A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, June 29, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Hidden by Catherine McKenzie- Feature and Review


While walking home from work one evening, Jeff Manning is struck by a car and killed. Two women fall to pieces at the news: his wife, Claire, and his co-worker Tish. Reeling from her loss, Claire must comfort her grieving son as well as contend with funeral arrangements, well-meaning family members, and the arrival of Jeff’s estranged brother, who was her ex-boyfriend. Tish volunteers to attend the funeral on her company’s behalf, but only she knows the true risk of inserting herself into the wreckage of Jeff’s life.

Told through the three voices of Jeff, Tish, and Claire, Hiddenexplores the complexity of relationships, the repercussions of our personal choices, and the responsibilities we have to the ones we love.


MY REVIEW: HiddenHidden by Catherine McKenzie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hidden by Catherine McKenzie is a Lake Union publishing 2014 release.

Claire and Jeff have a pretty good marriage up until Claire has an unplanned pregnancy and a miscarriage which sends her into a tailspin. She makes some pretty drastic changes in her life and her marriage begins to slip away bit by bit. But, things had gotten back on a more equal footing until Jeff is killed in an accident and a young woman he worked with attends his funeral leaving Claire with an uneasy feeling.

The story takes us back to Claire and Jeff's beginning. Claire and Jeff's brother, Tim, had been a hot item until obligations separated them. With Tim out of the picture, Claire and Jeff begin dating, fall in love, marry,and have a son. We hear this part of the story mainly from Jeff's point of view. We are also given Clarie's perspective and Tish's perpective as the story unfolds.

Jeff never quite got past Claire's past relationship with Tim. He always had a deeply rooted suspicion that things were never completely resolved between them. When Claire begins to have trouble emotionally after her miscarriage, It's Tim, not Jeff, who sees that Claire is not doing well.

By the time Jeff wakes up to his wife's issues he is at a loss as to how to make things better.
Then Jeff meets Tish. She is married to a doctor and has a young daughter. She and Jeff are both avid golfers and there is an attraction between them . Both of them know full well they are playing with fire, but they just go right on flirting with disaster.

Tish and Jeff explain their relationship as it evolved, the decisions they made and why they made them.

It is so easy to see how people can find themselves in a vulnerable place in their lives, meet someone that is so alive, fun, and unburdened with your circumstances and before long each person is tempted to escape. Not to sound preachy, but as adults we should know this is a fantasy. The grass is not greener on the other side. Sooner or later, every relationship becomes burdened with reality. This is why they tell you "for better or worse, in sickness and in health "and all the rest of it. It's not all peachy every day. Money problems, job pressures, health, children and so on will take our time and sometimes our very essence. Marriage is hard work even at the best of times.

But, when hardships surface, a marriage can face even more adversity, giving it a true measure of its strength. Toss in Jeff's aloofness, or tone deafness, and Tim's sensitivity towards Claire and old jealousies come to the surface, complicating an already tense situation. But, the real question here is whether or not the old adage of "What you don't know can't hurt you" is really true.

Even after all the information is presented, I couldn't completely sort out my feelings. Part of me is mad, part of me is relieved. Adultery is a touchy subject, very emotional, and certainly raises the tension level. I was turning pages as fast as possible! But, at the end of the day, any story bold enough to wade into the murky waters of infidelity nearly always comes off as a cautionary tale. Read this book and you'll see it is no exception to that rule. Very thought provoking and utterly absorbing.





A graduate of McGill University in History and Law, Catherine practices law in Montreal, where she was born and raised. An avid skier and runner, Catherine's has published six bestsellers which have been translated into numerous languages. HIDDEN was a #1 Amazon bestseller and a Digital Bookworld bestseller for five weeks. SMOKE was named a Best Book of October by Goodreads, one of the Top 100 Books of 2015 by Amazon, and was a #1 Amazon bestseller. FRACTURED was also named a Best Book of October by Goodreads in 2016. Catherine published her first novel writing as Julie Apple, THE MURDER GAME, in 2016, and had a short story included in MONTREAL NOIR in 2017. 

Her seventh novel (or eighth depending how you're counting), THE GOOD LIAR, will be published on April 3, 2018.

Visit her online at www.catherinemckenzie.com, on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/catherinemckenzieauthor, and on Twitter and Instagram at @cemckenzie1.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

A Maverick to (Re) Marry by Christine Rimmer- Feature and Review


Married--and divorced!--in secret... 

Rust Creek Ramblings

Rust Creek Falls' flirty cowboy and the shy, straight-A student--a couple? We have it on good authority that not only were Derek Dalton and Amy Wainwright once an item, they were actually married! With Amy back in town for her friend's wedding, how long before their secret past is revealed? Gather your rose petals, dear readers... We suspect these high school sweethearts may soon get a second chance at happily-wedded-after!


“I can’t believe you’re here at last,” said Eva Rose Armstrong with a tender little smile. “When you pulled up in your fancy car yesterday, I almost wondered if I was seeing things.”

