A Guide to Being Just Friends (Jansen Brothers: Book 3) by Sophie Sullivan

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

Date of publication: January 17th, 2023

Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Adult, Fiction, Womens Fiction, Chick Lit, Audiobook, Adult Fiction, Clean Romance

Series: Jansen Brothers

Ten Rules for Faking It—Book 1

How to Love Your Neighbor—Book 2 (review here)

A Guide to Being Just Friends—Book 3

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

A playful and emotional romantic comedy from the author of Ten Rules for Faking It

Hailey Sharp has a one-track mind. Get By the Cup salad shop off the ground. Do literally everything possible to make it a success. Repeat. With a head full of entrepreneurial ideas and a bad ex in her rearview, her one and only focus is living life the way she wants to. No distractions.

Wes Jansen never did understand the fuss about relationships. With a string of lackluster first dates and the pain from his parents’ angry divorce following him around, he’d much rather find someone who he likes, but won’t love. Companionship, not passion, is the name of the game.

When Hailey and Wes find each other in a disastrous meet cute that wasn’t even intended for them, they embarrassingly go their separate ways. But when Wes finds Hailey to apologize for his behavior, they strike a friendship. Because that’s all this can be. Hailey doesn’t want any distractions. Wes doesn’t want to fall in love.

What could possibly go wrong?


First Line:

Salad paid the bills. At least, it was supposed to.

A Guid to Being Just Friends by Sophie Sullivan

I’ll admit this; I didn’t read the blurb when I accepted the invite from St. Martin’s Press. I saw the title and the cover (in the widget email they sent) and made my decision from that. To be clear, I rarely accept books based on the title and/or cover. So, I was a little hesitant when I saw it next on my reading schedule. But, once I realized what series this book was a part of, I was excited to read it.

A Guide to Being Just Friends is the 3rd (and final) book in the Jansen Brothers series. While readers can read this as a standalone, I recommend reading the first two books before picking this one up. I recommend this so you, as a reader, can understand some of the relationships discussed in this book.

There are some trigger warnings that I want to warn you about in this book. Hailey (the main character) is fresh out of an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship. In one scene, her ex tries (and stress tries) to verbally abuse and manhandle her, but Wes stops it. Wes’s parents are divorced, and Hailey’s family is dysfunctional (her parents love each other and ignore her). If any of these triggers you, I recommend not reading this book.

A Guide to Being Just Friends is a medium to fast-paced book that takes place entirely in San Verde, California. The pacing of the book fluctuates during it.

As mentioned above, A Guide to Being Just Friends is Wes and Hailey’s love story. Hailey has just opened a restaurant that only serves salad (By the Cup) and is focused only on getting it off the ground and making money. She has no room for a relationship or wants one after what her ex-boyfriend has done to her. Wes couldn’t agree more with her. He is still dealing with the wounds of his parent’s divorce and has been on several not-so-great first dates. All he wants is companionship. So meeting Hailey and developing feelings for her was not part of his master plan (the same goes for Hailey). While being in a relationship is not in the cards for either of them, they will settle for being just friends. But their feelings grow, and being just friends is starting to sound not so great. Will Hailey and Wes wake up and see that the person they want the most is standing in front of them? Or will they forever be just friends?

I like going into a book and knowing at least one of the characters. For me (and I don’t know about you), it made connecting with the other main characters easier. I also liked seeing a different side of that character than what was portrayed in other books.

  • Hailey: I liked her. She was super focused on getting her business off the ground and wouldn’t let anything or anyone distract her. She was also one of the sweetest people in the book and didn’t deserve the treatment she got from her parents, ex-boyfriend, and Ana. I also liked that she overcame all the self-doubt and self-esteem issues that her ex gave her. Of course, since this is a romance, I wanted to shake her when it came to Wes. But I understood why she was holding herself back.
  • Wes—I was talking about him in the above paragraph. I liked seeing little glimpses of him in the previous two books. I did have a view of him from what I read. So it was nice for that view to be expanded and for how he acted explained. Wes had a lot on his plate, a lot of pressure from his father and Ana (the CEO of a company he’s trying to buy). Plus, he had awful luck on the relationship front. The blind dates the author showed were horrible. I did like his character growth, though. By the end of the book, he wasn’t afraid to do what was right for him (and yes, that involved Ana and her meddling ways!!)

