girl. No one stops to think about why the dean might be off campus this early in the morning. Not yet, anyway.
Dean Westhaven rushes out of the back of the dove-gray car and runs to the crowd, her face white, lips pressed firmly together, eyes roving. It is a look all the girls at Goode recognize and shrink from.
The dean’s irritability is legendary, outweighed only by her kindness. It is said she alone approves every application to the school, that she chooses the Goode girls by hand for their intelligence, their character. Her say is final. Absolute. But for all her goodness, her compassion, her kindness, Dean Westhaven has a temper.
She begins to gather the girls into groups, small knots of natural blondes and brunettes and redheads, no fantastical dye allowed. Some shiver in oversize school sweatshirts and running shorts, some are still in their pajamas. The dean is looking for the chick missing from her flock. She casts occasional glances over her shoulder at the grim scene behind her. She, too, is unsure of the identity of the body, or so it seems. Perhaps she simply doesn’t want to acknowledge the truth.
The siren grows to an earsplitting shriek and dies midrange, a soprano newly castrated. The deputies from the sheriff’s office have arrived, the sheriff hot on their heels. Within moments, they cordon off the gates, move the students back, away, away. One approaches the body, cataloging; another begins taking discreet photographs, a macabre paparazzi.
They speak to Dean Westhaven, who quietly, breathlessly, admits she hasn’t approached the body and has no idea who it might be.
She is lying, though. She knows. Of course, she knows. It was inevitable.
The sheriff, six sturdy feet of muscle and sinew, approaches the gate and takes a few shots with his iPhone. He reaches for the foot of the dead girl and slowly, slowly turns her around.
The eerie morning silence is broken by the words, soft and gasping, murmurs moving sinuously through the crowd of girls, their feet shuffling in the morning chill, the fog’s tendrils disappearing from around the posts.
They say her name, an unbroken chain of accusation and misery.
There are truths, and there are lies, and then there is everything that really happened, which is where you and I will meet. My truth is your lie, and my lie is your truth, and there is a vast expanse between them.
Take, for example, Ash Carlisle.
Six feet tall, glowing skin, a sheaf of blond hair in a ponytail. She wears black jeans with rips in the knees and a loose greenand-white plaid button-down with white Adidas Stan Smiths; casual, efficient travel clothes. A waiter delivers a fresh cup of tea to her nest in the British Airways first-class lounge, and when she smiles her thanks, he nearly drops his tray—so pure and happy is that smile. The smile of an innocent.
Or not so innocent? You’ll have to decide that for yourself. Soon.
She’s perfected that smile, by the way. Practiced it. Stood in the dingy bathroom of the flat on Broad Street and watched herself in the mirror, lips pulling back from her teeth over and over and over again until it becomes natural, until her eyes sparkle and deep dimples appear in her cheeks. It is a full-toothed smile, her teeth straight and blindingly white, and when combined with the china-blue eyes and naturally streaked blond hair, it is devastating.
Isn’t this what a sociopath does? Work on their camouflage? What better disguise is there than an open, thankful, gracious smile? It’s an exceptionally dangerous tool, in the right hands.
And how does a young sociopath end up flying first class, you might ask? You’ll be assuming her family comes from money, naturally, but let me assure you, this isn’t the case. Not at all. Not really. Not anymore.
No, the dean of the school sent the ticket.
Because Ash Carlisle leads a charmed life, and somehow managed to hoodwink the dean into not only paying her way but paying for her studies this first term, as well. A full scholarship, based on her exemplary intellect, prodigy piano playing, and sudden, extraordinary need. Such a shame she lost her parents so unexpectedly.
Yes, Ash is smart. Smart and beautiful and talented, and capable of murder. Don’t think for a moment she’s not. Don’t let her fool you.
Sipping the tea, she types and thinks, stops to chew on a nail, then reads it again. The essay she is obsessing over gained her access to the prestigious, elite school she is shipping off to. The challenges ahead—transferring to a new school, especially one as impossible to get into as The Goode School—frighten her, excite her, make her more determined than ever to get away from Oxford, from her past.
A new life. A new beginning. A new chapter for Ash.
But can you ever escape your past?