“I’m here and I’m staying,” Amy Wainwright replied. “You won’t get rid of me until the wedding, no matter how hard you try.” She spoke firmly and did her best to ignore the growing sense of dread that had her stomach feeling queasy and her nerves on a thin edge.

“Thirteen years,” Eva scolded fondly, “do you realize that? Thirteen years it’s taken us to get you to come back to town.” Us included Eva and her older sisters, Delphine and Calla. Growing up, the Armstrong sisters had been like family to Amy. In the years since Amy had moved to Colorado, the Armstrong girls had come to visit her often, but Amy had always found some reason she couldn’t make the trip to Rust Creek Falls—and in actual fact, it had been nine years, not thirteen, since Amy had last set foot in Montana. But Eva didn’t know about that other visit and she never would.

“It took you getting married to do the trick.” Amy strove for a light tone. “But I’m here now. And I’m going nowhere until I see you walk down the aisle to the man that you love.”

Eva laughed. “You don’t have to look so grim and determined about it.”

Relax, Amy reminded herself for the umpteenth time. It’s going to be fine. “Grim?” She reached out and took Eva’s hand. “Are you kidding? I’m thrilled to be your maid of honor.” It was coming face-to-face again with the best man that had her belly in knots and her heart stuck in her throat.

They stood near the sunny front window in the living room of the farmhouse where Eva lived with her fiancé, Luke Stockton. The best man would be joining them any minute now. And Amy would get through this meeting with her pride and her dignity intact.

She was going to smile in a cordial sort of way, just smile and say hello and ask him how he’d been. She would treat him as exactly what he was—a guy she knew way back when. An old high school boyfriend, nothing more.

What had really happened between them all those years ago was their secret, his and hers. And Amy could see no reason on earth why it shouldn’t stay that way.

“Now, we just need to find a way to keep you here forever,” Eva said with a definite smirk.

“Highly unlikely.” Amy lived in Boulder. She owned her own home and she worked for a major accounting firm as a digital forensic accountant. Most people’s eyes glazed over when she talked about her work, but Amy had always been a math whiz and a computer nerd. She totally loved stopping hackers and fraudsters dead in their tracks.

“You never know,” Eva teased, “you could finally meet the man of your dreams right here in Rust Creek Falls. This town is magic when it comes to love and romance, you just ask anyone.”

Once, long ago, Amy would have agreed with her friend. Now, though? Not happening. No way, uh-uh. “If you say so…”

Eva tugged on her hand. “Come on.” She led Amy to the sofa and chairs grouped around the coffee table. Eva and Luke had moved to Sunshine Farm last winter. Slowly, they’d been fixing up the old farmhouse, stripping dated wallpaper, installing new countertops and appliances in the kitchen. The furniture was mostly family hand-me-downs and stuff picked up at estate and yard sales, but Eva had a great sense of style and the effect was homey. Welcoming. “Sit down,” Eva said, “and have a cookie.”

Amy took one of the two wing chairs across from the couch—and a lemon praline macaron. Eva was a baker by profession, her cookies as irresistible as her sunny smile.

The doorbell chimed.

It’s him…

Adrenaline spurted. Amy’s throat locked up tight on a bite of macaron.

Calm down. You’re okay. Breathe. She gulped a sip of iced tea and somehow managed to swallow the bite of cookie without surrendering to a choking fit.

Across the room and through the open arch, in the small foyer, Eva pulled open the door. “Viv!” It was the wedding planner, Vivienne Shuster. Not him, after all. Amy’s heartbeat slowed a little as Eva ushered the other woman into the living room.

Vivienne, a tall, striking blonde in a simple tan skirt and a white shirt, took a seat on the couch. She set down her stack of pastel binders and her tablet, shook hands with Amy and said yes to a glass of iced tea and a butter pecan sandy.

For a few minutes, the women chatted about nothing in particular. Viv was relatively new to town, just getting started with her wedding-planner business. “Eva, the house looks great.”

“We keep working on it,” said Eva. Luke had grown up at Sunshine Farm, but the place had fallen into disrepair when his parents died and the Stockton family was torn apart.

Viv had obviously heard the whole heartbreaking story, including the current state of affairs. “It’s wonderful,” she said, “that Luke and his brothers and sisters are reunited now—or almost.” Her bright smile dimmed a little. “Any word on Liza?” Liza Stockton was the only one of Luke’s siblings who had yet to be located.

“No. But we’re still looking. We’ll never give up.”

“Well, you’re certainly bringing the family ranch back to life again.” Viv picked up one of her binders and flipped to a tab labeled Barn Weddings. Like Luke’s brother Danny last Christmas, Luke and Eva’s wedding venue would be the big yellow barn right there on Sunshine Farm. “So, we’re still going with holding the ceremony outside, and then the reception dinner in the barn, right?” At Eva’s nod, Viv continued, “Good, then. I have a few new ideas to run by you.”