The secondary characters were interesting. They should be since they were all previous characters in the other two books. A couple of new characters were introduced (Hailey’s cousin and her group of friends), and I hope the author decides to create another series in this world. I would love to see some of those people get their HEAs!!

A Guide to Being Just Friends fits perfectly into the romance genre. I liked that this romance took months to ignite and just as long to get off the ground. I love those types of romances. They seem more genuine, and (because I am a weirdo) I can picture them lasting in real life.

There is sex in A Guide to Being Just Friends. But it isn’t graphic. The author sets the mood, starts the sexual encounter, and ends the chapter. The next chapter is the following day with a satisfied hero and heroine. I am a fan of smut and graphic sex scenes, but sometimes it is nice to let my imagination do what it does best. And it did its best in this book. Also, there were only a couple of sex scenes.

The main storyline is Wes and Hailey’s romance. As I said, the author made this into a slow-burn romance, and I liked it. She also made it as realistic as possible. Hailey and Wes went through what I considered the usual ebb and flow until everything exploded. There was only one thing that I disagreed with: Ana. She was a vindictive, nasty person. What she did to Hailey (and let’s not forget what she tried to do) was pretty low.

Several secondary storylines enriched the main storyline. The secondary storyline that stands out to me the most was the landlord raising the rent on the apartments and shops where Hailey had her business. I loved how the author kept me wondering what would happen there and then melded it into the main storyline. It was perfect!!

The end of A Guide to Being Just Friends made me an emotional mess. I cried during the big reveal scene. I was mad because of what Hailey assumed was happening between Ana and Wes. I was happy because that assumption wasn’t true. And the epilogue. It was freaking perfect!!! I couldn’t have asked for a better epilogue than that.

I would recommend A Guide to Being Just Friends to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and very mild sex scenes. Also, see my content warning above.

I want to thank St. Martin’s Press, St. Martin’s Griffin, NetGalley, and Sophie Sullivan for allowing me to read and review A Guide to Being Just Friends. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading A Guide to Being Just Friends, then you will enjoy reading these books:

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

Publisher: Penguin Group Dutton, Dutton

Date of publication: January 3rd, 2023

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

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

Armed with only hazy memories, a woman who long ago witnessed her friend’s sudden, mysterious death, and has since spent her life trying to forget, sets out to track down answers. What she uncovers, deep in the woods, is hardly to be believed….

Maya was a high school senior when her best friend, Aubrey, mysteriously dropped dead in front of the enigmatic man named Frank whom they’d been spending time with all summer.

Seven years later, Maya lives in Boston with a loving boyfriend and is kicking the secret addiction that has allowed her to cope with what happened years ago, the gaps in her memories, and the lost time that she can’t account for. But her past comes rushing back when she comes across a recent YouTube video in which a young woman suddenly keels over and dies in a diner while sitting across from none other than Frank. Plunged into the trauma that has defined her life, Maya heads to her Berkshires hometown to relive that fateful summer–the influence Frank once had on her and the obsessive jealousy that nearly destroyed her friendship with Aubrey.

At her mother’s house, she excavates fragments of her past and notices hidden messages in her deceased Guatemalan father’s book that didn’t stand out to her earlier. To save herself, she must understand a story written before she was born, but time keeps running out, and soon, all roads are leading back to Frank’s cabin….

Utterly unique and captivating, The House in the Pines keeps you guessing about whether we can ever fully confront the past and return home.


First Line:

Deep in those woods, there is a house that’s easy to miss.