Ash sets down the tea, and I can tell she is worrying again about fitting in. Marchburg, Virginia—population five hundred on a normal summer day, which expands to seven hundred once the students arrive for term—is a long way from Oxford, England. She worries about fitting in with the daughters of the DC elite—daughters of senators and congressmen and ambassadors and reporters and the just plain filthy rich. She can rely on her looks—she knows how pretty she is, isn’t vain about it, exactly, but knows she’s more than acceptable on the looks scale—and on her intelligence, her exceptional smarts. Some would say cunning, but I think this is a disservice to her. She’s both booksmart and street-smart, the rarest of combinations. Despite her concerns, if she sticks to the story, she will fit in with no issues.
The only strike against her, of course, is me, but no one knows about me.
No one can ever know about me.
Good Girls Lie
Author: J.T. Ellison
Publication Date: 12/30/19
Publisher: MIRA Books
If you would like to read a copy of this book for yourself, it is available to order from the following retailers:
Hello everyone and thank you so much for stopping by! Today is our stop on the Harlequin Trade Publishing Mystery/Thriller Blog Tour for The Last Affair by Margot Hunt. We are so excited and it is our absolute pleasure toshare our individual reviews with you. Thank you so much to Justine for the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour.
Today we are sharing Brenda, Norma’s and Lindsay’s reviews with you!
The Traveling Sisters ~ Brenda, Norma & Lindsay! xxoo
Margot Hunt – About the author
Margot Hunt is a critically acclaimed author of psychological suspense. Her work has been praised by Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist and Kirkus Reviews.
Gwen Landon—poster woman for perfect wife, mother, and suburban bliss—is found brutally bludgeoned to death behind her Floridian McMansion. Beautiful and beloved by her community, Gwen makes an unlikely victim. But just a scratch below the surface of her perfectly curated world reveals one far more sinister. When looking back over the six months leading up to her death, the question of, “who would do this?” quickly shifts to, “who wouldn’t?”
Commercially successful food blogger and mother of three, Nora Holliday never imagined she would have the nerve, let alone time, to get involved an affair. Trapped in an unhappy marriage, she does whatever it takes to keep it all together. But when Nora runs into Gwen Landon’s husband at a hotel in Orlando, his easy kindness and warmth proves too tempting to resist. As their affair spirals dangerously out of control, it seems things can’t get more complicated—until Gwen turns up dead.
The Last Affair starts off with quite the bang with that opening line and scene. I knew I was going to be entertained by Margot Hunt’s writing and I was from beginning to end.
Margot Hunt takes your typical affair and turns into a fun story here by adding some sass and spunk to the writing and the unlikeable characters you love to hate.
The pace is easy and quick, with just the right amount of drama to the story to move it forward for me. The dynamics between the characters are engaging, and I found myself drawn into the drama by silently yelling at the characters. The ending came together well for me as I started to piece together who left “the woman’s blood-covered body splayed facedown in the grass”, in this “typical upscale Floridian backyard.”
THE LAST AFFAIR by MARGOT HUNT is an interesting, easy to read, easy-going, thrilling and fast-paced story that immediately piqued my interest and thoroughly entertained me.
THE LAST AFFAIR has an awesome opening scene! I have quite the fondness and love for when an author opens up her story to a revealing, horrific and ghastly murder scene, allowing us to be pretty much privy to who the victim is right at the very beginning. This technique definitely keeps me intrigued, my curiosity piqued, and turning those pages as fast as I possibly can right to the very end. I love being right dab in the centre of all the action as I’m trying to piece all those clues together of who those shocking and juicy suspects might be.
I wouldn’t necessarily say that there was anything new on the table here though but the character dynamics and antics had quite the unique spin to it that definitely gripped and thrilled me. I might have done some gasping and shaking my head numerous times at these characters.
A fast-paced, easy and thrilling read!
This is one of those books that you can fly through without having put much effort in. The pages and chapters quickly coast by as the storyline keeps you guessing. It was exactly what I was in the mood for. It kept me intrigued and entertained from start to finish. There were a few dramatic scenes, but nothing that overshadowed my enjoyment. The characters and their relationship dynamics were unique and interesting and the suspense kept me curious until the very end. This was my first book by this author and I look forward to reading more from her.
Thank you so much Harlequin for our copies!