Amy heard boots out on the front steps. Her mouth went dust-dry and her ears started ringing.

But it was only Luke coming in from the horse pasture. She took slow, deep breaths to settle her absurdly overactive nerves as Luke left his muddy boots by the door and slipped on a pair of soft mocs. “Am I late?”

“Nope.” Eva got up to offer a quick kiss and pull him into the living room. “You’re right on time.” They did look so happy together, Amy thought. She was glad for her friend. A born romantic, Eva had survived more than her share of disappointments in love. But she never gave up. And now she’d finally found the perfect man for her.

The doorbell rang again. Amy’s stomach lurched and her heart beat so hard, she knew it would pound its way right out of her chest.

“That’ll be Derek,” Luke said. “I’ll get it.” He returned to the door as Amy practiced slow breathing and prayed she wouldn’t sink to the floor in a dead faint like the heroine of some old-time novel, felled by her own secret past. “Come on in,” said Luke.

And then, there he was.

Derek Dalton. In Wranglers and a soft chambray shirt. He took off his hat and his hair was just as she remembered it, thick and unruly, sable brown. He was just as she remembered—only bigger, broader. A grown man now, not a nineteen-year-old boy.

He hung his hat by the door. Luke signaled him forward and he entered the living room, filling it with his presence, with their past that seemed to suck all the air right out of her lungs. He greeted Eva and Viv. And then he turned to Amy, those leaf-green eyes homing right in on her. “Hey, Amy. Long time, huh?”

She stared up at him, unable to speak. But then he held out his big, blunt-fingered, work-roughened hand. She forced herself to take it and the shock of touching him again after all these years sent a bolt of lightning straight up her arm—and jolted the necessary words out of her.

“Hey, Derek.” She pulled her fingers free of his grip and somehow managed the barest semblance of a smile. “Great to see you again.”

“You, too.” With that, he turned away at last and lowered his big frame into the other wing chair.

The meeting began.

Viv opened a binder, pulled the rings wide and took out a small stack of papers. “Derek.” She handed several sheets to him. “And for you, Amy.” She passed Amy the rest. “You each now have the phone numbers and email addresses of everyone in the wedding party. Also, you’ll find a series of suggestions for the joint bachelor/bachelorette party, which is slated for the Saturday before the wedding. You two will be working as a team to pull it together. Invitations have already been sent and we’re counting on a big crowd. I threw in a few brainstorming sheets. It always helps to have those—just as a way to get the ideas flowing, you understand.”

“Wonderful,” Amy said, because Viv was looking at her and it seemed important that she say something.

“As for the bachelor party venue,” said Viv, “Maverick Manor is a dream setting, luxe and rustic at once. A real coup that we got it.” She gave Derek a nod. “Big thanks to Derek.”

“Don’t thank me,” Derek said. His voice was a little different somehow, deeper than Amy remembered. The sound of it reached down inside her, stirring up memories, reminding her of tender moments she really needed to forget. He added, “Nate Crawford’s the one.”

Eva asked, “You remember Nate, Amy?”

“Yeah. Of course.” Nate had been four or five years ahead of her in school, but everybody knew him. He was the oldest of six children. His parents, Laura and Todd, owned the general store.

“Nate’s become kind of a town benefactor in the last few years,” said Eva. “He’s a major shareholder in Maverick Manor.”

Derek said, “I just mentioned the party to him and he offered the Manor as a good place for it.”

“Ah,” said Amy, staring straight ahead, unable to make herself look at him though he was sitting right there at the other end of the coffee table from her. “Terrific.”

Eva explained, “Instead of separating the girls and the guys, I wanted one big party for all of us—with nothing X-rated, if you know what I mean.”

Viv clarified, “No strippers. And the games can be a little sexy—”

“—but nothing over the top.” Eva patted Luke’s hand. “Just good fun, right, Luke?”

“Works for me.” The groom nodded.

“It’ll be a nice, relaxed get-together for everyone,” added Eva, “not only for the wedding party, but also for all of our friends in town. We want it to be loose and easy and the Manor is a beautiful, comfortable place for it.”

Viv nodded at Derek and then at Amy. “Food and music are already taken care of, again thanks to Derek.”

Wait a minute. Had Derek paid for all this? Or just arranged everything? The boy she’d known in high school hadn’t had a lot of money. So, then he’d done well for himself?

Not that it mattered how much money he had. What mattered was that she would make sure the financial burden didn’t all fall on him—and wait a minute. Why was she worrying about Derek and his finances anyway?

Really, she didn’t even know the guy anymore….

Viv was still talking. “If you need specific songs played or whatever, I’ll be happy to pass your requests along to the band. You two will be putting your heads together and coming up with some fun things to do for the event, along with party favors and prizes.