The House in the Pines by Ana Reyes

The House in the Pines was on my must-read list since I had seen it on another blog that stated they were looking forward to reading it. So, I was beyond thrilled when I got an email from Penguin House Dutton requesting a review. I couldn’t accept it fast enough. I had planned on reading this book as soon as I got it, but life happens, and it got put on the back burner. I finally read it right after Reese Witherspoon announced it was the book of the month in her book club (and no, it wasn’t because of that). I was let down by it. The House in the Pines didn’t live up to my hype, and I was disappointed.

The House in the Pines is a fast-paced book all over the place. It alternated between past and present without giving the reader a heads-up. I get why the author did it. But it didn’t work for me in this case. It only confused me and made me lose focus on what was going on.

This book mostly takes place in my home state of Massachusetts. Unfortunately, I grew up in coastal eastern MA, not in the west. But, I have been to Pittsfield, which is as pitiful as the book described. I have also been to Amherst (I had friends who went to college there), and I lived a quick 5-minute T ride outside of Boston for years (as well as growing up 25-30 mins east of there).

The characters in The House in the Pines alternated between me liking them and not believing their actions. I know it’s a huge difference there, but that’s how it was with me. The only character that I truly liked was Maya’s mother. She was solid and well-written.

  • Maya—She annoyed me for 90% of the book. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t tell Dan that she was going cold turkey from Klonopin withdrawal. He seemed like a decent person who would have helped her. Instead, she was sneaky about it. She is sneaky for almost all of the book and is borderline obsessed with finding Frank and confronting him about Aubrey’s death. But, as much as I disliked her, I did feel bad for her. She lived with the horror of seeing her friend drop dead before her and blamed herself for Audrey’s death. Her mother, who I liked, was vigilant about Maya’s mental health. I will not get into it here, but I blame her mother for pushing her down the path that led Maya to abuse Klonopin and become an alcoholic; what Maya needed after that traumatic event was a therapist, not drugs.
  • Frank—Oh, man, where do I start with him? He was indeed a scumbag, and I believe he targeted Maya because she was innocent. But, at the same time, I think he might have liked her. It was just the vibe I got from their scenes together. I did figure out his deal reasonably early in the book. The video clued me in, as did the book that Frank suggested Audrey read. But I liked seeing Maya’s journey to get to where I did.
  • Audrey—Even though she is dead, she is a massive part of the book. The author formed Maya’s whole adult identity from Audrey’s death. Maya was obsessed with connecting Frank to Audrey’s death and trying to remember what happened that day. The glimpses of Audrey that I got in the flashback, she was a good kid trying to look out for her friend and got caught up in something much bigger than her.

The House in the Pines was a good fit in the mystery genre. I also have it in the thriller and suspense genres, but they weren’t a good fit. I had everything pegged by the middle of the book. Even the twist didn’t take me by surprise. It fell flat for me.

The central storyline with Maya trying to find Frank, remember what happened that summer, and investigate another mysterious death was interesting. But, as I stated above, I figured everything out by the middle of the book. By the end of the book, I was waiting to see if any justice would be served, and I wasn’t surprised by what happened. But I was happy with what Maya was able to do.

The biggest thing that disappointed me about this book was the lack of closure at the end. Everything was left up in the air. I can’t say anything other than that because I am afraid of spoilers.

The end of The House in the Pines was anticlimactic for me. As I stated above, nothing was resolved. Wait, let me rephrase that. Nothing was resolved with Frank. Maya, on the other hand, was able to get some closure. But for the other stuff, everything still needs to be resolved. It was frustrating to read the end and realize nothing more was happening.

I would recommend The House in the Pines to anyone over 21. There is language, mild violence, and mild sexual situations.

I want to thank Penguin House Dutton, Dutton, and Ana Reyes for allowing me to read and review The House in the Pines. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading The House in the Pines, then you will enjoy reading these books:

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press, Minotaur Books

Date of publication: January 10th, 2023

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

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

One year ago, Isabelle Drake’s life changed forever: her toddler son, Mason, was taken out of his crib in the middle of the night while she and her husband were asleep in the next room. With little evidence and few leads for the police to chase, the case quickly went cold. However, Isabelle cannot rest until Mason is returned to her—literally.