Norma’s Stats: Cover: An effective and fitting representation to storyline that depicts the storyline extremely well and really allows us to experience this story as if we were sneakily peeking in just like the cover suggests. Title: I wasn’t all that drawn to the title of this book as it just appeared to be another one of those “affair” stories. Boy was I wrong! Writing/Prose: Easy to follow, well-written, entertaining, immersive, and gripping. Plot: Engrossing, interesting, suspenseful, soapy, gripping, scandalous, fast-paced, and entertaining. Ending: I wasn’t completely in the dark but let me tell you that ending was totally awesome and I loved how it all played out. I might have found it a little off-putting though – the extreme end but regardless the author did a great job wrapping this one up. Overall: Would absolutely recommend if you are looking for an easy-going, relaxed, and mild domestic thriller to spend some time with. This was the perfect read and escape for me while I was resting at home. Thank you so much to Margot Hunt for making the time pass by so much easier!
Harlequin Books were kind enough to allow us to share an excerpt of this fabulous book with all of you…..
Other than the woman’s blood-covered body splayed facedown in the grass, it could have been any typical upscale Floridian backyard.
There was the ubiquitous pool with a water fountain feature, a patio furnished with both a dining set and outdoor sectional couch, and an enormous gas grill capable of cooking hamburgers by the dozen. A large pergola with a tropical vine trained over it covered part of the patio. The dining area was shaded by a black-and-white-striped awning. It was the very picture of suburban domestic bliss. It could have been the set for a commercial advertising anything from laundry detergent to allergy medicine.
Again, except for the dead body.
The area had already been taped off. The first officers on the scene appeared with an ambulance in response to a frantic 911 call placed by the woman’s daughter. The paramedics had assessed the situation, and quickly determined that the woman was dead. The fact that the back of her head had been bashed in with what looked like a paving stone, conveniently dropped next to her prone body, made it immediately clear that it had not been a natural death. The responding officers called the sheriff, who responded by sending in a full investigative team. The medical examiner was now doing a preliminary examination of the body, while police officers combed the area for additional evidence. Two detectives, Mike Monroe and Gavin Reddick—separated by twenty years and sixty pounds—were overseeing the operation, standing at the edge of the patio under the shade of the pergola. It was the third week in April, but this was South Florida and the temperature had already climbed into the low nineties.
“The paving stone came from the stack out in the front yard. They were delivered last week by the company who’s installing the driveway,” Detective Reddick said. He was the younger of the two men and had a wiry frame and angular face.
“Weapon of convenience. Suggests it wasn’t premeditated,” Detective Monroe said. He had a ruddy complexion and a full head of thick dark hair, swept back off his face. A strand never moved out of place, even in a strong wind.
“Plus he dropped the weapon, rather than taking it with him. Probably panicked.”
“Could be a she,” Monroe said mildly.
Reddick shrugged. “Blunt force trauma to the back of the head? You know the stats. Overwhelming likelihood that it’s a man, and probably someone the victim was intimately involved with. Husband, maybe a boyfriend.”
“The husband was with the daughter when she called it in.”
“Doesn’t mean he didn’t do it, and then had her place the call.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
The family had been sequestered indoors, both to keep them out of the way, and so that the officers waiting in the house with them could observe anything they did or said. Other than the husband, there was a daughter in her early twenties and a teenage son. The daughter was reportedly distraught, while the husband and son had both been eerily quiet. It was possible they were in shock.
“Do we have an ID on the victim?” Reddick asked.
“It’s her house,” Monroe grunted.
“Yeah, but I like doing things the official way, you know? I’s dotted, t’s crossed, all of that. Building a case, basic detective work.”
Despite the chilling scene in front of them—the woman’s body still sprawled on the grass, the back of her head a pulpy, bloody mess—the corner of Monroe’s mouth quirked up in a half smile. “Sure, kid, tell me all about basic detective work. I’ve only been doing this for, what…thirty-two years now? The husband ID’d her. Victim is Gwen Landon, age forty-nine. Married, mother of two. Husband said she hasn’t had any recent conflict with anyone.”
“Other than the person who caved in the back of her head with a paving stone,” Reddick pointed out.
“Wouldn’t be the first time a husband didn’t know his wife as well as he thought he did.”
“Possible. But there’s another possibility, too.”
Reddick turned to look at his partner. His eyes were small and dark, and he had a habit of squinting when he concentrated intently on something.
“The husband is a liar,” Reddick said.
THE LAST AFFAIR Author: Margot Hunt ISBN: 9780778309222 Publication Date: November 26, 2019 Publisher: MIRA BOOKS
If you would like to read a copy of this book for yourself, it is available to order from the following retailers:
We had the absolute pleasure of having Eileen O’Finlan join us for an insightful hour answering our questions in our the Behind the Pages Goodreads group. I’m excited to share some of that discussion here with you today. Hope you enjoy the interview just as much as we did.