“Mostly, it’s a balance. You don’t want to pack in too many activities, but you need a few games and such, to get people mingling. I’ve listed some very basic ideas on your party brainstorm sheets, just to jump-start the process for you. I’ll be ready with more suggestions if you need them and to help in any way I can.”

Amy tried really hard to focus, to keep her mind in the now, to think about great things to do at a coed bachelor party and what prizes and favors might be cute.

But her brain defied her will. Images assailed her, of those five days all those years ago, the tacky motel by the highway, the sound of the big rigs going by in the night, the reassuring warmth of Derek’s strong arms around her. How much she had loved him.

How scared she’d been, her life spinning out of control, nothing going the way she’d planned it.

“Fun activities,” she heard herself repeat. “Will do.”

From the other chair, Derek spoke up, too. “Uh, yeah. We’ll get right on that.”

The meeting continued. To Amy, it seemed endless. The memories pressed in on her, making it hard to breathe. But really, no one seemed to notice that she wasn’t saying much. Did they?

Eva and Luke seemed relaxed, happy as only two people in love can be. Viv was laser focused on the wedding plans. Eva, a baker to the core, was all about the food and the cake, while Viv talked flowers and ways to make the barn setting really pop.

They discussed music for the wedding day, too. Luke and Eva had put in hours practicing their first dance. The band—the same group they were using at the bachelor party—had been given a long playlist of the couple’s favorites to fill up the evening. Luke joked that of course local eccentric Homer Gilmore would be welcome at the wedding. But they had to make absolutely certain that Homer’s infamous moonshine didn’t find its way into the punch.

As for Derek…

Well, Amy didn’t know how Derek was faring. From the moment he took the chair next to hers, she hadn’t been able to make herself so much as glance in his direction.

When it was finally over and Viv was closing up her binders and stacking them to go, Amy longed to race for the stairs and the big guest room up there that would be hers for the next few weeks. She’d brought her work with her. She could power up her computer and concentrate on keeping the giant accounting firm of Hurdly and Main, International protected from cyber-criminals and digital fraud.

But no. She and Derek needed to talk.

She needed to tell him…what? There was nothing to tell him. It was over and it had been over for years and years.

Still. They really ought to come to some sort of understanding as to how they were going to work together. Not to mention, she needed to know who in town knew about them. And how much they knew. And, from now on, what would be getting said to whom.

Suddenly, everyone was standing and moving toward the door—everyone but Amy. She shook herself and leapt to her feet.

And then once she was up, she just stood there at her chair, dithering over how to approach him, what to say to get his attention before he went out the door and she missed her chance to tell him…


Dear Lord, she had no idea.

She blinked and finally made herself glance in his direction.

He was looking straight at her. “So, Amy, got a few minutes?” Those green eyes gave nothing away. “We should touch base.”

Her heart pounding so hard she was lucky it didn’t crack a rib, she nodded. “A walk, maybe?” she heard herself offer lamely.

“That’ll work.”

It took her several agonizing seconds to realize that he was waiting for her to join him. “Oh!” she exclaimed like a total doofus and ordered her feet to carry her toward him.

They all went out to the porch together and waved goodbye to Viv.

Luke shook Derek’s hand. “Friday, happy hour. The Ace.”

“I’ll be there,” said Derek.

The Ace in the Hole was the only bar within the Rust Creek Falls town limits. Amy remembered it all too well from her short, unhappy visit to town nine years before.

And then, last year, the Ace had garnered national attention when a reality show, The Great Roundup, had filmed final auditions there. Travis Dalton, Derek’s cousin, had been on that show and so had Travis’s now-wife, Brenna O’Reilly Dalton.

Amy had watched the show faithfully every week. The scenes filmed in town had made her feel all warm and fuzzy, made her long for Rust Creek Falls, made her remember the good times growing up. Best of all, The Great Roundup had allowed her to get sappy and sentimental from the safety of her Boulder, Colorado living room. Never had she ever planned to set foot in town again.

But now, here she was, about to get up-close and conversational with the very reason she’d stayed away for so long in the first place.

Luke and Eva went back into the house, leaving Amy alone with the gorgeous broad-shouldered stranger who’d once ruled her teenaged heart. She just stood there, like a lump. She had no idea what to say to him.

He had his straw Resistol in his hand. He slid the hat onto his head and tugged on the brim to settle it.

Everything inside her was aching. This couldn’t be happening.

But it was.

“Let’s go.” He started walking. She followed him down the steps and out into the late-afternoon sunshine.

He turned for the big yellow barn where Eva and Luke would get married in less than four weeks. Amy came up beside him and they walked together, but not touching, neither saying a word. Somewhere far off, a lone bird cried, the sound faint. Plaintive.

“Here’s as good as anywhere, I guess,” he said, stopping at a split rail fence fifty yards or so from the looming shape of the barn.

For more reasons than she cared to contemplate, she didn’t want to look directly at him, so she turned toward the pasture on the other side of the fence. The papers Viv had given her crackled in her hands as she rested her forearms on the top rail and gazed off at nothing in particular.