Except for the occasional catnap or small blackout where she loses track of time, she hasn’t slept in a year.

Isabelle’s entire existence now revolves around finding him, but she knows she can’t go on this way forever. In hopes of jarring loose a new witness or buried clue, she agrees to be interviewed by a true-crime podcaster—but his interest in Isabelle’s past makes her nervous. His incessant questioning paired with her severe insomnia has brought up uncomfortable memories from her own childhood, making Isabelle start to doubt her recollection of the night of Mason’s disappearance, as well as second-guess who she can trust… including herself. But she is determined to figure out the truth no matter where it leads.


First Line:

Today is day three hundred and sixty-four. Three hundred and sixty-four days since my last night of sleep.

All the Dangerous Things by Stacy Willingham

As a mother, I was shaken when I read the blurb for this book. How could you not be? It is any parent’s worst nightmare to have a missing child. With that in mind (and knowing there could be triggers), I accepted the publisher’s invitation for this book. I am glad that I did because this book was a great read.

Isabelle hasn’t slept since Mason, her eighteen-month-old son, was taken from his room at night. She has been tirelessly searching for him and making the rounds of tv shows and conventions to state her case. What has suffered in this past year is her marriage. Her husband has moved on with a woman who is a dead ringer for her. The police consider her a prime suspect, and Isabelle is being pushed to her limits. So, it is no wonder she accepts a true-crime podcaster’s invitation. As she interviews for the podcast, memories of her childhood resurface and cause her to doubt everything her parents had told her. What happened to Mason? Did Isabelle do something to him? Or was he kidnapped? What happened to Isabelle when she was a child?

All the Dangerous Things is a slow-starting book that takes place almost entirely in Georgia. The pace does pick up in the middle of the book. But, towards the end, is when the book picks up steam, and it doesn’t slow down until the explosive ending.

The author well wrote all of the characters in All the Dangerous Things. I loved how the author kept me guessing about the main and secondary characters.

  • Isabelle—The plotline pulled me in two different directions with Isabelle. In one direction, I wanted to believe her, but in the other direction, I figured she did kill Mason. With her being such an unreliable narrator, it was up in the air until the end of the book.
  • Ben—He was such a sleazeball. I didn’t like him and thought Isabelle could have done better. When Isabelle was thinking about how they met and when he told her he was married, I was yelling (yes, yelling), “Stay away.” And the night of Ben’s wife’s wake, what they did outside the funeral home, blah. Again, sleazeball and my dislike of him grew as the book continued.
  • Isabelle’s mother, father, and younger sister—-I am lumping them all into one category because together, they are a whole main character (if that makes sense). Something very traumatic happens that involves all three of them and Isabelle. It made sense why they weren’t in the present-day story much. I can’t go much into what I just wrote because of spoilers.

As with any well-written book, the secondary characters did add extra depth to this book. But I wish I could have seen them from another angle (like maybe the police). It would have given me a fresh perspective on the story.

All the Dangerous Things fit perfectly with the mystery, suspense, and thriller genres. The author did a great job of keeping everything under wrap until the end of the book. I couldn’t put the book down; I needed to know what happened to Mason and when Isabelle was younger.

The main storyline with Isabelle, Mason’s kidnapping, and the investigation tore at my heartstrings. I felt Isabelle’s pain over Mason not being there. I felt her frustration over what she saw as the police doing nothing but pointing fingers at her. I even got her frustration with her sleepwalking habit. But she never once let any of those get to her. She harassed the police almost daily (even when they told her they considered her a suspect). She had insomnia because of the trauma of Mason being kidnapped. But, at the same time, she was unreliable. She made me question her because of her blackouts and sleepwalking. Plus, her not sleeping was messing with her head too.