Hi Eileen, Can you please share with us how it feels knowing that the Pope has a copy of Kelegeen? Do you know if he has read it? Did you receive any feedback from him? Can you give us a little bit of insight into how it all came about?
Thanks so much for having me. I’m very excited to be interviewed by Behind the Pages. I greatly enjoy being part of the Traveling Friends so when you came up with this new group I knew it would be awesome!
Hi Norma, I work for the Diocese of Worcester, so I have a bit of an inside advantage. I asked the bishop (who’s office is across the hall from me) if he could get a copy to the pope. The bishop had already read Kelegeen and loved it, so I thought he’d be okay with that. He was happy to do it and a month or two after I asked him, a priest friend of his who works at the Vatican came to visit brought a copy back with him. I signed it and included a short note. The bishop assured me that his friend had brought it directly to the Pope’s residence.
I did receive a thank you letter from the pope – well actually from his secretary, but on his behalf.
I have no idea if the pope has read it or not. I sent it to him because one of the main characters, Father O’Malley, is a priest. His work among his people embodies what Pope Francis has been calling for more of in regards to pastoral care so I thought he might enjoy it. Also, there has, understandably, been a lot of negativity around priests and the Catholic Church in recent years, but I work day in and day out with many priests and I know that the majority are devout, dedicated, people striving to live out their calling. They’re not perfect, no one is, but they do their best to live a holy life and to live it for the people they serve. I hoped the pope would find it uplifting to see that acknowledged.
If you were to describe Kelegeen in three words which words would you choose?
That’s a difficult question! I’ve thought about it for a while. I think the best three words would be “evocative”, “tragic”, and “hopeful.”
This was an extremely hard book for me to read….it really got under my skin. Did you find while writing it that it deeply affected you as well?
Norma, I take the fact that this book got under your skin as a huge compliment, so thank you for that! It means, as a writer, I did my job. To write about something like the Great Hunger and not have it elicit a visceral response in the reader would be a failure. Not that I was trying to bring my readers down, but I did want to convey the reality of what happened, the massive tragedy of it, as well as the resilience of the people who endured it. I also wanted to show the undaunted spirit of a people immersed in faith and hope in the face of such an event.
It certainly did have an impact on me. Some of my own ancestors came to America to escape the Great Hunger. After researching the history and writing Kelegeen, I have developed a profound respect for them. I’m proud to have come from their stock.
What was the inspiration behind Kelegeen?
I majored in history as an undergraduate. When I was taking a course in Irish history and studying the Great Hunger (aka the Irish Potato Famine) my professor suggested that as a creative exercise I keep a diary as if I were a parish priest in Ireland at the time of the Hunger. After completing that project, I realized I had the basis for a novel and it grew from there.
What does your writing process or day look like?
I can’t describe a typical writing day because at this point, I don’t have one. I still work a full-time job so I fit writing in when I can. I do facilitate a writing workshop on Wednesday nights so I know that from 7-9:30 p.m. on Wednesdays I’ll be writing. I’ve recently started to take my laptop to the town library on weekends or days off. I like to write in long stretches of time so a five hour writing stint is about normal for me.
So of course I have to ask you this question because I am totally a “cover girl”….LOL Did you have a hand in the cover design or a vision of what you wanted it to look like? I think the cover is hauntingly beautiful.
Thank you. I love the cover, too. My publisher, BWL Publishing, Inc. has a great cover artist named Michelle Lee. Michelle sends a link to a stock photo site to BWL’s authors. She lets us chose up to 3 pictures to send to her from the site. Then she does her magic with them. When I saw the picture of the young woman, I just couldn’t stop looking at her. I thought, “That’s Meg. She has to be on the cover.”
Can you share with us how the title came about and what the name means to you? I am not familiar with the name Kelegeen is that an Irish name? I really do like it though!
Kelegeen is the name of the town where the story is set. It’s fictional – there is no real town in Ireland with that name. My original title was The Hungerdance, but that was back when I wrote the first draft over 20 years ago. In the meantime, The Hunger Games became a phenomenal hit and because I didn’t want to cause any confusion I decided I should change the title. I settled on Kelegeen because though the story focuses on specific main characters, the story of the people of Kelegeen is certainly on display in the novel. Father O’Malley is that pastor of all the Catholics in Kelegeen so his concern is for all of them. They interact and depend upon one another. Kelegeen is a very interdependent community and that was a huge key to survival.