Silence. Out in the pasture, a bay mare snorted and shook her dark mane.

Derek said, “You look good,” and she tried to read his tone. Careful? Thoughtful? Maybe a little angry?

What did it matter, though, what was on his mind? She didn’t know him anymore. They were strangers to each other now and she needed to remember that. “Thanks. You too—and, well, I don’t even know where to start.” She did look at him then. He was watching her from under the shadow of his hat. Waiting. She swallowed. Hard. “I have been wondering, though…”


“Well, it would be good to have some idea of who knows,” she said, and then wanted to kick herself. Could she be any more unclear? He probably had no clue what she’d just tried to ask him.

But as it turned out, he understood perfectly. “About us, you mean?”

“Yeah. About, um, what happened thirteen years ago.”

“Nobody in this town,” he said. “Nobody but me.” A slow smile curved his beautiful mouth. “Well, and you, now that you’re here. While you’re here.”

She caught her lower lip between her teeth. “I would like it to stay that way.”

“Just between you and me, you mean?”

“Yes, Derek.” His name in her mouth tasted way too familiar. “Just between us. Can we keep it that way?”

“You got it. I’ve never told a soul and I won’t start now.” And then he frowned. “But what about the Armstrongs? You didn’t ever tell Eva or her sisters?”

“No.” Her silly throat had clutched and the word came out in a whisper. She knew her cheeks had to be lobster-red. “Ahem.” She coughed into her hand. And then she made herself explain. “I never told the Armstrongs the whole story. All they know is that you and I dated in high school. How about Luke? Your family?”

“I meant what I said, Amy. I haven’t told anyone. It just seemed better to put the whole thing behind me. It’s the past and it needs to stay that way.”

“I agree.” And she did. Absolutely, she did. She wished that none of it had ever happened.

But it did happen. And it changed her in the deepest way.

Did it change him, too, she wondered?

Not that she would ever ask. She had no right to ask and she needed to remember that.

He smiled again—halfway this time, one corner of his mouth kicking up. “Luke waited until after I said I would be his best man to tell me that you would be the maid of honor.”

A strange, tight spurt of laughter escaped her. She quickly composed herself. “I see Eva all over that.”

“What do you mean?”

“She got me to agree to be her maid of honor before she mentioned that you would be best man.”

“So, you think she knows more than you’ve told her?”

“Well, you know Eva, right? She’s a complete and unapologetic romantic. I think she suspects there was more than just a high school crush going on between us back in the day.” Another tight little laugh escaped her—and then she wanted to cry. Really, she couldn’t stand for him not to know what she truly felt, how much she regretted the way things had ended up. “Derek, I…”

“Yeah?” His eyes held hers, a deep look, one that reached down into the center of her and stirred up emotions she wished she didn’t feel.

“I, well, I just need you to know that I’m sorry. For everything.”

Wow. She almost couldn’t believe that she’d gone and done it, apologized straight out. And as soon as the words escaped her lips, she kind of wanted to take them back.

Because really, wasn’t he the one who’d told her to go?

But what else could a person say at a time like this?

“I’m sorry, too,” he said.

“But it’s fine,” she blurted out.

He nodded. “Yeah. You’re right. It’s water under the bridge. Years ago. Not a big deal.”

“Absolutely. Over and done. We’ve both put it behind us. Derek, we can do this. We can be there for Luke and Eva. We can help make their wedding everything they deserve it to be.”

He took off his hat, hit the brim against his denim-clad thigh, then put it back on. “Yeah. That’s our job and we can do it.”

She straightened her shoulders. “We will do it.”

“Yes, we will,” he agreed.

And then they just stood there at the fence, staring at each other.

The silence stretched thin.

He broke it. “Well, all right, then. I’ll be in touch.” And without another word, he turned and left her standing there.

A Maverick to (Re)MarryA Maverick to (Re)Marry by Christine Rimmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Maverick to (Re) Marry by Christine Rimmer is a 2018 Harlequin Special Edition publication.
Derek and Amy were high school sweethearts, but after getting married, things went horribly awry and they decided to divorce. No one ever knew about it, except the two them and Amy’s father. But, now Amy has returned home to be the maid of honor at her friend’s wedding. However, she won’t be able to able to avoid Derek because he’s the best man. Awkward!!

I am always a sucker for second chance romance stories, so naturally, I was already predisposed to enjoying this book. But, the story was just so realistic, making the emotions leap from the page. This is a situation that is all too familiar with young lovers who know deep down they are right for each other, but experience doubts and interference from others. While high school sweethearts don’t often marry, I can attest to young love turning out to be true and lasting love. I guess, without getting into my personal life, this type of story touches me because I’ve seen it happen, up close and personal, in my own family. (Although, I’m glad the couple took a break from each other while attending college, then reunited. I think it helped them realize they wouldn’t truly be content without the other- they really were meant to be- but I won’t embarrass them by naming them in this review. I’m also glad they didn’t wait 13 years!! 😊)

The feelings Amy and Derek had for each other are still very much alive, but, they aren’t sure if the other feels the same way or if the same obstacles they faced in the past, would still threaten their relationship. Will they take another chance at love or will history repeat itself?

This is a sweet love story! Derek is a handful at first, but boy, is he sexy. I’d give him a second chance, too, if I were Amy!! LOL!! I do hope grumpy Bailey get his own story next! That’d be awesome! If you love second chance love stories, you don’t want to miss this one!!





A New York Times and USA-Today bestselling author, Christine Rimmer has written more than 100 contemporary romances for Harlequin Books. A reader favorite, Christine has won Romantic Times BOOKreview's Reviewer's Choice Award for best Silhouette Special Edition. She has been nominated seven times for the Romance Writers of America's prestigious RITA award and five times for Romantic Times Series Storyteller of the Year. Christine lives in Oregon with her family.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon- Feature and Review


In 1992, a car accident kills a young man and forever changes the lives of three people… Now, twenty years later, they’ll all come to regret the choices they made that day, as the secrets and lies they’ve told to protect each other become the very things that tear their lives apart.

After a night of fun, Abby was responsible for the car crash that killed her beloved brother. It is a sin she can never forgive herself for, so she pushes away the man she loves most, knowing that he would eventually hate her for what she’s done, the same way she hates herself.

Twenty years later, Abby’s husband, Nate, is also living with a deep sense of guilt. He was the driver who first came upon the scene of Abby’s accident, the man who pulled her to safety before the car erupted in flames, the man who could not save her brother in time. It’s this guilt, this regret that binds them together. They understand each other. Or so Nate believes.

In a strange twist of fate, Liam (her old lover—possibly her true soulmate) moves in with his own family next door, releasing a flood of memories that Abby has been trying to keep buried all these years. Abby and Liam, in a complicit agreement, pretend never to have met, yet cannot resist the pull of the past—nor the repercussions of the dark secrets they’ve both been carrying…



 The Neighbors

The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Neighbors by Hannah Mary McKinnon is a 2018 Mira publication.

The title alone had me intrigued. However, I was taken completely by surprise by this story. I never would have guessed how things would evolve – or where it would end up.

Back in the early 1990s, Abby and her brother were involved in a fiery car crash. Abby survived, thanks to Nate, the man she would eventually marry. But, Abby’s brother did not survive, and Abby has never forgiven herself.

Fast forward to present day- Abby and Nate are happily married with a teenage daughter. But, their lives slowly begin to unravel when the new neighbors move in. In an unbelievable twist of irony or fate, Abby’s former fiancĂ©, Liam, his wife and teenage son move in right next door, which opens up a Pandoras box of unrequited feelings, jealousy, manipulations, and the manifestations of dark secrets, that once revealed will change their lives forever…

This story, although I haven’t really seen anyone else make this connection, has a Gothic tone to it. No, there are no Cornish cliffs or spooky mansions, but the family connections and stunning secrets that reveal themselves little by little, certainly creates that atmosphere, and that ending just put the cherry on the cake, in my opinion.

This is a wicked story, packed with twists, although I suspected a few of them beforehand, the revelations were no less dramatic. The tangled web is woven so expertly, the characters will never be able to completely free themselves from it. It is hard to say who is guilty, who in innocent, or who was corrupted the most by all the denials, lies, and secrets. I was invested in the book right from the start and loathed having to put it down. Secrets and lies, the repercussions and the fallout, never fails to hold my rapt attention.

This is very well constructed novel, original, highly suspenseful, and utterly absorbing!!





I was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a long and successful career in recruitment, I quit the corporate world in favor of writing.

My first novel, Time After Time (a lighthearted rom-com) was published in June 2016. My second, the domestic suspense story The Neighbors, arrived March 2018. My third will follow in 2019.

I live in Oakville, Ontario, with my husband and three sons, and I'm delighted by my twenty second commute.

Find me on Facebook www.facebook.com/hannahmarymckinnon, Twitter @HannahMMcKinnon, and on Instagram @HannahMaryMcKinnon. For even more, visit my website www.hannahmarymckinnon.com.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd- Feature and Review


I have three confessions to make:
1. I've got the scar of gunshot on my forehead.
2. I don't remember an entire year of my life.
3. My name is Kellen Adams...and that's half a lie.
Girl running...from a year she can't remember, from a husband she prays is dead, from homelessness and fear. Tough, capable Kellen Adams takes a job as assistant manager of a remote vacation resort on the North Pacific Coast. There amid the towering storms and the lashing waves, she hopes to find sanctuary. But when she discovers a woman's dead and mutilated body, she's soon trying to keep her own secrets while investigating first one murder...then another. 

Now every guest and employee is a suspect. Every friendly face a mask. Every kind word a lie. Kellen's driven to defend her job, her friends and the place she's come to call home. Yet she wonders--with the scar of a gunshot on her forehead and amnesia that leaves her unsure of her own past--could the killer be staring her in the face?



 Dead Girl Running (Cape Charade, #1)Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dead Girl Running by Christina Dodd is a 2018 HQN publication.

Whoa! This was one wild ride!

Kellen is living a lie- or at least partially. An entire year of her life is missing- gone- no memory of it whatsoever. But, she does remember her ex-husband, and the horrific abuse she suffered at his hands. She escaped him, at a very high cost, but, she went on to become an Army officer, and is now running a resort on the coast of Washington. However, when the owners turn everything over to her for a short time, anything that could go wrong did, starting with a dead body and a smuggling ring. Toss in a few ominous connections to Kellen’s past and some very stormy, gloomy weather, and you have the perfect mix for a tense novel of suspense and a puzzling whodunit. There is even a little action and adventure and romance to round things out. But, that ending…. Oh, wow!

This story is a little complex, and there’s quite a bit going on. Kellen’s past is turbulent to say the very least, and the murder mystery coupled with the smuggling ring, on top of the fairly large cast of characters, would normally leave me feeling overwhelmed. I will admit I did have to slow down and pay close attention with this book, but I had no trouble following along. I thought the author did an amazing job of tying the threads together. I loved the guessing game, suspecting everyone at one time or another. The conclusion is a major surprise- I mean a MAJOR surprise- packing a strong, almost poignant, emotional punch. I never saw it coming. I think I gasped out loud!! I thought the story was very original, exciting, imaginative, deeply absorbing and suspenseful! I can’t wait to read the next book in series!!





Go to Christina's home page for her, "Books by Series and In Order," page and her printable book list sorted by genre, series and in order. Join Christina's mailing list for updates! http://christinadodd.com

Friday, June 22, 2018

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James- Feature and Review


In 1919, Kitty Weekes, pretty, resourceful, and on the run, falsifies her background to obtain a nursing position at Portis House, a remote hospital for soldiers left shell-shocked by the horrors of the Great War. Hiding the shame of their mental instability in what was once a magnificent private estate, the patients suffer from nervous attacks and tormenting dreams. But something more is going on at Portis House—its plaster is crumbling, its plumbing makes eerie noises, and strange breaths of cold waft through the empty rooms. It’s known that the former occupants left abruptly, but where did they go? And why do the patients all seem to share the same nightmare, one so horrific that they dare not speak of it?

Kitty finds a dangerous ally in Jack Yates, an inmate who may be a war hero, a madman… or maybe both. But even as Kitty and Jack create a secret, intimate alliance to uncover the truth, disturbing revelations suggest the presence of powerful spectral forces. And when a medical catastrophe leaves them even more isolated, they must battle the menace on their own, caught in the heart of a mystery that could destroy them both.



 Silence For the DeadSilence For the Dead by Simone St. James
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Silence for the Dead by Simone St. James is a 2014 NAL publication.

Haunting in more ways than one-

An old mansion converted into a medical facility for ‘shell-shocked’ soldiers is the perfect, atmospheric backdrop for a spooky ghost story. But, this book is more than just a chilling paranormal tale- it is a mystery, a story of friendship, and a sweet, poignant love story.

Porits House is the perfect place for a young woman on the run to hide out, and Kitty Weekes desperately needs a place to lay low. She falsifies her resume to find work as a nurse, but right away ‘Madam’ calls her out on it. But, her boss is very desperate for nurses, so much so, her own job is on the line. So, she allows Kitty to stay, despite her lack of training.

But, Kitty will soon discover she has her work cut out for her, not only with the men she is to care for, but with the house itself. Thankfully, she finds an unlikely ally in Jack Yates, a war hero, whose identity is being kept secret from the other patients, and most of the staff. As Kitty and Jack get to know one another, they begin unraveling a puzzling mystery involving the former owners of Portis House,and a strange evil force effecting the patients. While danger lurks around every corner, Jack and Kitty discover they are kindred spirits in many ways.

Naturally, as a huge fan of Gothic mysteries and romances, this book appealed to me on every level. I love historical settings, old crumbling mansions, and dangerous romantic elements. But, nothing is spookier than an old asylum, or hospital, and boy did this book have atmosphere!! The paranormal aspects are quite effective and despite the uplifting conclusion, it still leaves the reader feeling very unsettled, like a good ghost story should.

This is a very well- constructed mystery, with a terrific cast of characters, with a wonderfully sweet love story rounding things out. I only recently discovered Simone St. James, but she has left a big impression on me! I can’t wait to read more of her books!!!





Simone St. James is the award-winning author of The Haunting of Maddy Clare, which won two prestigious RITA® awards from Romance Writers of America and an Arthur Ellis Award from Crime Writers of Canada. She writes gothic historical ghost stories set in 1920s England, books that are known for their mystery, gripping suspense, and romance.

Simone wrote her first ghost story, about a haunted library, when she was in high school. She worked behind the scenes in the television business for twenty years before leaving to write full-time. She lives just outside Toronto, Canada with her husband and a spoiled cat.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis- Feature and Review


Following the USA Today bestselling author of Lost and Found Sisters comes Jill Shalvis' moving story of heart, loss, betrayal, and friendship

Six months after Lanie Jacobs’ husband’s death, it’s hard to imagine anything could deepen her sense of pain and loss. But then Lanie discovers she isn’t the only one grieving his sudden passing. A serial adulterer, he left behind several other women who, like Lanie, each believe she was his legally wedded wife. 

Rocked by the infidelity, Lanie is left to grapple with searing questions. How could she be so wrong about a man she thought she knew better than anyone? Will she ever be able to trust another person?  Can she even trust herself?

Desperate to make a fresh start, Lanie impulsively takes a job at the family-run Capriotti Winery. At first, she feels like an outsider among the boisterous Capriottis. With no real family of her own, she’s bewildered by how quickly they all take her under their wing and make her feel like she belongs. Especially Mark Capriotti, a gruffly handsome Air Force veteran turned deputy sheriff who manages to wind his way into Lanie’s cold, broken heart—along with the rest of the clan.

Everything is finally going well for her, but the arrival of River Brown changes all that. The fresh-faced twenty-one-year old seems as sweet as they come…until her dark secrets come to light—secrets that could destroy the new life Lanie’s only just begun to build.



 Rainy Day Friends (Wildstone, #2)Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Rainy Day Friends by Jill Shalvis is a 2018 William Morrow Paperbacks publication.

Wow! The ‘feel good story’ of the year!

Have the tissues close by- this book will have you laughing and crying –often at the same time!!

“I’ve learned that life is a crapshoot, and at any moment someone can walk into it and change it forever”

When Lanie’s husband passed away, she discovered he was a polygamist. He had several other wives, in fact. Reeling from this revelation, and in desperate need for a fresh start, Lanie takes a job at the family run Capriotti Winery. Immediately the family embraces her like one of their own. But, Lanie is not exactly an outgoing ‘people person’.

Enter Mark Capriotti –

Air Force veteran Mark Capriotti left a better, more prestigious job, returning home to raise his twin daughters after his wife abandons them. His entire focus is on his girls, meaning he doesn’t have room in his life for anyone else. But, he employs a few special skills to draw Lanie out of her shell and has her feeling like a part of the family in no time.

But, While Mark has no trouble being very friendly and making nice with Lanie, he draws the line when it comes to sharing his heart….

“She needed to learn to keep her distance better around them. Especially Mark, because the man was one of those quiet troublemakers, she could tell- the kind that sneaked in under a woman’s guard and made himself at home. And then decimated her heart and soul….

However, Mark has nothing on Lanie. Compared to her predicament, anxiety, and frozen heart, he’s a warm -hearted teddy bear.

Enter, River Brown-

River arrives at the Capriotti Winery in a broken down crap car, very pregnant, all alone, and in desperate need of a place to stay and a job. Naturally, the Capriotti’s welcome her in, taking care of her immediate need for shelter and money. But, River is harboring some explosive secrets that will upend all the personal progress Lanie has made, jeopardizing her job , her relationship with Mark, his daughters, and the entire Capriotti family.

I loved this story!! LOVED IT!! Shalvis delivers one of the best, if not THE best contemporary romance novels of the year, so far.

Each chapter begins with quotes provided to us by Lanie, all which are very funny, but also very poignant. The quotes alone are worth reading the book for.

“The human body is 90 percent water, so basically we’re all just cucumbers with anxiety”

Each of the main characters have taken some serious emotional hits in their lives. No one person has it harder than the other from an emotional standpoint, each one facing monumental challenges due to the curve balls life threw at them, without warning.

The secondary characters are also faced with a few ready- made challenges that will tug at your heart. I do hope to hear a little more about these characters in the future- especially Mia!

“A spider just landed on my desk. Oh, and in other news, it turns out when I’m startled, I can jump five feet in the air with just the power of my butt cheeks”

But, the reader will find themselves pulling for every single character, which left me feeling very conflicted along the way, sometimes. But, this is just one of those stories that makes you think:

“This is how things should be”.

If we all somehow managed to look past our own pain, to consider what someone else is suffering through, to listen to people, help those who are going through a hard time- if we can forgive, and work towards a solution together, what amazing things we could all accomplish!!

If you need an inspirational story, this one is for you. If need a funny story- this book is for you. If you like a little steam with your romance- this book is for you. You love heartwarming tales?- this one is for you, too. In other words, this book is just an all- around great story and has a little something for everyone.

Highly recommend!!





New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill's bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold and visit http://www.jillshalvis.com for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.






or email her at contact@jillshalvis.com