The other storyline with Isabelle, her younger sister, and her parents was heartbreaking. It did detail Isabelle’s struggles with sleepwalking (even at seven years old). But there was something more important going on in the background. Something that I almost missed. Something that did contribute to her sister’s death and Isabelle being blamed for it. When I realized what that was, a lightbulb went off in my head. I felt so bad for everyone involved but mainly for Isabelle.

There are going to be trigger warnings in this book. The most obvious one is kidnapping. But there also is postpartum psychosis, the death of a child, and cheating. If those trigger you, I highly suggest not reading this book.

The end of All the Dangerous Things was one of the best I have read this year. I loved how Isabelle pieced everything together. I felt somewhat vindicated for her. But the author did have a few plot twists that even had me going, “What the heck?” Let’s say that I did not pity who went to jail!!

Three Things I Liked About All the Dangerous Things:

  1. Isabelle’s determination to find Mason.
  2. Isabelle’s relationship with her sister.
  3. How she figured everything out.

Three Things I Disliked About All The Dangerous Things:

  1. What happened to Isabelle when she was younger (and her being blamed too)
  2. Ben. He was such a sleazeball.
  3. The police. They were useless in this book.

I would recommend All the Dangerous Things to anyone over 21. There is language, violence, and no sex. Also see my trigger warnings.


If you enjoyed reading All the Dangerous Things, you will enjoy reading these books:

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Publisher: Oceanview Publishing

Date of Publication: March 22nd, 2022

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Medical, Fiction, Suspense, Mystery Thriller, Audiobook, Crime

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

Goodreads Synopsis:

End-of-life care—or assisted death

When her elderly patients start dying at home days after minor surgery, anesthesiologist Dr. Kate Downey wants to know why. The surgeon, not so much. “Old people die, that’s what they do,” is his response. When Kate presses, surgeon Charles Ricken places the blame squarely on her shoulders. Kate is currently on probation, and the chief of staff sides with the surgeon, leaving Kate to prove her innocence and save her own career. With her husband in a prolonged coma, it’s all she has left.

Aided by her eccentric Great Aunt Irm, a precocious medical student, and the lawyer son of a victim, Kate launches her own unorthodox investigation of these unexpected deaths. As she comes closer to exposing the culprit’s identity, she faces professional intimidation, threats to her life, a home invasion, and, tragically, the suspicious death of someone close to her. The stakes escalate to the breaking point when Kate, under violent duress, is forced to choose which of her loved ones to save—and which must be sacrificed.

Perfect for fans of Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen

While the books in the Kate Downey Medical Mystery Series stand on their own and can be read in any order, the publication sequence is:

Fatal Intent
Misfire
 (coming January 2023)


First Line:

I dreaded weekends. That alone set me apart from my colleagues-from humans in general-even without all the rest.

Fatal Intent by Tammy Euliano

Medical thrillers are not a genre that I typically read. It’s not that I don’t like them (I do); it’s just that they don’t show up on my radar very often, even when I am looking for a new book to read. So, I was intrigued when I was invited to review Fatal Intent. After reading the blurb, I knew I wanted to read this book. I am glad that I did because it was a great read.

There are trigger warnings in Fatal Intent. The huge, most obvious one is the angel of mercy killings. There are brief mentions of the death of a spouse and child through a drunk driver and the miscarriage. The author also talks about assisted death quite often during the book. This is a touchy subject and one that I am not going to discuss in this blog.

Fatal Intent is a fast-paced medical thriller that takes place in Florida. Kate is an anesthesiologist working at a university (or teaching) hospital. Kate lives with her great-aunt Irma, an eccentric German transplant, and her black lab, Shadow. Kate has had a rough couple of years. Her husband, Greg, severely injured by a bomb while deployed, has been in a coma for a year. She miscarried their daughter because of that. And the cherry on top, the chief of staff, Dr. Walker, dislikes Kate and makes her life miserable at work. Things start to snowball when Kate discovers several suspicious deaths on and off the hospital grounds. At the same time, Kate is accused of misconduct with a student and malpractice by an unpleasant surgeon, and Greg’s brother, Adam, is going ahead with a lawsuit to take Greg off life support. As Kate fights the lawsuit, the inquiry, and the malpratice accusation, she realizes everything is connected. Determined to get to the bottom of everything, Kate soon finds herself in a situation where she needs to make an impossible choice. What choice does Kate have to make? How is everything connected? Did the hospital have an angel of mercy?