How did you come up with the character names? Is there a connection of any kind of why you choose the ones that you did.
The names just sort of came to me. Of course the Irish characters, for the most part, have typically Irish names. Here’s a secret, though – many of the characters’ names got changed in the final draft. My amazing editor and fellow BWL author, Eileen Charbonneau, picked up on the fact that I had a plethora of characters whose names all began with the letter M. She suggested I change some of them. I hadn’t even realized I done that! So, Dr. Martin Parker was originally Dr. Martin Matthews, Brendan was Michael, and Meg’s mother, Deirdre was Maeve. That last was the hardest one for me to change. I still think of Deirdre as Maeve.
I know that you are a reader as well as a writer. Please share with us your favourite genre.
Historical ficition is my favorite genre, but I also like paranormal, some horror (I love Stephen King and Anne Rice). Mostly, I love a well-written story. Great characters and plot are more important to me than genre when it comes to reading.
I’d love to know if you are working on something else and if there is going to be a follow-up book to Kelegeen.
Oh yes!!! I am working on the sequel to Kelegeen. I was planning to write a sequel anyway, but I expected to write another historical fiction book first. However, so many readers have asked for the sequel that I decided I’d better write that one next. Once it’s finished, I’ll dive right into that other book I was going to write next. Right now the characters of both books are competing for space in my head. It’s getting a bit crowded in there! LOL!
How much research went into writing Kelegeen?
A lot! That’s true for any book, but I think for historical fiction it’s especially true. As I mentioned earlier, this book came about from an assignment in an Irish history course. But the research was no where near over when the course finished. I was researching right up to the final draft.
We touched based a little bit above about how this novel affected me deeply and sometimes when I close a book the whole novel is lost to me. But I can say that wasn’t the case with this one, it will always stay with me. It was an extremely memorable and profound read. You definitely portrayed the historical aspect to this novel extremely well!
Hmmm, now I can’t remember where I was going with this to ask a question but I’m leaving this comment in and if it comes back to me — I will edit with my question. LOL
Thank you so much, Norma. That is truly the greatest complement you could have given me.
How long did it take you to write Kelegeen?
That’s a hard question to answer. I began it over 20 years ago. I think I worked off and on for about 4-5 years before I had a completed first draft. Then I took another year or so to edit and write more drafts. When I thought it was ready, I tried to get it published, but it just didn’t happen so I set it aside for a long time (as in several years). But then I connected with the author I mentioned in an earlier post, Eileen Charbonneau, and sent it to her for editing. She did an incredible job. She is so thorough and gives enormously helpful feedback. With her suggestions, I rewrote the entire novel which took about a year. So, all told, it was probably about 7-8 years, though not consecutive years and with a huge break in the between drafts.
Were there any publishing struggles that you might of come across or have any insight into that process to share with us?
As mentioned earlier, when I first tried selling it, I had no luck. Now I realize that’s because it wasn’t ready. It didn’t deserve to be published at that time so I’m actually glad that it wasn’t. It’s a much better book now after Eileen’s editing and my rewriting.
As for finding a publisher, I was extremely fortunate – again thanks to Eileen Charbonneau. She thought it would be a good fit for the company that publishes her novels so she contacted the publisher and asked if they would consider it. The publisher agreed, I sent the manuscript, and before I knew it I had an offer. This is not a route to publishing that happens often. I sometimes still can’t believe it all worked out the way it did.
Is there anything significant that you would like to share with us about Kelegeen? I’m open to anything that comes to mind!
One thing that comes to mind is the amount of comments I’ve recieved from readers who’ve told me that they’d heard of the Potato Famine, but never really knew any details about it. They had no idea how devestating it was for the people who endured it. Several readers have said they were overwhelemed by it and just couldn’t understand why it had been presented as a mere footnote in history classes. So, I hope readers learn a bit of Irish history with which they may not have been very familiar.
Another thing I love is when readers tell me that it reminds them of their parents or grandparents who came over from Ireland and the stories they told. It lets me know I got the “feel” right.
What would you ultimately like to see &/or hear from a reader after reading your book? What is the ultimate compliment to you as a writer?
Norma, you gave me the ultimate complement when you wrote that the story stayed with you after you finished it. We voracious readers gobble up books so fast sometimes it’s difficult to remember them even if we really enjoyed them. So when someone tells me that the story and/or the characters stayed with them long afterwards, that’s huge. It means a lot!
Eileen (Eileen’s Editor) I loved Kelegeen! You inspire me as a writer and reader. What draws you to the historical fiction genre? Do you research before and during your writing?
Hi Eileen! Hey everybody – this is the awesome editor & writer I’ve been lauding in my previous posts!
I’ve always loved history. It seems to be in my DNA. My parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins – we’re all in love with history. Family gatherings could as easily inspire talk of historical events as they could anything else.
It’s difficult to express exactly, but there’s something about history that profoundly touches me. I love learning about how people lived at various times, how ideals, mores, attitudes, etc. changed over time, how people coped with all sorts of events. Life was very different in the past, but at the same time, there is still so much in the human spirit that resonates today. You can write about characters in any time period, keep them very much people of their own time (which I believe is very important to do), and still connect with them on an emotional level.
And, yes, I research before and during the writing period. A lot!
Cindy As Norma said, “Kelegeen” can be a difficult book to read as it really tugs on the heartstrings. As the reader, I felt like I was going though the Great Hunger along with your characters. There was always a glimmer of hope – mostly through the characters’ deep faith. Will the sequel continue on with the strong faith and hope for the future?
Hi Cindy! The Irish were very committed to their Catholic faith. In fact, though some charitable organizations offered the starving Irish food and assistance, a great number of them refused it because it was offered ONLY on the condition that they become Protestant. They weren’t willing to give up their faith even if it meant starving to death. Their faith really did get them through even if “getting through” meant dying with the strong belief of eternal life with Christ – an existence infinitely better than what they had on earth.
Yes, the sequel will have the faith element in it. It has to because when the Irish came to America they encountered a land populated by Protestant Yankees who did not like or truts them. Remember the “No Irish Need Apply” signs in the “Help Wanted” ads? They also faced the political No Knothing party that gained power at that time. The No Knothings were very anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant to the point of wanting to send them all back. So the Irish had their hands full once again with the folks who held the power. And again they relied on a steadfast grip on their faith.
Cindy Do you have a working title for the sequel?
Right the working title is Erin’s Children, but that could change.
Cindy There is so much historical reference that went into the book. How did you research? Online, library, specialists, etc? What is the ratio of time spent on research/writing?
All of the above! When I first started writing I didn’t have access to quick Internet searches or databases like we have today. Most of my early research came from books. I also spent a lot of time in the library and at home reading and taking notes. With the sequel I have more options. I’m still reading a lot of books, but I’m also using online sources. I’m setting the sequel in Worcester, Massachusetts. I work in Worcester and live in a suburb just outside of Worcester. I have access to great resources in the Worcester Historical Museum, the Worcester Public Library, Preservation Worcester, and the American Antiquarian Society to name a few. I’ve met with staff at the Worcester Historical Museum. One of the writers in my workshop is a docent for Preservation Worcester. She recently took me on a private walking tour of Worcester’s historic Crown Hill district which is where my main characters would have worked and lived. She even got me into one of the houses. The owner keeps it very much as it was when it was built in the 1850s. He took me on a private 2 hour tour of the house. By about the time we finished, I had it in my mind exactly where and how that house will fit into the story.
Ration of times spent on research vs writing is hard for me to figure (you just asked me a math question – I’m hopeless at math.) I’d have to guess that they’re pretty close when you figure writing includes first and consecutive drafts. That’s a lot of time and work, but the research that goes into it is pretty close to the same. It’s just a different discipline.
Cindy Since American English is your first language, how do you come up with the Irish brogue for your characters? Do you know someone from Ireland and copy his/her accent or does it just happen within your mind?
I’ve heard the Irish brogue often enough to replicate it in writing so long as I don’t overdo it. I didn’t want to write it in dialect as that’s far too distracting for the reader. I couldn’t have anyway, even if I’d wanted to since I don’t know it that well. I tried to put some of the Irish way of speaking into the novel to give it the right feel without being too heavy-handed and risking stereotyping or just plain sounding silly.
Thank you so much, Eileen for joining us this evening!! I absolutely loved this discussion and for being so candid with us!!!
What Eileen has to say about us
Thanks so much to the Traveling Sisters for interviewing me in the Behind the Pages with the Traveling Sisters group. I had a blast responding to all the well thought out and insightfull questions.
For more Q & A , highlights to Kelegeen you can find the full Q & A here