The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Adult, Suspense, Contemporary, Gothic, Audiobook, Historical, Historical Fiction

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | Alibris | Powells | Indiebound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

From New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins comes a deliciously wicked gothic suspense, set at an Italian villa with a dark history, for fans of Lucy Foley and Ruth Ware.

As kids, Emily and Chess were inseparable. But by their 30s, their bond has been strained by the demands of their adult lives. So when Chess suggests a girls trip to Italy, Emily jumps at the chance to reconnect with her best friend.

Villa Aestas in Orvieto is a high-end holiday home now, but in 1974, it was known as Villa Rosato, and rented for the summer by a notorious rock star, Noel Gordon. In an attempt to reignite his creative spark, Noel invites up-and-coming musician, Pierce Sheldon to join him, as well as Pierce’s girlfriend, Mari, and her stepsister, Lara. But he also sets in motion a chain of events that leads to Mari writing one of the greatest horror novels of all time, Lara composing a platinum album––and ends in Pierce’s brutal murder.

As Emily digs into the villa’s complicated history, she begins to think there might be more to the story of that fateful summer in 1974. That perhaps Pierce’s murder wasn’t just a tale of sex, drugs, and rock & roll gone wrong, but that something more sinister might have occurred––and that there might be clues hidden in the now-iconic works that Mari and Lara left behind.

Yet the closer that Emily gets to the truth, the more tension she feels developing between her and Chess. As secrets from the past come to light, equally dangerous betrayals from the present also emerge––and it begins to look like the villa will claim another victim before the summer ends.

Inspired by Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and the infamous summer Percy and Mary Shelley spent with Lord Byron at a Lake Geneva castle––the birthplace of Frankenstein––The Villa welcomes you into its deadly legacy.


First Line:

Somewhere around the time she started calling herself “Chess”, I realized I might actually hate my best friend.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins

When I read the blurb for The Villa and saw that it was being compared to Fleetwood Mac, the Manson murders, and Mary Shelly, I was interested. While I enjoyed the book, I was disappointed by it. Mari and Emily’s stories didn’t grab me the way I had hoped.

The Villa starts in present-day North Carolina. Emily is a successful author who has been battling a mysterious illness. She also is in the process of divorcing her husband, Matt, who is as greedy as they can get. So, when her best friend, Chess (who also happens to be a best-selling self help author), suggests a girl’s trip to Italy, Emily jumps at it. Emily discovers that the villa they are renting was the scene of a murder in 1974 and where a best-selling turned cult classic novel, Lilith Rising, was written. Jumping headfirst into investigating it, Emily soon uncovers clues that show a different story than what reporters told the world. She also discovers that things are different from what they seem with Chess. What did Emily find about the murders? And what is going on with Chess?

The other part of this book takes place in 1974 in London and Italy. Mari is in a questionable (to me, at least) relationship with a singer/songwriter. Pierce, desperate to hit it big, accepts an invitation to party/work at a villa in Italy. He would be working with one of the biggest rock stars in the world. Mari and her stepsister, Lara, come along and are swept into a world filled with sex and drugs. As tension rise, Mari starts writing a book, which will become an instant bestseller/cult classic, Lilith Rises. Then the unthinkable happens, and Pierce is killed. But, all isn’t what it seems. What happened the night Pierce died? Who killed him and why?

The Villa is a fast-paced book that mostly takes place in a villa in Italy. The author did a great job of keeping the book flow as it hopped from past to present.

The main characters were what made this book a meh book for me. I found them annoying to read. Even when everything was revealed (in both timelines), I still couldn’t care.

  • Emily—I did feel bad for her at the beginning of the book. She was going through a rough patch with writer’s block and her husband wanting half of her book’s earnings. Plus, she had been very sick for a year. But I started not to like her when she got to Italy and started becoming paranoid. Plus, she was boring. The only exciting thing she did was at the end of the book. Also, and I will discuss this later in the review, I couldn’t understand how she didn’t see what was going on with her soon-to-be ex. It was pretty obvious.
  • Chess—I didn’t like her. She rubbed me the wrong way for the entire book. I think she had good intentions, but how she did things was suspicious. She did another thing that is a massive spoiler if I said too much about it. It was an enormous breach of trust to do what she did, even if her heart was in the right place. I also felt she deliberately made it so Emily could never leave her.
  • Mari—My heart freaking broke for her. I couldn’t even imagine the pain she had gone through. The what-ifs were sprinkled throughout the book, more so towards the end, and she was getting sick of Pierce’s antics. I liked that she channeled all of her rage and pain into Lilith Rising. My only quibble was that she was almost too cool with things. Does Pierce want to sleep with Lara? Sure, but only once. Does Pierce want a threesome with Noel? Sure, Mari will do it.
  • Lara—-I didn’t care for her. I felt that everything she did up to a crucial scene was to hurt Mari. It is so hard to explain what happened between Mari and Lara that summer without giving away spoilers.

The secondary characters portrayed in The Villa did add some depth to the plotline. But I felt that Noel and Johnnie’s characters were fillers. Same with Emily’s agent and her ex-husband.

This book was a good fit for the mystery/thriller genre. The thriller angle was very slight and mostly overshadowed by the mystery angle. If the author had expanded the thriller angle to encompass the earlier parts of the book (or even the middle) instead of just the end, I would have enjoyed it more.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, and her ex-husband made me want to gouge out my eyes. I got very frustrated because I figured out both things (the sickness and the spoiler) reasonably early in the book. I couldn’t understand how Emily didn’t figure out the illness (or even her family!!). As for the other thing, Emily did figure it out shortly after I did, but she didn’t want to admit it to herself.

The storyline with Emily, Chess, the murders, the story Emily was writing, and the villa was also frustrating. But in a good way, well, most of the time. I understood why Chess wanted to change her brand and felt that co-writing with Emily would help her. I also understood why Emily didn’t want to do it. The mystery of the murders did help break Emily’s writer’s block, and she was possessive over it. But she also saw why having Chess’s name attached to her work would be good. The villa, in both storylines, did feel very calming to me. It did help both Mari and Emily to heal.

The storyline with Mari, Pierce, Noel, Johnnie, and Lara was my favorite storyline. Mainly because I knew what was coming; I wanted to see the events leading up to it. And you know what? It was good there. It was how I figured it would be. A disorganized mess of a storyline (and that is meant in a good way) that kept me guessing. And the twist at the end of that!!! I was not expecting it.

Mari, Pierce, and Lara’s storyline made me nauseous when reading it. I was surprised to find out Mari was as young as she was (barely 19). When I did the math, I couldn’t believe Mari was under 16 when she ran away with Pierce. Lara was, too (it just occurred to me). It made me sick to think about that.

Mari’s writing of Lilith Rising was very intense. As I said above, she channeled all that rage and pain into this book. I wish it were an actual book because I would have loved to read it.

There are trigger warnings in The Villa. There is semi-graphic sex, drugs, cheating, alcohol, attempted murder, graphic murder, talk of abortion, and talk of a miscarriage. If any of these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

I wasn’t sure if I liked the end of The Villa. Emily didn’t make the right choice. But I did love the twist on the 1974 plotline. Talk about leaving the best for last!!

Three Things I Liked About The Villa:

  1. Mari. She was the most likable out of all the characters.
  2. Chess and Emily’s friendship.
  3. The 1974 storyline before Pierce was murdered.

Three Things I Disliked About The Villa:

  1. Emily’s soon to be ex-husband. He was a dirtbag.
  2. Chess. She came across as super fake.
  3. Pierce. Ugh, so many things, but see my paragraph about the Pierce, Mari, and Lara storyline.

I would recommend The Villa to anyone over 21. There is language, sex, and sometimes graphic violence. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading The Villa, you will enjoy reading these books:

A Wicked Game (Ruthless Rivals: Book 3) by Kate Bateman

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Paperbacks

Date of publication: December 27th, 2022

Series: Ruthless Rivals

Genre: Romance, Historical Romance, Historical, Historical Fiction, Adult, Regency, Fiction, Military Fiction, Military Romance, Regency Romance

A Reckless Match—Book 1 (review here)

A Daring Pursuit—Book 2 (review here)

A Wicked Game—Book 3

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

If there’s one thing impossible for a Davies to resist, it’s a challenge from a Montgomery. . .

A teasing bet.

Shipwrecked and imprisoned thanks to an incorrect map, Captain Morgan Davies has returned to London to exact sweet revenge on the cartographer responsible for his suffering. He’s also vowed to claim the winner’s prize―three kisses―in the bet he made with his long-time nemesis, the prickly, smart-mouthed Harriet Montgomery. His incarceration has clarified his feelings for her, but convincing the infuriating woman he wants to marry her is going to be his greatest challenge yet. When Harriet’s revealed to be the very mapmaker he seeks, Morgan decides to combine revenge and seduction into one delightful package. . .

A dangerous enemy.

Harriet’s always wanted witty scoundrel Morgan, and now he’s back; as handsome and as taunting as ever. She has enough on her plate dealing with her father’s failing eyesight and a rival mapmaker copying her work to play wicked games with a dastardly Davies―however tempting he might be. But when a threat from Morgan’s past puts them both in danger, Harry discovers that she and Morgan might not be enemies at all . . .


First Line:

As he strode along Whitehall, Morgan repressed the urge to whistle a jaunty sea shanty.

A Wicked Game by Kate Bateman

I was excited when I was invited to review A Wicked Game. I had reviewed the previous two books in the series and wanted to read Morgan’s story. So, I did an odd sort of happy dance in my living room (I was dodging two kittens, two one years old and a six-year-old cat who were very curious about Mom going “Oh yeah, oh yeah” and fist-pumping). I was justified in my excitement about this book. It was the best book in the series.

A Wicked Game is the love story between Morgan Davies and Harriet Montgomery. Morgan is a Welsh naval captain who had been captured by the French for years before being freed. Harriet is Morgan’s childhood friend/nemesis. She is also the cartographer who drew the map that led to Morgan’s imprisonment. Now that Morgan is free, he is determined to win Harriet over. But that is easier said than done. Harriet is an independent woman who cares for her blind father and doesn’t trust Morgan. Add the Frenchman who captured and tortured Morgan, has eluded capture, and has been seen in London….looking for the cartographer who drew the map and Morgan. Will Morgan confess his feelings for Harriet? Will Harriet learn to trust Morgan and her feelings? Will the Frenchman find Harriet and Morgan?

I had gotten a glimpse into Harriet and Morgan’s characters in the previous two books. From what I saw, I liked them and couldn’t wait to see if they would end up together.

  • Morgan—-I don’t even know where to begin with him. As I mentioned above, I loved him in the previous two books and was looking forward to his story. It didn’t disappoint. I loved that Morgan was open about how he felt about Harriet. Even in the scenes at the ball (where he secured his three kisses), he knew he loved her. But the time spent in captivity brought those feelings more into focus. He was rare for a romance hero; he admitted his feelings pretty early on in the book and then spent the rest of the book trying to convince Harriet his feelings were genuine. That alone made this book so great to read.
  • Harriet—I liked Harriet, but there were times when I wanted to shake her. Like the night when Morgan promised her three kisses. I couldn’t believe that she thought he was joking. Harriet grew up with him. She should have known that he wasn’t playing with her. I liked that the author went in a different direction with her. Instead of making her part of the ton, she was a regular Miss who worked as a cartographer for the British government. It was an exciting change of pace from the usual Regency romances I read, and I loved it.

Several notable secondary characters added extra depth to the book. I loved seeing the characters from the previous books make appearances.

I am obsessed with Regency romance and can’t read enough of them. A Wicked Game fits perfectly into the historical romance genre. So it is a bonus when a book written in that genre is as well-written as this one was.

The storyline with Morgan, Harriet, and their love story was well written. I was 100% on team Morgan and loved that he was so much in touch with his feelings. He was willing to do anything to show Harriet that his feelings were genuine.

The storyline with Harriet, the copycat, her working for the government, and the Frenchman was riveting. The author did a fantastic job of showing how Harriet did her job, mainly how she drew the maps that would end up in the enemies’ hands. The author also showed that while she successfully ran her business, it was a male-dominated society, and she had to hide behind a male identity. That led to her issues with the rival printer, and in turn, that led to the Frenchman.

This wouldn’t be a good review if I didn’t mention the sex. There are a lot of sex and sexual situations in A Wicked Game. When Morgan started collecting his three kisses, he didn’t say what type. That first sexual situation was out of this world. The other sexual situations and sexual acts were either just as good or better than that first scene. I kept thinking, “Dang, Harriet, he’s a keeper.

The end of A Wicked Game kept me on edge. The author kept me guessing what would happen with Harriet and Morgan (even though I knew they would end up together). She wrapped up all the storylines in a way that satisfied me as a reader. I hope she will write more books in this world.

I would recommend A Wicked Game to anyone over 21. There are sex, sexual situations, mild violence, and no language.


Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: September 15th, 2020

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Audiobook, Suspense, Adult, Psychological Thriller, Contemporary, Crime

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

One night, Molly Clarke walked away from her life. The car abandoned miles from home. The note found at a nearby hotel. The shattered family that couldn’t be put back together. It happens all the time. Women disappear, desperate to leave their lives behind and start over. She doesn’t want to be found. Or at least, that’s the story. But is that what really happened to Molly Clarke?

The night Molly disappeared began with a storm, running out of gas, and a man in a truck offering her a ride to town. With him is a little girl who reminds her of the daughter she lost years ago. It feels like a sign. And Molly is overcome with the desire to be home, with her family—no matter how broken it is. She accepts the ride. But when the doors are locked shut, Molly begins to suspect she has made a terrible mistake.

When a new lead comes in after the search has ended, Molly’s daughter, Nicole, begins to wonder. Nothing about her mother’s disappearance makes sense.

Nicole returns to the small, desolate town where her mother was last seen to find the truth. The locals are kind and eager to help. The innkeeper. The bartender. Even the police. Until secrets begin to reveal themselves and she comes closer to the truth about that night—and the danger surrounding her.


First Line:

The sky grows dark as I drive.

Don’t Look for Me by Wendy Walker

I have had Don’t Look for Me on my TBR for a long time. I originally had gotten it as an ARC before the pandemic started. I ended up not reading it because I got overwhelmed with being stuck inside and teaching three heartbroken kids. I didn’t read anything for almost a year (until I sent my youngest back to school). So why review Don’t Look for Me now? It was two things. The first one: I decided to try and clean up any/all of my NetGalley reviews from that period (and earlier this year, yikes). If I had to pay for the book, it was all good; I’ll pay for it (which ties in with the second thing). The second: I decided to get Kindle Unlimited. The first thing I did was go through all sixty-something books and download what was on KU. And that brought me to reading and reviewing Don’t Look for Me. I absolutely couldn’t put this book down!! It was that good!!

Don’t Look for Me had two exciting storylines. One storyline follows Nicole and her quest to find her missing mother, Molly. As she digs into Molly’s disappearance, she sees similarities to another woman who went missing ten years previously. What is the connection between the disappearances?

The second storyline follows Molly, the events leading up to her kidnapping, and what happened to her afterward. Molly is drowning in guilt over her nine-year-old daughter’s accidental death four years ago. That death shattered her family, who all blamed her. The night she is kidnapped, Molly accepts a ride from a stranger with a daughter the same age her daughter was when Molly accidentally killed her. That ride leads to her imprisonment. As Molly plans to escape, she is forced to deal with her daughter’s death. Will Molly escape?

Don’t Look for Me is a fast-paced book set in the fictional town of Hastings, Connecticut. This book starts a little slow. That allowed the author to explain Molly’s backstory. Once the author explained, the book picked up the pace and didn’t slow until the explosive end.

The characters in Don’t Look for Me were not likable. I cannot stress this enough. Except for Molly, I was not too fond of any of the main characters. Each character had complex issues the author could go into without taking away from the storylines.

  • Molly—My heart broke for her. I want to clarify; she was the only character in this book I liked. She didn’t deserve the scorn and hatred of her husband and children over what happened. It. Was. An. Accident. I cannot stress this enough. I loved seeing her gradually come to terms with her child’s death and her role in it. I also liked that she resolved not to leave Alice behind when she finally escaped. Of course, she used her resources as a chemistry teacher to do something I had no idea could be done. Honestly, I wanted to google it but was afraid I would get put on some watch list….lol.
  • Nicole—I didn’t like her. Scratch that; I couldn’t stand her. The things she said to Molly during their last confrontation were horrible. She self-medicated with alcohol and sex. I figured out why she was doing that early in the book. But, as much as I didn’t like her, I did like her resolve to find Molly. Nicole had seen something in Molly’s notes that changed everything, and she was determined to bring her home. But, she was like a bull in a china shop with her investigation.
  • Jared Reyes—-He was shady AF. Right from the get-go, I didn’t like him. He was almost too helpful to Nicole. It made me wonder what he was hiding. I did think his backstory was awful. It made his dedication to his job and Chief Watkins understandable. Still, I thought something was off with him.
  • Alice—She annoyed me. No nine-year-old talked the way she did. I have a nine-year-old, and I know she doesn’t have the vocabulary that Alice did. I also thought she was very messed up. She kept bringing up Molly’s dead daughter and telling Molly how bad Molly was for causing her death. I had a WTF moment while reading that. What typical nine-year-old would say that?

The secondary characters in Don’t Look for Me added the extra oomph that the book needed. The author did a great job of having them cast red herrings all over the place.

Don’t Look for Me fit perfectly into the psychological thriller genre. I also thought it fit into the mystery genre (Molly’s disappearance).

The author amazingly wrote the storyline with Molly, her kidnapping, her family, and her youngest daughter’s death. I did not figure out who kidnapped Molly. So, when it was revealed at the end of the book, I was shocked. As for her youngest daughter’s death, I was heartbroken by how much pain Molly was in. And I was disgusted by how her husband and surviving children treated her. DISGUSTED!!! There was a point in this plotline that I wondered if Molly would have been better off staying with the kidnapper and Alice.

The storyline with Nicole, Molly’s kidnapping, and her detective work was also as well written as Molly’s. I didn’t like Nicole, but I understood she was hurting. I also understood that she felt guilt over Molly disappearing and blamed herself. I enjoyed reading about her working through her emotions and realizing that she might need help. She was a good detective. I didn’t see the twist in her plotline coming, either. That also took me by surprise.

The storyline with Molly, Alice, and the kidnapper was exciting but less interesting than the other two main storylines. Again, another twist in this book took me by surprise. I didn’t expect what happened to happen.

The end of Don’t Look for Me was chaotic. The author brought together and then closed everything storyline in the book. She did it in such a way that I was left satisfied as a reader. I loved the epilogue but didn’t like what Molly felt she had to or wanted to do. But it was a closure I didn’t know I needed until I read it.

I recommend Don’t Look for Me to anyone over 21. There is language, mild to moderate violence, and sexual situations.

I want to thank NetGalley, St. Martin’s Press, and Wendy Walker for allowing me to read and review this book. I got this book first as an ARC and then downloaded it on KU to read.


If you enjoyed reading Don’t Look for Me, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: July 19th, 2022

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Fiction, Contemporary Romance, Audiobook, Women’s Fiction, Chick Lit, Adult, Adult Fiction, Humor, Realistic Humor

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | Indigo | Apple Books | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

She’s got his back.
Hannah Brooks looks more like a kindergarten teacher than somebody who could kill you with a wine bottle opener. Or a ballpoint pen. Or a dinner napkin. But the truth is, she’s an Executive Protection Agent (aka “bodyguard”), and she just got hired to protect superstar actor Jack Stapleton from his middle-aged, corgi-breeding stalker.

He’s got her heart.
Jack Stapleton’s a household name—captured by paparazzi on beaches the world over, famous for, among other things, rising out of the waves in all manner of clingy board shorts and glistening like a Roman deity. But a few years back, in the wake of a family tragedy, he dropped from the public eye and went off the grid.

They’ve got a secret.
When Jack’s mom gets sick, he comes home to the family’s Texas ranch to help out. Only one catch: He doesn’t want his family to know about his stalker. Or the bodyguard thing. And so Hannah—against her will and her better judgment—finds herself pretending to be Jack’s girlfriend as a cover. Even though her ex, like a jerk, says no one will believe it.

What could possibly go wrong???
Hannah hardly believes it, herself. But the more time she spends with Jack, the more real it all starts to seem. And there lies the heartbreak. Because it’s easy for Hannah to protect Jack. But protecting her own, long-neglected heart? That’s the hardest thing she’s ever done.


First Line:

My mother’s dying wish was for me to take a vacation.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

I was over the moon when I got the publisher’s invitation to review The Bodyguard. I love Katherine Center’s books. So, I didn’t even think about it when I accepted the invitation. But life happens, and I put The Bodyguard on the back burner as I dealt with some significant issues that I had going on. I am glad I finally got to read this book because it was amazing!!

Hannah is an Executive Protection Agent (aka a bodyguard) and is good at what she does. People underestimate her because she is small and blends into the background. Jack is a movie star who has been in seclusion since his brother was killed in a car accident a few years earlier. Hannah is assigned to Jack when he returns home to help out his family when his mother is diagnosed with cancer. His stalker, a middle-aged corgi breeder who knits sweaters, has found out he is home and has made some demands of him. But Jack doesn’t want a bodyguard, and his family doesn’t know about the stalker. So Jack makes a deal with Hannah; she needs to pretend to be his girlfriend, and his family cannot find out that he has a stalker. Hannah agrees but isn’t prepared for how comfortable she is with his family and Jack. The more time she spends with Jack, the more she likes him. What will happen when the stalker threat is gone? Will Hannah and Jack figure out that they are meant for each other? Or will their time at the ranch become a memory?

The Bodyguard is a medium to fast-paced book that is set in and around the city of Houston. The pacing of this book was perfect. It didn’t go so fast that I had issues following the plotline, and it also slowed down enough to process certain scenes. I also loved that the author set it in and around Houston. Houston has been a place I have wanted to visit (and is on my USA bucket list).

The main characters made this book with their witty dialogue and interchanges. There were characters that I would have loved to meet (if in real life).

  • Hannah—The Bodyguard didn’t start so well for her. Her mother died, and her coworker/boyfriend dumped her on the night of the funeral. Then, she finds out that her best friend/coworker has been sleeping with him. I wondered how she didn’t snap (because I would have). I felt awful for her. Hannah was tough but sweet. I loved how she got starstruck when she first met Jack. She reacted to how I pictured a regular person would act when meeting someone famous. I also loved her vulnerable side. She was hurting from everything that happened and didn’t have a chance to process it. Overall, she was just a nice person. Of course, she was tough and proved it towards the end of the book. Oh, and I get how insecure she was with Jack. She had a tough upbringing (her mom chose abusive men over her daughter). She didn’t know if she could trust him or not.
  • Jack—He took a little more time to get to know in this book. Not that I didn’t like him, but he wasn’t very open with personal things (Hannah was an open book). Like his brother’s death. From his reactions, I knew that something wasn’t right about it. And it took until almost halfway through for the truth to come out. I also liked that the author didn’t have Jack living a hunky-dory life after his brother died. He had issues (mainly PTSD and anxiety). The author handled his issues delicately and allowed them to be worked on throughout the book (notice I didn’t say worked out). I did think that his being super casual about the corgi stalker wasn’t cool. He did realize how deranged she was once Hannah got threatened.

The secondary characters brought depth and extra life to the book. I loved everyone in this book. Well, not everyone. I thought that Jack’s older brother was a d-tickle for how he treated Jack (he assumed something, and it came back to bite him). Hannah’s ex-boyfriend/coworker and her ex-best friend/coworker were awful. I couldn’t believe what they both said to her (each separately and each different thing). It stung me as a reader.

The Bodyguard fits perfectly into the romance genre. Jack and Hannah had a slow-burn romance forced by their proximity. While I knew what Hannah was feeling (the author told the book from her POV), I couldn’t understand what Jack was feeling. One scene at the end, where Jack told Hannah to get lost after inviting her to his house for a date, broke my heart. But I am glad that Hannah had second thoughts about what he said because if she didn’t, things would have ended differently.

The storyline with Hannah, her coworkers, and the fallout from her breakup was hilarious and sad. What upset me was not what her ex said to her (and it was a dick thing to say) but what her supposed best friend said. I liked how everything worked out in the end and how her ex ended up with no one (teaches him to be a jerk!!).

The storyline with Hannah, her coworkers, and the fallout from her breakup was hilarious and sad. What upset me was not what her ex said to her (and it was a dick thing to say) but what her supposed best friend said. I liked how everything worked out in the end and how her ex ended up with no one (teaches him to be a jerk!!).

The end of The Bodyguard had me almost in tears. The author wrapped up each storyline and did it in such a way that it made me smile. But I almost had a heart attack when Hannah and Jack’s storyline was wrapped up. What Hannah said made me go, “What the heck” for a minute before I read the following line. That was so not funny.

I would recommend The Bodyguard to anyone over 21. There is mild language, violence, and mild sexual situations.


If you enjoyed reading The Bodyguard, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Split by Sharon Bolton

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: April 28th, 2020

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Fiction, Mystery Thriller, Crime, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Audiobook, Health, Mental Health, Mental Illness

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tense, gripping and with a twist you won’t see coming, Sharon Bolton is back in an explosive new standalone thriller about a woman on the run in The Split.

No matter how far you run, some secrets will always catch up with you…

The remote Antarctic island of South Georgia is about to send off its last boat of the summer – which signifies safety to resident glaciologist Felicity Lloyd.

Felicity lives in fear – fear that her ex-husband Freddie will find her, even out here. She took a job on this isolated island to hide from him, but now that he’s out of prison, having served a term for murder, she knows he won’t give up until he finds her.

But a doctor delving into the background of Felicity and Freddie’s relationship, back in Cambridge, learns that Felicity has been on the edge for a long time. Heading to South Georgia himself to try and get to her first is the only way he can think of to help her.


First Line:

It’s not a ship. It’s an iceberg.

The Split by Sharon Bolton

When I got the invite to review The Split, I wasn’t sure what I would be reading. The blurb described it as a woman on the run from an abusive ex-husband. Since I like reading thrillers like that, I accepted the invitation. But as I got into the book, I began to realize that this book was nothing like the blurb. I was a little grumpy about that, but at the same time, I loved the direction this book was going.

The Split had two exciting plotlines. Felicity is a glaciologist working at her dream location – South Georgia in the Antarctic. But Felicity constantly looks over her shoulder after getting a letter from Freddie. Freddie has been released from prison and is coming to South Georgia to meet with Felicity.

The secondary plotline follows a doctor, Joe, who treats Felicity for fugue states and anxiety months before she is due to leave. Joe, recovering mentally and psychically from being attacked by an obsessive patient, notices several inconsistencies in Felicity’s mental state. Felicity needs a good mental health evaluation to accept the job in the Antarctic. Soon, Felicity is the prime suspect in a series of murders of homeless people across Cambridge. With no evidence (of the murders or the mental illness Joe suspects), Felicity is cleared to go to South Georgia. But, soon after she leaves, a huge bombshell is dropped. Joe immediately leaves to find Felicity.

Along with his police detective mother, Joe leaves for South Georgia, hoping to get to her in time. What did Joe discover? Is Felicity the murderer? Who is Freddie, and what does he want from Felicity?

The Split is a fast-paced psychological thriller set in both Cambridge, England, and South Georgia Island, Antarctic. I was thrilled to read a book that was set in the Antarctic. The author did a great job describing the island and letting the readers know how isolated it was.

The main characters in this book were well-fleshed out. I could connect with each character, which is not something I usually do.

  • Felicity—At first, I was a little ambivalent about her. But as her character grew and I got a better handle on her personality, I started to like her. When her entire backstory was revealed, I was horrified. I cried. How could someone do that to a baby? I do wish that the author had talked more about Felicity’s job. I found her being a glaciologist fascinating.
  • Joe—I will admit this, but I got creeper vibes from him at first. In my eyes, he became overly attentive to her. But, the more I read about him (and it was complicated with the jumping around), the more convinced I became that he knew something was wrong with Felicity and he wanted to help her. It became more apparent when he made the connection and then jetted to South Georgia Island.
  • Freddie—While he wasn’t in most of the book (the beginning, a couple of chapters in the middle, and the entire end), I felt he was a significant presence. He was Felicity’s boogeyman. But I didn’t get that feeling during his scenes. So, I settled down and waited. I won’t say much more, but I will say that you need to view his character with open eyes and mind.

The secondary characters added more depth to the book. From Bamber to Shane to Joe’s police detective mother, I eagerly waited for them to show up.

The Split fits perfectly into the thriller/suspense/mystery genres. I was enthralled with what I was reading. I couldn’t put this book down.

The storyline with Felicity and Freddie was heartbreaking. It took me a while to fully understand what was happening (because the book kept bouncing around from past to present). I can’t say what was going on because of the spoilers. There is a massive twist in that plotline that I didn’t see coming. It took me by surprise. After that twist, there were several other twists. While they weren’t as jaw-dropping as the main one, they were still shocking into themselves.

The storyline with Felicity, Joe, the homeless people, his mother, and the murders was interesting. I wish it had focused more on Joe and Felicity’s therapy sessions, but I did understand why the author wrote it the way she did. It was a giant red herring!! I had a feeling I knew who was murdering the homeless people, but I didn’t know why. Well, that feeling turned out to be wrong. Again, a big twist in the plotline that I didn’t see coming. Also, the twist with what Joe figured out about Felicity. I did not see it coming. But once it was revealed, it made so much sense!! I felt like kicking myself after the book was over.

There are trigger warnings in The Split, but some are spoilers. The one I can reveal is murder. The other ones will give away too much about what is going on.

The end of The Split almost made me have an anxiety attack. But, the author calmed me by wrapping each storyline up in a way that did the book justice.

I would recommend The Split for anyone over 21. There are mentions of sex and sexual behavior, language, and violence. Also, see my trigger warning paragraph for other triggers (or, in this case, lack of them because of spoilers).


If you enjoyed reading The Split, you will enjoy reading these books:

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

Publisher: Macmillan-Tor/Forge, Tor Nightfire

Date of publication: October 11th, 2022

Genre: Horror, Gothic, Historical, Historical Fiction, Mystery, Fiction, Religion, Cults, Adult, Thriller, Fantasy

Purchase Links: Kindle | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

A heart-pounding tale of faith and family, with a devastating twist

“A great day is upon us. He is coming. The world will be washed away.”

On the wind-battered isle of Altnaharra, off the wildest coast of Scotland, a clan prepares to bring about the end of the world and its imminent rebirth.

The Adder is coming and one of their number will inherit its powers. They all want the honor, but young Eve is willing to do anything for the distinction.

A reckoning beyond Eve’s imagination begins when Chief Inspector Black arrives to investigate a brutal murder and their sacred ceremony goes terribly wrong.

And soon all the secrets of Altnaharra will be uncovered.


First Line:

My heart is a dark passage, lined with ranks of gleaming jars.

Little Eve by Catriona Ward

When I got the invite from Tor to read Little Eve, I had a fan girl moment. I started jumping up and down and yelling, “I got it!! I got it!!“. I rarely have that type of reaction to getting a book invite. But this was different. I had recently read (and reviewed) The House on Needless Street. So, it was a given that I would accept this book. I am glad that I did because this book was a great read.

Little Eve is the story of Evelyn (aka Eve). Eve grew up on an isolated island off the coast of Scotland. Living with her Uncle, his two consorts, and three other children, her life revolves around chores, exercise, school, and a ritual that her Uncle oversees – who is going to become the next Adder? Eve is determined to become the next Adder, even if that means isolating everyone from the village they used to frequent. But Eve has discovered something about her Uncle that changes how she views her life. What has she found, and how is it going to affect her? How is it going to affect her family? And who is Uncle, and why does he have such power over everyone?

There are trigger warnings in Little Eve. There are graphic examples of child abuse (children being starved, having their mouths tarred shut, being maimed, exercise as punishment, alluded sexual abuse, and medical/physical needs not being met). If that triggers you, I suggest not reading this book.

Little Eve started slow and gradually amped up the speed of the book. It was never lightning fast which worked with how the story was.

Little Eve takes place on an island called Altnaharra in Scotland and its neighboring village. I love books set in Scotland, and this book didn’t dampen my love of it.

I needed help telling the characters apart at the beginning of the book. The author labeled the chapters with the names and years in which the book took place. But still, I couldn’t keep them straight in my head.

  • Eve—I wasn’t sure about her when the book started. She was a wild child who marched to the beat of her own drummer, which was frowned upon in 1920s Scotland. But, as the book went on, I began to see how she acted was more of a survival technique than being different. By the time of the murders, she had thrown off Uncle’s brainwashing techniques and was desperate to help her family. There is so much more that I can say, but I will say this – read the beginning of the book with a very open mind. Not everything is how it seems, and it will become crystal clear as the book progresses.
  • Uncle—I went back and forth about having him as one of the main characters. I decided he would be one because of his overwhelming presence in the book. The more the author revealed about him, the less I liked him. Uncle wasn’t a nice man, and he wielded his power over the children in ways that made me sick. When Nora finally told all towards the end of the book, I wanted to throw up.
  • Nora—-She was another one I went back and forth about adding as a main character. And, like Uncle, I chose to do it since she was a colossal figure in the book in so many ways. I couldn’t understand why Nora was almost constantly pregnant during the book or kept losing the babies. It didn’t hit me until about halfway through what Uncle was doing and why Nora kept losing the babies. I felt so bad for her, and I understood her actions at the end of the book.
  • Dinah—She was a third of the triad of characters that I waffled on putting as the main character. She was Eve’s Jiminy Cricket in some ways. Everything Eve did for the entire book was mainly for Dinah. Dinah did love Eve, but she didn’t understand her.

A ton of secondary characters in Little Eve add extra depth to the book. The ones that stood out the most to me were Abel, Jaime, and Ruby.

Little Eve fits perfectly into the Gothic horror genre. Catriona Ward is becoming one of my favorite authors of this genre. She writes it so beautifully.

The storyline with Eve, Uncle, the other residents of the island, and everything that was happening on the island was well written. The author did a fantastic job of keeping me on edge with everything. I was horrified at the killings and how Dinah was maimed. I was also horrified at the glimpses of abuse everyone on that island went through. I wasn’t expecting that storyline to end the way it did because of how chaotically it was written. As I stated above, keep a very open mind about what is happening. Things will explain themselves at the end of the book.

The storyline with Eve and Chief Inspector Black was interesting. Chief Inspector Black had an idea of what was happening on the island and did everything to get Eve out of there. I loved that the author included that he was trying to use forensic science!! Of course, that storyline did get sad, but he was vindicated by the end of the book.

The end of Little Eve was terrific. There were a few massive twists that I didn’t see (or want to see coming). I left reading this book feeling like the author had put me through the wringer.

Three Things I Liked About Little Eve:

  1. The author. I am a massive fan of her books.
  2. It is set in Scotland.
  3. The storylines. They were creepy and kept me guessing.

Three Things I Disliked About Little Eve:

  1. Child abuse. The author didn’t lay it on thick, but it was stated as a matter of fact.
  2. Uncle. He gave me the heebie-jeebies.
  3. What happened to Chief Inspector Black. It was a travesty, and I was not happy about it.

I would recommend Little Eve to anyone over 21. There is mild language, graphic violence, and no sex. Also, see the trigger warnings at the beginning of the review.


If you enjoyed reading Little Eve, you will enjoy reading these books:

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

Publisher: Atria Books, Atria/Emily Bestler Books

Date of publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Contemporary, Adult, Book Club, Feminism, New York

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

This is not just another novel about a dead girl. Two women—one alive, one dead—are brought together in the dark underbelly of New York City to solve a tragic murder.

When she arrived in New York on her eighteenth birthday carrying nothing but $600 cash and a stolen camera, Alice Lee was looking for a fresh start. Now, just one month later, she is the city’s latest Jane Doe. She may be dead but that doesn’t mean her story is over.

Meanwhile, Ruby Jones is also trying to reinvent herself. After travelling halfway around the world, she’s lonelier than ever in the Big Apple. Until she stumbles upon a woman’s body by the Hudson River, and suddenly finds herself unbreakably tied to the unknown dead woman.

Alice is sure Ruby is the key to solving the mystery of her short life and tragic death. Ruby just wants to forget what she saw…but she can’t seem to stop thinking about the young woman she found. If she keeps looking, can she give this unidentified Jane Doe the ending and closure she deserves?

A “heartbreaking, beautiful, and hugely important novel” (Rosie Walsh, New York Times bestselling author), Before You Knew My Name doesn’t just wonder whodunnit—it also asks who was she? And what did she leave behind?


First Line:

You will already have an idea of me. There are enough of us dead girls out there.

Before You Knew My Name by Jacqueline Bublitz

I am a huge true crime junkie. I listen to various podcasts, watch ID Discover, and read fictional mysteries/suspense/thrillers. So, when I got the Before You Knew My Name invite, I accepted it. No hesitation, I downloaded this book to my Kindle in record time. I am glad I did because I enjoyed reading this book a lot.

Before You Knew My Name was an exciting book. This was the story of Alice, an eighteen-year-old girl from Wisconsin who had traveled to New York City. Alice was murdered and left for dead on a rocky pier. She is determined to help the woman who discovered her, Ruby, find her murderer and get justice. But this is also the story of Ruby. Ruby, from Australia, had been stuck in a rut for a while when she decided she needed a new start. And for her, it means traveling to New York City. But Ruby is the one who discovers Alice’s body, and Ruby is the one who pushes the police for answers. Will Ruby find herself in New York City? Will Alice get her justice?

There are trigger warnings in this book. The trigger warning is underage sexual contact/situations, cheating, mentions of sexual abuse, suicide, child abuse, and drinking. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading this book.

Before You Knew My Name was a medium-fast-paced book set in New York City. It starts fast, slows down in the middle of the book, and then picks up towards the end. The pacing was perfect for this book. Any faster, and I would have had an issue keeping up. Any slower, and the book would have dragged.

I wasn’t sure what to make of Alice and Ruby when they were both introduced. Alice seemed like an unreliable narrator. At the beginning of her story, she glossed over a lot. Ruby was a hot mess, and you know what? I related to her.

  • Alice— As I mentioned above, I wasn’t too sure about Alice at the beginning of her storyline. She was very unreliable and kept glossing over her earlier years. But, as the book went on and she opened up about her life pre-New York City, I started to like her. I did think she was too trusting (mainly with Noah, but he ended up being a teddy bear). When the killer killed her, it did hit me hard. I was a freaking mess. Then I got mad and hoped the police would catch the killer soon.
  • Ruby—I liked her right from the beginning. She was a hot mess but relatable (as I described above). I wasn’t that shocked that she up and left Melbourne. She needed a new start. But her fresh start didn’t exactly go as planned when she found Alice. I loved how her character grew after finding Alice. She became almost obsessed with finding the killer, and she did have a great support system (a found family) in New York. My only quibble with her was Ash. He was like a drug to her, and she needed to let him go.

There were many memorable secondary characters in Before You Knew My Name. They each brought added depth to the plotline. There were some that I wished had more book time (Noah and Tina were two), and others (like Alice’s teacher/lover) needed less book time.

Before You Knew My Name was a combination of mystery and thriller. It fits perfectly into those genres. I think there could have been a tad more thriller, but that’s just me.

Alice’s storyline was poignant. But it also made me unbelievably mad during some parts. Alice had some awful things happen to her, but she dealt with them with a grace that I know I wouldn’t have had. But, once she arrived in New York with that camera and found Noah, she turned into a different girl. She began to see a future. And that is what made me so unbelievably angry when she was murdered. The killer snuffed out her light too soon.

Ruby’s storyline was just as poignant but in a different way. She needed a change. She was stagnating in her life in Australia. So, her going to New York City and starting over was good. And, in a way, finding Alice’s body was a good thing too. Because if she didn’t, she would have never gone to the support group. She would have never met Lennie, and she would have never joined The Death Club. She also would have never met Josh, Susan, or even Noah.

The storyline with Alice’s killer was interesting. The author kept his identity and motive under wraps until almost the end of the book. Ruby had a hand leading the detectives to him when she remembered something crucial about the night she found Alice.

The end of Before You Knew My Name was poignant. The author was able to merge all the storylines, and she ended them in a way that tugged at my heartstrings. From beginning to end, this book will make you think about all the John and Jane Does out there.

Three Reasons You Should Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. It was a true mystery. The author kept Alice’s killer under wraps until the end.
  2. The book had a great pace to it. It made reading and keeping track of the different storylines very easy.
  3. The characters were very relatable.

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read Before You Knew My Name:

  1. The trigger warnings.
  2. Alice being murdered. I was so angry about that (even though I knew it would happen).
  3. Ruby being a hot mess.

I would recommend Before You Knew My Name to anyone over 21. There is language, nongraphic sexual content, and violence. Also, see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading Before You Knew My Name, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Prisoner by B.A. Paris

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of Publication: November 1st, 2022

Genre: Thriller, Mystery, Thriller Mystery, Fiction, Psychological Thriller, Suspense, Adult, Contemporary, Audiobook, Crime

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

Amelie has always been a survivor, from losing her parents as a child in Paris to making it on her own in London. As she builds a life for herself, she is swept up into a glamorous lifestyle where she married the handsome billionaire Ned Hawthorne.

But then, Amelie wakes up in a pitch-black room, not knowing where she is. Why has she been taken? Who are her mysterious captors? And why does she soon feel safer here, imprisoned, than she had begun to feel with her husband Ned?

With Behind Closed Doors, B.A. Paris takes the psychological thriller to shocking new heights. Now she’ll hold you captive with this stunning new thriller about one woman wed into a family with deadly intentions.


First Line:

I sense the shift of air beneath my nose, a millisecond before something-thick, sticky tape-is clamped over my mouth, silencing the scream that would have ripped from me.

The Prisoner by B.A. Paris

I am a massive fan of psychological suspense. I love having my mind messed with while reading a book (outside the book, not so much). I have my favorite authors and B.A. Paris happens to be on my top ten list. So, any book from her gets automatic approval on my end. And I am thrilled that I got to read this book. It was that good!! In one of my WWW Wednesday posts, I said it took under 2 hours to read. I could not put it down.

The Prisoner had an exciting plotline. Amelie is a tough cookie. She has to be, surviving the death of her parents and trying to make it on her own, at 16, in London. Thankfully, she meets an angel named Caroline, who takes her under her wing and allows Amelie to flourish. After getting a job working for Ned Hawthorne, a billionaire playboy, Amelie is approached by him with a business deal: Marry him for one year, and he will pay her enough money to cover all of her university fees and beyond. But there is a sinister reason why Ned wants to marry her, and Amelie finds that out soon after the wedding. With Ned becoming unstable and isolated from her friends, Amelie wonders when he will kill her. Things come to a head when Amelie and Ned are kidnapped, blindfolded, and taken to an unknown location. But, for some reason, Amelie feels safe with the kidnappers. Who kidnapped Ned and Amelie? What is their end game?

The Prisoner is a fast-paced book that mainly takes place in London. But the last scenes take place in New Zealand (for reasons I cannot get into, spoilers!!!).

There are trigger warnings in this book. The most obvious one is kidnapping. The other ones are the death of a parent from cancer, the death of a parent during childbirth, the death of a sibling, sexual harassment, talk of rape (several times), physical abuse, mental abuse, murder, and discussion of murder. If any of these trigger you, I suggest not reading the book.

I enjoyed the main characters in The Prisoner. They were well-written and, for the most part, well-fleshed out.

  • Amelie: I liked her a lot. She cared deeply for her friends and never stopped trying to protect them from Ned and his cohorts. I loved her post-nuptial prenup. It was brilliant!! I also loved how she tried to stay one step ahead of Ned after discovering what a scumbag he was. There was a point in the book where I kept yelling (in my head), “Trust your instincts” regarding the kidnappers. She turned into a total boss at the end of the book too!!! I loved her.
  • Ned: God, was he sleazy. He didn’t come across like that at the beginning of the book. Instead, Ned was very charming. It was strange how he asked Amelie to marry him and how he laid it out. But his sleaziness wasn’t on display until after they married, and Ned isolated her from her friends. The things he did to her and threatened her with made my skin crawl. And after they were kidnapped, Ned quickly told them to kill her instead of him. He deserved everything he got and then some in this book.
  • The kidnappers: I can’t give names, but I was shocked at who they were. After I got over that shock, different parts of the kidnapping made sense. I also understood why they did what they did. If someone I loved had been targeted by Ned and then disappeared, I think I would have had the same reaction. Plus, they had the resources (all I will say about that).

A bunch of notable secondary characters added extra depth and understanding to the kidnapping storyline and Amelie’s recovery storyline. I wish some had stuck around and the author had introduced others earlier in the book.

The Prisoner was a perfect fit for the psychological suspense genre. It messed with my head pretty well. Also, add to that is that I didn’t want to put the book down. I needed to find out who the kidnappers were, why they did what they did, why Amelie was treated differently (even though I had a slight suspicion), and what Amelie’s recovery would be like.

The storyline with Amelie and her life before the kidnapping was well written. I loved seeing a carefree Amelie who had a great life and friends. She might have been a little naive, but her heart was in the right place. She had endured so much up to meeting Ned that all I could think was, “Man, she needs a break.” Then she met Ned, found out what her friend accused him of (along with a couple of other girls), and her life went sideways. Still, it was nice to see how she was before.

The storyline with Amelie, her kidnapping, and her life afterward broke my heart. This bright, cheerful girl who had her life ahead of herself turned into a shadow of herself. It didn’t matter if her kidnappers kept her safe from Ned; it was still a kidnapping. She still had to deal with everything by herself. I did like the two twists that the author threw into that storyline. One was about her deceased parents, and the other was about the kidnappers’ identity (plus why they did it). Both made me go, “Oh snap,” when it was revealed. And you know, I don’t blame her for thinking she had Stockholm Syndrome. I would have felt the same way.

The end of The Prisoner both blew me away and disappointed me. It blew me away because of who the kidnappers were. I did have a slight feeling it was those people but nothing concrete. The disappointment angle came with what Amelie decided to do at the very end. She had to get home because of an incriminating letter, but at the same time, she made plans to see that person again. I was like, “Are YOU SERIOUS? No wonder you think you have Stockholm Syndrome.” It was 100% frustrating for me to read because of the hint of a love connection. Ewww, no. Girlfriend needs therapy, not dating that person!!!!

Three Reasons You Should Read The Prisoner:

  1. It was a good read. It kept me glued to the book.
  2. Amelie. She was a tough cookie.
  3. The twist at the end of the book

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read The Prisoner:

  1. Ned. He was a dirtbag.
  2. The triggers.
  3. At the end of the book, the implied love connection (well, at least to me, it was implied).

I would recommend The Prisoner to anyone over 21. There is language, sex (implied but not discussed), and moderate violence. Also, see my trigger warning.


If you enjoyed reading The Prisoner, you will enjoy reading these books:

All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine, Bantam

Date of publication: September 6th, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Mystery Thriller, Fiction, Contemporary, Adult, Audiobook, Suspense, Relationships, Crime

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powells | IndieBound | Indigo | BetterWorldBooks

Goodreads Synopsis:

The weekend getaway at the gorgeous manor hotel should have been perfect. But Becca is freshly smarting from her husband Blake’s betrayal and knows this is just an expensive attempt at an apology. She may not be ready to forgive him, but the drinks are strong, the estate is stunning, and the weekend has an elaborate 1920s murder mystery theme. She decides to get into the spirit of things and enjoy their stay. What could go wrong?

Before long, the game is afoot: famed speakeasy songstress Ida Crooner is found “murdered,” and it’s up to the guests to sniff out which of them might be the culprit. Playing the role of Miss Debbie Taunte, an ingenue with a dark past, Becca dives into the world of pun-heavy clues, hammy acting, and secret passages, hoping to at least take her mind off her marital troubles.

Then, the morning after they arrive, the actress playing Ida’s maid fails to reappear for her role. The game’s organizer–that’s Miss Ann Thrope to you–assumes the young woman’s flakiness is to blame, but when snooping for clues as “Debbie,” Becca finds evidence she may not have left of her own free will.


First Line:

The mansion changed at night, all the rigid lines and hard surfaces of the daytime melting into something softer, more secret, a little strange.

All Dressed Up by Jilly Gagnon

When I read the plot for All Dressed Up, I was immediately intrigued- a mystery that takes place during an immersive 1920s-themed murder mystery. I couldn’t hit that accept button fast enough. I was looking forward to reading bad puns (and yes, there were plenty) and solving the actress’s disappearance. But, this book fell short of my expectations. Not to say I didn’t like it (I did), but it was the characters (mainly Becca) who made me “meh” about this book. Everything else was perfect.

All Dressed Up did have an enjoyable and exciting plotline. The story centers around Becca and her husband, Blake. Blake had arranged a weekend getaway to an immersive murder mystery. But Becca isn’t exactly thrilled about it. Blake and herself are going through a rough patch in their marriage, and she is still furious about what happened. But once there, the magic of the mansion and the mystery draw her in. But, a real-life mystery draws her in when one of the actresses goes missing. Becca is determined to find out what happened to her. But is she getting in over her head? Can Becca solve the fictional murder mystery as well as the real-life one? And, while she’s at it, can she forgive her husband for what he did?

All Dressed Up is a fast-paced mystery that takes place on in a mansion somewhere in New York state. I didn’t catch the town’s name (or there wasn’t one). But with the talk of New York City and going upstate, I figured it was in New York.

The characters are the main reason I was “meh” about All Dressed Up. Individually, they all got on my nerves, and together, that nerve was stretched to the max. I will not discuss each character. I will focus on the main ones, Becca and Blake.

  • Becca: I had mixed feelings about Becca. On the one hand, she was a great detective (both in and out of character). She genuinely cared about the missing maid. But her detective work bordered on obsessive. However, she was awful to Blake. Yes, I get that he cheated on her, and I understood her behavior for the first 25% of the book. But every overture he made, be it doing something she liked and that made him uncomfortable, she was awful to him about. She was mean and spiteful, which didn’t gel with me.
  • Blake: Out of all the characters, I did like him the best. He acknowledged and owned that he screwed up badly. He was willing to do whatever it took to work on his marriage. But there is a line between constantly apologizing for one thing and taking the brunt of Becca’s anger for everything. Becca crossed that line before the book started.

As I mentioned above, the secondary characters got on my nerves as much as the main ones. But, they did add extra depth to the plotline and did provide a few red herrings to the mystery.

All Dressed Up fit perfectly into the mystery and suspense genres. The author did a fantastic job of keeping me guessing who the killer was in the game and why the maid went missing. As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, several red herrings were thrown out by the secondary characters.

The author wrote the main storyline well with Becca, the other guests, and the fake mystery. I loved the puns (even if they were groan-worthy at times). I also really liked how the people running the show made the guests work for the clues. Because, on my end, I am also trying to figure out who the killer was. I made notes, and it wasn’t who I thought it was.

The other storyline was well written, with Becca investigating the actress/maid’s disappearance. The author did keep me guessing about what happened to her. I did figure out what happened by the middle of the book, but I didn’t expect who. Talk about a big twist in the plot there. A “no freaking way” was thrown out when it was revealed. And the reason this person did it was heartbreaking.

The end of All Dressed Up was typical of the genre. I liked how the author revealed who the killer was in the fake mystery, why the maid disappeared, and who was behind it. As I mentioned above, it was a twist that I didn’t see coming. Also, what I didn’t see coming was something to do with Becca and Blake. I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but it did tie up that storyline.

Three Reasons You Should Read All Dressed Up:

  1. The murder mystery storyline.
  2. The puns. As bad as they were, I was dying laughing when they came up.
  3. The twist at the end of the book. I didn’t see that coming..

Three Reasons You Shouldn’t Read All Dressed Up:

  1. Becca. I felt terrible for her, but I couldn’t stand her.
  2. Blake. I explained why above.
  3. The other characters. They got on my nerves.

I would recommend All Dressed Up to anyone over 16. There is no sex, mild language, and mild to moderate violence.


If you enjoyed reading All Dressed Up, you will enjoy reading these books:

The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Date of publication: November 15th, 2022

Genre: Fantasy, Magical Realism, Young Adult, Fiction, Paranormal, Contemporary, Family, Mystery, Adult

Purchase Links: Amazon | Audible | B&N | AbeBooks | Alibris | Powell’s | IndieBound | Indigo

Goodreads Synopsis:

Ohioana Book Award finalist Ruth Emmie Lang returns with a new cast of ordinary characters with extraordinary abilities.

Five years ago, Nora Wilder disappeared. The older of her two daughters, Zadie, should have seen it coming, because she can literally see things coming. But not even her psychic abilities were able to prevent their mother from vanishing one morning.

Zadie’s estranged younger sister, Finn, can’t see into the future, but she has an uncannily good memory, so good that she remembers not only her own memories, but the echoes of memories other people have left behind. On the afternoon of her graduation party, Finn is seized by an “echo” more powerful than anything she’s experienced before: a woman singing a song she recognizes, a song about a bird…

When Finn wakes up alone in an aviary with no idea of how she got there, she realizes who the memory belongs to: Nora.

Now, it’s up to Finn to convince her sister that not only is their mom still out there, but that she wants to be found. Against Zadie’s better judgement, she and Finn hit the highway, using Finn’s echoes to retrace Nora’s footsteps and uncover the answer to the question that has been haunting them for years: Why did she leave?

But the more time Finn spends in their mother’s past, the harder it is for her to return to the present, to return to herself. As Zadie feels her sister start to slip away, she will have to decide what lengths she is willing to go to to find their mother, knowing that if she chooses wrong, she could lose them both for good.


First Line:

Nora Wilder was supposed to be a bird.

The Wilderwomen by Ruth Emmie Lang

When I first read the synopsis of The Wilderwomen, I was very intrigued. I am a big fan of anything fantasy or paranormal, and with what the blurb said, it was right up my alley. And it was. But, as I got into the book, I realized that it wasn’t what I thought it would be, which kept me from truly enjoying it.

The plotline for The Wilderwoman was interesting. It centers around two sisters, Zadie and Finn, and their search for their mother, Nora. Aiding in that search is Zadie’s ability to see glimpses of the future and Finn’s ability to see echoes of the past. On their journey, they meet people that can help them find their mother. Can Zadie and Finn find Nora and confront her? Or will this trip tear them apart for good?

Before I do anything else, I will throw up a trigger warning. There are two significant triggers in The Wilderwomen; they are the abandonment of children and mental illness. If any of these trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The Wilderwoman is a fast-paced book in the Southwest, the Rockies, and the Pacific Northwest. Zadie and Finn started in Texas, stopped at a campsite in Arizona, followed Nora’s trail to a house in the Rockies, and ended the journey on the beaches of Oregon (or Washington, I wasn’t sure).

The book centers around three main characters: Nora, Zadie, and Finn. I will highlight what I liked/disliked about each character (instead of writing huge paragraphs).

  • Nora––The author didn’t spend as much time on her as I would have liked. Anything I got from her was from Finn’s echoes and Zadie’s memories (mostly not nice). The more I got into Zadie’s memories; the more Nora became unstable. The author did try to redeem her at the end of the book. But I had already made up my mind at that point.
  • Zadie—I had alternate feelings about Zadie. I pitied her for what had happened to her (her mother taking off and having an unplanned pregnancy). But, at the same time, she annoyed me. She had a woe-is-me attitude the entire book. I also wanted to shake her because she wasn’t the only one affected by Nora’s leaving. As for her secret, I understood why she wanted to keep it from Finn. Also, I didn’t understand why she was so afraid of her ability, but I guess if I could see glimpses of the future, I would have acted the same way.
  • Finn—I liked her. She was the exact opposite of Zadie in so many ways. She was upbeat. She was determined to use her ability to find Nora. At one point in the book, I got worried when it seemed like her ability threatened to overtake her life. I thought her storyline would go in another direction, and I was surprised by the turn it took instead.

Several secondary characters added some much-needed depth to the book. I liked them all except Finn’s foster mother. She annoyed the cr*p out of me. I could hear that high-pitched voice and see her facial expressions whenever Zadie was around. Uggh.

The Wilderwomen’s primary genre was magical realism and a bit of fantasy and mystery mixed in. I wasn’t a big fan of the magical realism angle. I thought it covered the fact that Nora took off on her kids. But I did like the fantasy and mystery angles. The fantasy was great, and I liked how the author showcased it differently. The mystery angle was also good. I liked that Zadie and Finn had to work to find Nora’s echoes. I also liked that they had to solve why she left them.

The end of The Wilderwomen was a little disappointing. The author did an excellent job of wrapping up all the storylines, but there was something off with it. I didn’t particularly appreciate how Zadie could accept things (same as Finn). It just left a bad taste in my mouth.

Three reasons why you should read The Wilderwomen

  • Complex characters
  • Finn’s use of echoes to see the past
  • Zadie and Finn’s road trip

Three reasons why you shouldn’t read The Wilderwomen

  • Triggers of child abandonment and mental illness
  • Zadie’s attitude for 90% of the book
  • The ending. I wasn’t expecting it to end the way it did.

I would recommend The Wilderwomen to anyone over 16. There is no sex. But there is some mild violence and language. Also, see my trigger warning above.


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