The main characters of Fatal Intent surprised me. I was prepared to be annoyed or even not like them. But, right from the beginning, the author made them relatable. Also, she wasn’t afraid to kill off a couple of who I considered main characters. It made what happened at the end of the book so much more poignant.

  • Kate—I liked and connected with her. She had a great relationship with her great-aunt Irma and 98% of her coworkers. She treated her patients respectfully and wasn’t afraid to speak up when she thought something wasn’t right. Her relationship with the chief of staff did confuse me a little at the beginning, but once the author explained it, a lightbulb went off. The only thing that she had a conflict of interest in was Greg. She didn’t want him to die starving to death. But her brother-in-law, Adam, thought otherwise. As for her investigating the deaths, she didn’t intend to become embroiled in that scheme. She was doing what she thought was right. My heart broke for her at the climax of the book. She had to make an impossible decision. No matter what she decided, it was going to hurt her.

I say this in every review, but the secondary characters made this book. Every single one added extra depth to the plotline. I liked how these secondary characters also tied into the main storyline. They had clues about who the killer was, why Kate was being singled out at work, and why Adam was insistent on taking Greg off life support. Secondary characters rarely do that.

If you look above, you see that I put a lot of genres down that this book fits into. The top three out of that group would be medical fiction, mystery, and thriller. Fatal Intent fits perfectly into those genres.

So, a little bit of a warning, the review will get a little longer here. Several main storylines in Fatal Intent are merged about halfway through the book. I didn’t understand why the author had so many until the end. Everything became crystal clear here.

The storyline with Kate, the medical student, and the accusation of misconduct made me so angry. I knew the medical student was up to no good from the moment the author introduced him. There was a point in the book where I thought that Kate would end up losing her job, but the author pulled out her hidden ace. It was mentioned, and I didn’t even think about it until it was mentioned. Of course, the ending to that storyline was very satisfactory and did tie into the storyline with the malpractice, Dr. Walker, and the angel of mercy.

Speaking of that, I was so angry about the malpractice inquiry that Kate found herself in. The surgeon was full of himself, and I couldn’t believe that the chief of staff would side with him instead of remaining impartial. I found it suspicious. Of course, this storyline ended the way I thought it would but still. I wanted to smack that surgeon upside the head and tell him to take it down a notch.

The storyline with Dr. Walker, Kate, and the deaths left a bad taste in my mouth. As I said above, Dr. Walker was so suspicious. His treatment of Kate was borderline abuse of power, and everyone in that hospital knew it. He didn’t want to listen to her when she brought up credible evidence about a new hire. Also, he was too involved with the medical student’s accusation and the inquiry. I wasn’t surprised by what was revealed during Kate’s investigation. I did like that what she turned up had an effect…haha. I was thrilled with how everything turned out. Dr. Walker reaped what he sowed.

The storyline with Kate, Greg, and Adam was one of the saddest ones I have ever read. I got why Kate didn’t want to take Greg off life support. I agreed with her that starving to death was a painful way to go, even if you were in a coma. And like Kate, my distaste for Adam was there from the beginning.

The end of Fatal Intent was heartstopping. The author was able to meld the above storylines together in a way that took me by surprise. A colossal twist (and a heartbreaking decision made) took me by surprise. It is hard to get one past me with thrillers; the author certainly did!! I didn’t see it coming and felt that I should have.

I would recommend Fatal Intent to anyone over 21. There is violence, non-graphic sexual situations (kissing), and language.

I want to thank Tammy Euliano and Oceanview Publishing for allowing me to read and review Fatal Intent. All opinions stated in this review are mine.


If you enjoyed reading Fatal Intent, then you will enjoy reading these books:

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:

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:

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: