A Thousand Steps

A Thousand Steps
A Thousand Steps by T. Jefferson Parker

Friday, May 29, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- All is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker- Feature and Review


In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.

As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town - or perhaps lives among them - drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.



All Is Not ForgottenAll Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

All is not Forgotten by Wendy Walker is a 2016 St. Martin’s Press publication.

Oh man, did this book mess with my head.

Compared to some psychological thrillers that keep your heart rate up with an ‘easy on the joints’, low impact workout, this book was like a high impact workout for the mind. So much so, my poor brain needed time to recover before I could write this review.

After Jenny Kramer is brutally raped, she is given a drug to make her forget what happened. But, instead of helping her cope, it only stymies her ability to heal emotionally and move forward with her life, which leads her into a very dark place.

In the meantime, Jenny’s parents, Tom and Charlotte, deal with the fallout, which turns the cracks in their marriage into asteroid sized craters.

Shocking secrets spill out, and the investigation turns up evidence that suggests the attacker might not be a stranger, but someone living right there in their small community.

This novel kept me on edge from the first page forward. There is so much to think about, so many layers, and corners filled with dark shadows, paranoia, revenge, and anger. But, often it’s the morality and ethical questions that really added the spice to the pot, on several different fronts.

One of the most compelling topics this book addresses is the use of a drug that could erase your memory of a traumatic event. On the surface, this may seem like an act of compassion, but it raises a plethora of questions, which could certainly inspire some interesting debate.

But, there are other dilemmas that arise, and frankly, I was just as torn over those issues as with anything else going on.

Not only that, we see every individual in treatment go through intense therapy, both as individuals and as a group. Watching them all come to terms with their pasts, taking slow, measured steps toward healing, and seeing real promising results, despite the incredibly bizarre circumstances, was often a harrowing, but fascinating process.

With so much going on, these individual threads could have easily spiraled out of control, but the author kept them right on track and then slowly merged them until I was sitting there watching what was sure to become a spectacular eruption, frozen in my seat unable to tear my eyes from the impending collision.

I really, really liked this book!! It’s absorbing, thought provoking, troubling, tense, and riveting! I could not have guessed the way things would turn out, was never sure who to trust, and had to ask myself on more than one occasion: “What would I do in this situation?’

Be warned, however, that there are graphic descriptions of rape, with some very disturbing passages to read through, but because of the memory erasing side effects, it was necessary to delve deeper into the physical trauma, and was relevant to the story.

Also, it is worth mentioning that while the drug featured in this story has not been marketed in real life, there are drugs similar to it, that are currently being tested, along with therapy, that could indeed alter, impact, or erase memories.

Overall, this is super smart, perfectly paced, psychological thriller, unique and original, and I really appreciated the challenge it presented, how it held my attention and the way everything wrapped up. There are still a few secrets held close to the vest, but the reader knows all, and I had to give the author a big nod of approval for giving me that insider knowledge which was a nice touch and a perfect way to conclude the story.

I think the book deserves the five -star treatment!!





Wendy Walker is an attorney and former investment banker. Her first thriller, All Is Not Forgotten, has become an international bestseller with movie rights sold to Reese Witherspoon and Warner Brothers. The paperback will be out on July 18, 2017. Her second thriller, Emma In The Night, will be released on August 8, 2017. Wendy lives in Connecticut where she is busy raising her three sons and writing her next novel.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

The Dower House Mystery by Patricia Wentworth- Feature and Review


In this atmospheric tale from the author of the Miss Silver Mysteries, a widow is reunited with her girlhood love in a house haunted by all-too-human ghosts

They meet again in the dusk of a ruined garden. Amabel Grey hasn’t laid eyes on Julian Forsham in twenty years, not since she gave him up—the man she’d fallen passionately in love with—for the fiancé who needed her. Now an unexpected circumstance brings the British widow and the world-famous scientist together again.

Amabel’s nineteen-year-old daughter, Daphne, has been invited to join her friends—and the boy she adores—on a trip to Egypt. But she needs two hundred pounds from her mother. George Forsham is offering that exact sum to anyone willing to stay six months at Dower House, the centuries-old estate in the English countryside where Amabel and Julian first met. The fact that the overgrown, sadly neglected house is rumored to be haunted doesn’t deter Amabel. Until strange things start happening . . .

The mewing of a cat that doesn’t exist, the sound of flapping wings, someone crying in the dark. Are restless spirits walking the night? Or is there a rational explanation? Plunged into deadly danger, Amabel could lose her second chance with the man she never stopped loving.



The Dower House MysteryThe Dower House Mystery by Patricia Wentworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Dower House by Patricia Wentworth is a 2016 Open Road Media publication. (Originally published in 1925)

I love Golden Age Mysteries!

This is a stand- alone mystery- not a part of the Miss Silver series- by Wentworth. Amabel Grey’s rather spoiled daughter, Daphne, shovels on the guilt, demanding that Amabel raise the funds for a trip she’s desperate to take. Determined to get the money, Amabel agrees to spend six months at 'Dower House' to help dispel stubborn rumors that the house is haunted. Will she manage to stay for the duration?

I’m sure that over the years I have read a few books by Patricia Wentworth, but it would have been long, long time ago, and I don’t have any memory of them. I’ve been piecing together the ‘Miss Silver’ mysteries for a while, hoping to read through the series from start to finish. This book, however, is not a part of that series. Truth be told, I stumbled across it while browsing through the Kindle Unlimited books at Amazon.

This was such a fun mystery! Amabel is reunited with the real love of her life after many years, but her life could be in real danger- but from whom? And Why?

There are plenty of atmospheric chills and thrills, as well as a sweet love story, and lots of intrigue. The story wasn’t one hundred percent perfect, as it may have carried on a little longer than necessary, but other than that, it was quite entertaining!!

As always, I feel compelled to give thanks to Open Road Media for reissuing so many wonderful classic mysteries in digital format. Finding these books can be a bit of a chore, and can be costly, if you are looking for print copies. Not only that, it is much easier on my eyes if I can read them on my Kindle.

I’m really looking forward to reading through the "Miss Silver" series and will be on the lookout for more stand -alone novels by this author.

4 stars





Patricia Wentworth (1878-1961) was one of the masters of English mystery writing. She published her first novel in 1910 and, in the 1920s, introduced the character who would make her famous: Miss Maud Silver. Along with Agatha Christie's Miss Marple, Miss Silver is the definitive embodiment of the English style of cozy mysteries

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Murder with Clotted Cream by Karen Rose Smith - Feature and Review


A catering job has come in for Daisy’s Tea Garden in Pennsylvania’s Amish country—but death will be served before dessert . . .

Margaret Vaughn has hired Daisy to provide afternoon tea for her theater group. A local girl who left long ago for an acting career in New York, Margaret has returned home—with a multimillionaire husband in tow. But while Daisy bustles around Margaret’s historic farmhouse, she senses that there’s tension behind the scenes. Then she discovers the hostess on the floor of the pantry—dead and covered with clotted cream.

Barely recovered from her previous sleuthing adventure, Daisy joins forces with the former detective she’s been dating to help solve the case. Should she cast suspicion on the stars of the upcoming play? Can Margaret’s sister shine a spotlight on potential culprits? Or are there clues to be found in the victim’s past? With plenty of family stress of her own to deal with, all Daisy knows is she better act fast .



Murder with Clotted Cream (Daisy's Tea Garden Mystery, #5)Murder with Clotted Cream by Karen Rose Smith
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Murder with Clotted Cream by Karen Rose Smith is a 2020 Kensington publication.

An absorbing page turner!

In troubling times, it is often comforting to turn to something familiar. Some folks binge watch favorite series, others are re-reading favorite books instead of searching for something that will hold their divided, distracted attention. For me, I have found reading new installments in my favorite mystery series to be very calming and cathartic.

This book happens to be the latest chapter in one of my favorite series, and is also an upcoming release- a win-win! I am also happy to report this book not only held my attention, it kept me guessing from beginning to end!

In this fifth installment, Daisy accepts a catering job for Margaret Vaughn, who is hosting a tea for her theatre group. Margaret has recently moved back to Pennsylvania after pursuing a career in acting in New York. Now she is residing, with her millionaire husband, in her historic farmhouse.

Margaret isn’t exactly the warmest person, but when Daisy finds her body in the pantry, covered in clotted cream, she is shocked to the core- believing she might 'never view clotted cream the same way again'…

One of the great things about cozies is that they are 100% pure 'whodunits'. Trying to figure out who the culprit is and what the motive might be amongst the suspects is always challenging and fun. But the other great thing about cozies is checking in on the personal lives of the recurring characters, who over time begin to feel like old friends.

In this episode, Daisy is experiencing some anxiety due to the impending birth of her first grandchild, her mother’s odd behavior, and the prospect of her younger daughter’s first visit with her birth mother and her family.

The author does a magnificent job with balancing the mystery with the family drama. Both threads are interesting and compelling and kept me turning pages past my bedtime. I also appreciate the depth and maturity of this installment, which addresses some important mental health issues, without becoming too heavy. In fact, the writing here is so good, I’d go so far as to say this book would appeal to a broader audience, including those who enjoy contemporary or women's fiction.

The story has a few nice twists and some big surprises you won't want to miss out on.

Of course, it goes without saying, there are some delicious recipes included and I want to try all of them!!

Overall, this is another great addition to what has quickly become one of my very favorite cozy series. You can bet I will be the first in line for the next chapter! I can hardly wait!!






Award winning author, Karen Rose Smith, wrties romances as well as mysteries. Her first book was published in 1992.  Her romances have made both the USA TODAY list and the Amazon Romance and Contemporary Romance Bestseller lists. 

She has written for Meteor/Kismet, Kensington and Harlequin. Readers can contact Karen through her website, Facebook, (Karen Rose Smith Author), and on Twitter @Karenrosesmith. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- Jane Steele by Lynday Faye - Feature and Review


Reader, I murdered him.

A Gothic retelling of Jane Eyre.

Like the heroine of the novel she adores, Jane Steele suffers cruelly at the hands of her aunt and schoolmaster. And like Jane Eyre, they call her wicked - but in her case, she fears the accusation is true. When she flees, she leaves behind the corpses of her tormentors.

A fugitive navigating London's underbelly, Jane rights wrongs on behalf of the have-nots whilst avoiding the noose. Until an advertisement catches her eye. Her aunt has died and the new master at Highgate House, Mr Thornfield, seeks a governess. Anxious to know if she is Highgate's true heir, Jane takes the position and is soon caught up in the household's strange spell. When she falls in love with the mysterious Charles Thornfield, she faces a terrible dilemma: can she possess him - body, soul and secrets - and what if he discovers her murderous past?



Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jane Steel by Lyndsay Faye is a 2016 G. P. Putnam’s Sons publication.

There are only a few times in my life when I’ve honestly felt as though an author sat down and penned a book just for me. This is one of those times…

While marketed as a ‘retelling’ of Jane Eyre, in truth, our protagonist, Jane Steele, sees a dark parallel between her life and that of Jane Eyre, and is inspired to write her own memoir, so technically it’s not really a ‘retelling’ in the way we commonly refer to it.

But, as a huge fan of classic Gothic stories, Jane Eyre, in particular, this book literally rocked my world!!

Right away I recognized the writing style. The languorous phrases and the slow, tantalizing pace, the deliciously dark characterizations, all of which drew me right into the familiar, well loved, adored, and cherished atmosphere of the Gothic novel.

Jane Steele is vulnerable, but also has criminal, murderous tendencies. However, she never does anything out of pure malice. She loves and cares for people deeply, but literally has no qualms about taking matters into her own hands, vigilante style, not once, but multiple times.

“Though I no longer presumed to have a conscience, I have never once lacked feelings.”

Jane Steele often compares her own circumstances to those of Jane Eyre, but points out various ways Eyre lacked the chops to do what needed doing and 'wasn’t all that great of a detective'.

Moments and insights like that had me looking at the classic novel in a whole new light, all while falling hopelessly in love with this darker version of events. It was almost as if Steele was trying to right some of the Eyre’s wrongs in her parallel universe, strengthening her weaknesses, and giving her a distorted boost of girl power.

The second half of the book is where things really get interesting, as Steele quite expertly works undercover, while trying to figure out all the burning mysteries of Highgate House. I loved all the overwrought drama as an obvious ode to Gothic hysteria, written with a wry, satirical tone that expressed a deep affection for the classic genre, despite the obvious exaggerations.

But, as always, once the suspense has been built, all the secrets are unveiled, and the mysteries solved, all of which are revealed with great flourish and embellishment, at the end of the day, it’s the love story that leaves me enthralled. Will Jane get her man? Will Charles still love her once he knows her dark history?

This book is a rousing tribute to Gothic classics, cleverly constructed, exposing the dark underbelly of Victorian days, chalk full of satire and dark humor. Jane Steele walked away with my heart in her pocket. This is one of those books that, as I regretfully turned the last page, I was tempted to start it all over again from the beginning. I can’t believe it took me so long to discover this book!! It’s one of those stories that makes me want to hug the book hold it close to my heart, because it's stories like this one that reminds me of how I feel in love with reading and why.

“I hope that the epitaph of the human race when the world ends will be: here perished a species which loved to tell stories.”

This book now holds a treasured spot on my ‘favorite books of all time’ list. Five big fat stars!!





Lyndsay Faye moved to Manhattan in 2005 to audition for theatre work; she found her days more open when the powers that be elected to knock her day-job restaurant down with bulldozers. Her first novel Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson is a tribute to the aloof genius and his good-hearted friend whose exploits she has loved since childhood. Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. The Gods of Gotham, Seven for a Secret, and The Fatal Flame follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape. The first book of the trilogy was nominated for an Edgar Award for Best Novel and has been published in 14 languages. Her lasting affection for Jane Eyre led her to re-imagine the heroine as a gutsy, heroic serial killer in Jane Steele.

After growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Lyndsay worked as a professional actress throughout the Bay Area for several years, nearly always in a corset, and if not a corset then at the very least heels and lined stockings. As her roles ranged from Scrooge's lost fiancée in A Christmas Carol to Lavinia DuPlessy in Andrew Lippa's world premiere of A Little Princess, whalebone prevented her from drawing a natural breath for a number of years. She is a soprano with a high pop belt, if it interests you. Her performances were generally reviewed well, with adjectives ranging from "soaring" and "delightful" to "sausage-curled." 

Lyndsay and her husband, artist Gabriel Lehner, live in Queens with their cats, Grendel and Prufrock. During the few hours a day Lyndsay isn't writing or editing, she is most often cooking, or sampling new kinds of microbrew, or thinking of ways to creatively mismatch her clothing. She is a very proud member of AEA, MWA, ASH, GWN, and BSI (Actor's Equity Association, Mystery Writers of America, the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, Girls Write Now, and the Baker Street Irregulars, respectively).

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin- Feature and Review


Dodge City, Kansas, is a place of legend. The town that started as a small military site exploded with the coming of the railroad, cattle drives, eager miners, settlers, and various entrepreneurs passing through to populate the expanding West. Before long, Dodge City’s streets were lined with saloons and brothels and its populace was thick with gunmen, horse thieves, and desperadoes of every sort. By the 1870s, Dodge City was known as the most violent and turbulent town in the West.

Enter Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. Young and largely self-trained men, the lawmen led the effort that established frontier justice and the rule of law in the American West, and did it in the wickedest place in the United States. When they moved on, Wyatt to Tombstone and Bat to Colorado, a tamed Dodge was left in the hands of Jim Masterson. But before long Wyatt and Bat, each having had a lawman brother killed, returned to that threatened western Kansas town to team up to restore order again in what became known as the Dodge City War before riding off into the sunset.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Tom Clavin's Dodge City tells the true story of their friendship, romances, gunfights, and adventures, along with the remarkable cast of characters they encountered along the way (including Wild Bill Hickock, Jesse James, Doc Holliday, Buffalo Bill Cody, John Wesley Hardin, Billy the Kid, and Theodore Roosevelt) that has gone largely untold—lost in the haze of Hollywood films and western fiction, until now.



Dodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American WestDodge City: Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dodge City: Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp and the Wickedest Town in the American West by Tom Clavin is a 2018 St. Martin’s Griffin publication.

This is an extremely interesting history of the time Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson spent in Dodge City, Kansas.

The landscape and atmosphere of the city, is very vividly drawn, and might be a bit different from the preconceived notions we have, based on westerns we’ve watched on television. The information provided here might also come as a surprise for many. Books, movies, and television have exaggerated and embellished the facts to the point where it is has become hard to separate fact from fiction.

Clavin did a great job of explaining how the legends were born, how these fantastical stories originated, then proceeded to break down the real, true story of Dodge City, Bat Masterson, and Wyatt Earp. I found the reality to be just as fascinating as the overblown legends.

While I love history and historical fiction, excepting a handful of western historical romance novels, I occasionally indulge in, I have never been especially interested in reading a pure Western.

However, years ago, I lost a coin toss with my husband and had to watch ‘Tombstone’, the movie starring Val Kilmer and Kurt Russell. While initially, I sat on the sofa sulking, because westerns were my least favorite kind of movie of all time, before long, I was completely caught up in the comedy and drama, as well as the incredible acting performances.

                                                                   WYATT EARP

A small seed was planted back then, which made me want to learn more about Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday. But I never acted on that curiosity because I just wasn’t quite ready to consider reading American Western history- fact or fiction, just yet.

However, that movie did help me better understand who many of the players were in this book and is also why the true story behind these infamous characters was so surprising to me. While I was somewhat familiar with Wyatt Earp’s background, I knew next to nothing about Bat Masterson, which made the portions of the book pertaining to him of greater interest.

                                                               BAT MASTERSON

The lives of Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp did intersect on several occasions, and this book shows the true nature of their dealings with one another. I enjoyed reading about Dodge City as well. In recent years, the city of Tombstone, thanks in part, to the above- mentioned motion picture, has overshadowed Dodge City. However, the city was certainly… lively! The moral compass was not exactly pure to say the least, perhaps even shocking in some ways.

While history buffs may be well versed in this period in American history, even the most knowledgeable will discover some new information about the two men featured in this book, or about Dodge City and some of its inhabitants.

For someone like me, who has avoided anything that might be even remotely defined as a traditional or pure western for years, this book was very enlightening!!

Overall, this is a well organized book, quite interesting, and a much welcomed change of pace for me.






On the afternoon of October 26, 1881, nine men clashed in what would be known as the most famous shootout in American frontier history. Thirty bullets were exchanged in thirty seconds, killing three men and wounding three others.

The fight sprang forth from a tense, hot summer. Cattle rustlers had been terrorizing the back country of Mexico and selling the livestock they stole to corrupt ranchers. The Mexican government built forts along the border to try to thwart American outlaws, while Arizona citizens became increasingly agitated. Rustlers, who became known as the cow-boys, began to kill each other as well as innocent citizens. That October, tensions boiled over with Ike and Billy Clanton, Tom and Frank McLaury, and Billy Claiborne confronting the Tombstone marshal, Virgil Earp, and the suddenly deputized Wyatt and Morgan Earp and shotgun-toting Doc Holliday.




Tom Clavin is the author/coauthor of eleven books. His most recent is That Old Black Magic: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, and the Golden Age of Las Vegas.
His articles have appeared in Cosmopolitan, Family Circle, Men's Journal, Parade, Reader's Digest, and others.
He was a contributing reporter for the New York Times for fifteen years.

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Last Woman in The Forest by Diane Les Becquets - Feature and Review


From the national bestselling author of Breaking Wild, here is a riveting and powerful thriller about a woman whose greatest threat could be the man she loves.…

Marian Engström has found her true calling: working with rescue dogs to help protect endangered wildlife. Her first assignment takes her to northern Alberta, where she falls in love with her mentor, the daring and brilliant Tate. After they’re separated from each other on another assignment, Marian is shattered to learn of Tate’s tragic death. Worse still is the aftermath in which Marian discovers disturbing inconsistencies about Tate’s life, and begins to wonder if the man she loved could have been responsible for the unsolved murders of at least four women.

Hoping to clear Tate’s name, Marian reaches out to a retired forensic profiler who’s haunted by the open cases. But as Marian relives her relationship with Tate and circles ever closer to the truth, evil stalks her every move.…



The Last Woman in the ForestThe Last Woman in the Forest by Diane Les Becquets
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Last Woman in the Forest Diane Les Becquets is a 2019 Berkley publication.

A beautifully written, purely intellectual, psychological thriller!

Marian Engström works with rescue dogs to help protect endangered species. Stationed in Alberta, she falls in love with Tate, her mentor. However, her happiness is short-lived when Tate dies tragically.

Her grief soon turns to fear, as evidence surfaces that suggests Tate could be a serial killer. Torn between needing to know the truth and needing to believe Tate is the man she thought him to be, she seeks advice from retired Forensic Profiler, Nick Shepard.

Is it possible the man she loved was a murderer? Was Tate guilty?

 I found the book to be very suspenseful, just not in the traditional way most thrillers are designed. In many ways this plot device reminded me of ‘The Pilot’s Wife’, where after a significant other becomes a possible suspect, scenes from the past suddenly develop new connotations. Memories surface in which the clues one should have picked up on, are either explained away, ignored, or passed by unnoticed. It’s an effective approach, if done with careful planning and in moderation.

Marian is looking back over her relationship with Tate, seeing things through a different lens, that of hindsight. No, this is not an action- packed nail biter, with loads of plot twists. It’s more subtle, cerebral, and psychological. Marian and Nick are both analyzing Tate- but from different angles. Nick is experienced, clinical, and is not as emotionally invested in the findings the way Marian is.

Marian, however, is relying on her personal experiences with Tate, looking at possible alternate suspects, while questioning her own judgment.

Adding to the story is the atmosphere that the landscape and vivid scenery provide. It’s invigorating, but very dangerous, and makes the perfect backdrop for this story. I was able to put myself in this environment, which helped me experience things the ways Marian did.

It was quite unnerving, to be honest. I couldn’t imagine being in her shoes, thinking I had been close to such a cunning, cold blooded murderer, and might have narrowly escaped the same fate as Tate's alledged victims. I’d also want to find some evidence that my suspicions were wrong, because the alternative is too horrible to contemplate.

As Nick’s insights penetrate, so do questions about Nick, his health, his past, and his ability to read Tate. His findings are interesting, and as Marian's awakening slowly mounts, so does the suspense.

While I was busy thinking and rethinking all the angles, a huge turn of events in the last few chapters of the book took me completely off guard!!!

Once I finished the book and my pulse returned to normal, I had one more surprise in store, via the author’s note at the end. Be sure to read that note because it explains some things in the book, once again causing one to reflect on things in hindsight.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It is a different approach for a crime novel. . It is a very well-written book, and although the pace is a little slower than most thrillers, the payoff is worth your patience






Diane Les Becquets is the author of the national bestselling novel BREAKING WILD, published by Berkley/Penguin Random House, which was the winner of the Colorado Book Award in general fiction and the New Hampshire Outstanding Fiction Award. The novel was also shortlisted for the Reading the West Book Award in fiction and was an Indie Next Pick. For more information, visit lesbecquets.com

Friday, May 15, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY- If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio- Feature and Review


Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villainsexplores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.



  If We Were VillainsIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio is a 2017 Flatiron Books publication.

This is a psychological thriller for deep thinkers. There is crime and there is punishment. There is mystery, suspense. There are intense characters, shallow ones too, those who are fatalistic and those who are tragic… just like a Shakespearean play.

Ten years ago, Oliver Marks was one of seven Shakespearean actors at the prestigious Dellecher Classical Conservatory. Today he is about to walk out of a prison cell for the first time in a decade. How did he end up behind bars?

That’s something Detective Colbourne would also like to know. He may have put Oliver in prison, but he knows there is more to the story than he's been told.

He can’t rest until he coaxes the entire story out of Oliver once and for all. With Colbourne retired, and with nothing else to lose, Oliver grants Colbourne his wish.

‘But that I am forbid/ To tell the secrets of my prison -house,/ I could a tale unfold whose lightest word/ Would horrow up thy soul.’

The story then flashes back ten years as Oliver walks us through the events that left him holding the bag for crimes he may or may not have been solely responsible for.

When one of the seven elite actors’ dies, the remaining six thespians are the very picture of innocence. It was an accident after all… wasn’t it? But, Detective Colbourne’s senses they know more than they are telling. Are they as innocent as they appear or are they harboring a dark secret- one that is eating away at them more and more with each passing day?

I tend to gravitate towards these types of stories, which are too few and far between, but I suppose that only makes me appreciate them even more when I stumble across one.

The Shakespearean allegory is well done, as the stage is set for the ultimate tragedy. Our little acting coalition is as thick as thieves, too close, too driven, too immersed within their own little thespian world to cope with reality as most of us know it, which leads to grave consequences, when they begin to become the roles they often play on stage. Jealousy, competition, unrequited love, anger and resentment stir the bubbling pot until ‘exuent omnes’.

I was so engrossed in Oliver’s tale, so mortified, so mesmerized and tantalized, and despite knowing most of the details of the crime in question, and that Oliver has obviously paid his debt, the suspense is still nearly unbearable, because I still didn't know WHY- or HOW things turned out this way. I was filled with such dread, I almost felt like I was back in Vermont at Hamden College listening to Richard Papen unfold a similarly horrifying tale of obsession.

But, as morally questionable as those standing center stage may be, as superficial and self-absorbed, or in some cases, as honorable, or heroic- the classic “Villains VS Heroes”, if you will, the story is haunting and left a painful ache in my heart.

“But that is how a tragedy like ours or King Lear breaks your heart- by making you believe that the ending might still be happy, until the very last minute.”

The author did an amazing job with presentation and ‘staging’, as such, and created a vivid atmosphere, perfect for settling in for a modern Shakespearean tragedy. If you are a fan of the Bard, you will really appreciate the way the dialogue mirrors the events as they unfold and of course the bittersweet irony.

This is not just a psychological thriller, it’s a literary novel filled with obsessions and angst, with beauty and horror, and a near pitch perfect delivery!

This is a debut novel, incredibly, and I for one am pretty much blown away!

Pulling out the stars for this one!





M. L. Rio is an author, but before she was an author she was an actor, and before she was an actor she was just a word nerd whose best friends were books. She holds a master's degree in Shakespeare Studies from King's College London and Shakespeare's Globe. When she's not reading, writing, or explaining why the Authorship Question is actually just a conspiracy theory, she fills her time with friends and family, wine and whiskey, and music made twenty years before she was born.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

The Queen's Secret by Karen Harper- Feature and Review


If you love Jennifer Robson or The Crown you will love New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper’s novel about Elizabeth, The Queen Mother.

1939. As the wife of the King George VI and the mother of the future queen, Elizabeth—“the queen mother”—shows a warm, smiling face to the world. But it’s no surprise that Hitler himself calls her the “Most Dangerous Woman in Europe.” For behind that soft voice and kindly demeanor is a will of steel.

Two years earlier, George was thrust onto the throne when his brother Edward abdicated, determined to marry his divorced, American mistress Mrs. Simpson. Vowing to do whatever it takes to make her husband’s reign a success, Elizabeth endears herself to the British people, and prevents the former king and his brazen bride from ever again setting foot in Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth holds many powerful cards, she’s also hiding damaging secrets about her past and her provenance that could prove to be her undoing.

In this riveting novel of royal secrets and intrigue, Karen Harper lifts the veil on one of the world’s most fascinating families, and how its “secret weapon” of a matriarch maneuvered her way through one of the most dangerous chapters of the century.



The Queen's Secret: A Novel of England's World War II QueenThe Queen's Secret: A Novel of England's World War II Queen by Karen Harper
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Queen’s Secret: A Novel of England’s World War II Queen by Karen Harper is a 2020 William Morrow Paperbacks publication.

Interesting piece of historical fiction, examining various rumors and theories about the private life of Elizabeth, The Queen Mother….

This book piqued my curiosity because it was about the Queen Mother, a member of the royal family I don’t know much about.

I loved ‘The King’s Speech’, but Elizabeth’s personal life is not the focus of that story. I also enjoy ‘The Crown’ on Netflix, but once again, the Queen Mother’s personal life is not the primary focus of that series, either. I’m also not really a ‘royal watcher’, despite my recent interest in the history of the monarchy.

So, despite the oversaturation of world war II novels, which I’ve been avoiding for a long while now, I decided to give this book a try.

Although the book got off to a bit of a rocky start for me, the more I read, the more invested I became in the story. I found myself ‘Googling’ certain topics about Elizabeth I had never heard before, and was surprised to see some of these rumors have been floating around for ages.

As it turns out the queen is holding onto a couple of bombshell secrets, in this novel, secrets that have shaped her life, her marriage, and role as a mother and as a queen.

The story also highlights Elizabeth’s relationship with Churchill, her admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt, and her utter distaste for Wallis Simpson and the continual scandal she and the king’s brother wrought down upon them.

The book is fully narrated by Elizabeth so that the reader is privy to her private fears, her thoughts about the war, and how heavily her secrets weighed upon her as she lived in constant fear of having them exposed.

This is an interesting, and enlightening portrait of the queen mother and I did gain some insights into what she might have been like on a personal level. However, I must remind everyone that this is a work of fiction. Some of the scenarios explored in this book have never been proven. They are only rumors and so this book is highly speculative, in my opinion.

That said, it was an interesting take on the life of the queen and was not at all what I had been expecting.

If you enjoy historical fiction, are a fan of the royals, or like reading world war II fiction, this book might be of interest to you.

*RIP Karen Harper






Karen Harper is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of romantic suspense and historical novels. A native Ohioan, Karen is a former high school English teacher and English-and-writing instructor at the Ohio State University. (Go Bucks!) The Harpers are avid Ohio State football fans, but they have a serious side too. They were on the 10-year committee which revamped the main library on campus. The Ohio State Library houses her author collection in Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Who Speaks for the Damned by C. S. Harris- Feature and Review


Sebastian St. Cyr investigates the mysterious life and death of a nobleman accused of murder in this enthralling new historical mystery from the USA Today bestselling author of Why Kill the Innocent....

It's June 1814, and the royal families of Austria, Russia, and the German states have gathered in London at the Prince Regent's invitation to celebrate the defeat of Napoléon and the restoration of monarchical control throughout Europe. But the festive atmosphere is marred one warm summer evening by the brutal murder of a disgraced British nobleman long thought dead.

Eighteen years before, Nicholas Hayes, the third son of the late Earl of Seaford, was accused of killing a beautiful young French émigré and transported to Botany Bay for life. Even before his conviction, Hayes had been disowned by his father. Few in London were surprised when they heard the ne'er-do-well had died in New South Wales in 1799. But those reports were obviously wrong. Recently Hayes returned to London with a mysterious young boy in tow--a child who vanishes shortly after Nicholas's body is discovered.

Sebastian St. Cyr, Viscount Devlin, is drawn into the investigation by his valet, Jules Calhoun. With Calhoun's help, Sebastian begins to piece together the shattered life of the late Earl's ill-fated youngest son. Why did Nicholas risk his life and freedom by returning to England? And why did he bring the now-missing young boy with him? Several nervous Londoners had reason to fear that Nicholas Hayes had returned to kill them. One of them might have decided to kill him first.



Who Speaks for the Damned (Sebastian St. Cyr, #15)Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Who Speaks for the Damned by C.S. Harris is a 2020 Berkley publication.

I can’t get enough of this series!

Nicholas Hayes, the third son of the Earl of Seaford was presumed dead after being convicted of murder and sent to Botany Bay. But, apparently, rumors of his demise were greatly exaggerated.

He returns to London, from China, with a young child in tow. Whatever his mission might have been, it must have been very important for him to have taken such a high risk. However, his enemies, who have had much to fear from Nicholas, may have snuffed out his life before he had a chance to exact his revenge.

A scandal, and the threat of long buried secrets coming to light is the last thing anyone wants as the royal families of Russia, Austria and Germany arrives in London to celebrate the defeat of Napolean.

Yet, Sabastian finds himself searching for Nicholas’s murderer, and for the missing child who accompanied him, thanks to his Valet, Jules Calhoun, who was a friend of the victim.

Sebastian’s involvement in criminal cases often puts him in danger, but his time, his beloved wife, Hero, winds up in the crossfire, infuriating Sebastian, making him more determined than ever to unearth the truth and find the vulnerable child Nicholas brought with him from China.

Oh man, this was a good book!! A long -ago scandal that had been hushed up, lovers torn apart by power and greed, a child left alone to survive on the mean streets of London, and a riveting whodunit, is enough to make this story compelling.

However, the stunning revelations, and the social and historical lessons, round out this incredible multi-layered story. Not only that, the personal connotations for Sebastian, who can’t help but notice certain similarities between his life and that of Nicholas'- a sort of ‘there, but for the grace of God’ situation, adds yet another layer of depth to the story. I couldn’t stop thinking about this book!

Is this the best book in the series so far? I probably say that after every installment, but yes, this is one the best, if not THE best!!

If you like historical mysteries, this is a series you will want to invest in. If you are a fan of the series, you want to grab a copy of this one ASAP! You won’t be disappointed!






An Air Force brat who grew up exploring castles in Spain and fishing in the mountains of Oregon and Idaho, Candy later worked as an archaeologist and earned a PhD in European history. She now writes the Sebastian St. Cyr historical mystery series as C.S. Harris and historicals under her own name, Candice Proctor. Married to retired Army Colonel Steve Harris, she lives in New Orleans. Visit her website at www.csharris.net.

Friday, May 8, 2020

FLASHBACK FRIDAY-The Last Days of Night- by Graham Moore- Feature and Review


A thrilling novel based on actual events, about the nature of genius, the cost of ambition, and the battle to electrify America—from the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game and New York Times bestselling author of The Sherlockian

New York, 1888. Gas lamps still flicker in the city streets, but the miracle of electric light is in its infancy. The person who controls the means to turn night into day will make history—and a vast fortune. A young untested lawyer named Paul Cravath, fresh out of Columbia Law School, takes a case that seems impossible to win. Paul’s client, George Westinghouse, has been sued by Thomas Edison over a billion-dollar question: Who invented the light bulb and holds the right to power the country?

The case affords Paul entry to the heady world of high society—the glittering parties in Gramercy Park mansions, and the more insidious dealings done behind closed doors. The task facing him is beyond daunting. Edison is a wily, dangerous opponent with vast resources at his disposal—private spies, newspapers in his pocket, and the backing of J. P. Morgan himself. Yet this unknown lawyer shares with his famous adversary a compulsion to win at all costs. How will he do it?

In obsessive pursuit of victory, Paul crosses paths with Nikola Tesla, an eccentric, brilliant inventor who may hold the key to defeating Edison, and with Agnes Huntington, a beautiful opera singer who proves to be a flawless performer on stage and off. As Paul takes greater and greater risks, he’ll find that everyone in his path is playing their own game, and no one is quite who they seem.



The Last Days of NightThe Last Days of Night by Graham Moore
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore is a 2016 Random House publication.

I have been on a wait list for this book, I kid you not, for FOUR MONTHS!!

So, the big question is-

Was it worth the wait? YES! WOW! Who knew light bulbs were so fascinating?

This is a fictional account of the ‘war’ between Thomas Edison / General Electric and George Westinghouse over patent rights, inventions, and the law. It’s also a novel about genius, competitiveness, obsession and madness.

All the major characters in the book were actual people, and most of the events described really took place, only maybe not in the same particular sequence, which made the story even more fascinating and authentic.

The quotes used at the beginning of each chapter are amazing, and the author was especially clever in choosing quotes from Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who were also fierce competitors.

Paul Cravath is hired by George Westinghouse to plead his patent dispute over who invented the light bulb pitting him against Thomas Edison, who got the patent first. Paul is inexperienced, idealistic, still has a strong moral code, and is of course way out of his depth.


Paul also finds himself falling in love with a famous singer, Agnes Huntington, who will become his inspiration for all he does and is instrumental in helping Nikola Telsa during a dark and confusing time.
Nikola Telsa envelops every corner of the story, and his presence is haunting and poignant. Despite his character playing more of a secondary part, he is still larger than life.


The ‘politics’ of patent law, the drive to win at all costs, the toll it takes on one’s conscience, ideals, and innocence, teaches Paul some valuable life lessons. The challenges inventors and innovators face, the cut throat competition, the public perceptions, and even the sacrifice of convictions, all made for money, for power,or for the sake of winning, is an eye-opening journey.

I was endlessly impressed with the sharp minds of Edison and Westinghouse, the machinations of J.P. Morgan and of course the genius of Telsa, even if I didn’t really like the way they did things and questioned their motives and moral fiber on many occasions.

The twists come fast and furious, and the emotions run high as the suspense builds in this high-stakes drama.

Paul learns a lot about himself in the end, as much as he learns about life, and I was pleased that he used this experience as lesson, a teaching moment, and did not allow it to poison his heart, but instead led him to seek out loftier goals.


This book is informative, very interesting, and completely absorbing. The only problem was that it had to end, and it ended all too soon.

The writing is exceptional, the history is amazingly detailed and very well researched and constructed, especially since there was were so many major events packed into a much shorter span of time than they actually unfolded in real life. I intend to add the books the author suggested to my reading list to get a more detailed non-fictional accounting of these events as well.


After reading this book, I realize how spectacular the light bulb is. Other than when I'm trying to choose an energy efficienct bulb, I never give them much thought, much less ponder on how it all works in the first place.
I don't think I will flippantly flick on light switch again!





Graham Moore is a New York Times bestselling novelist and Academy Award-winning screenwriter. His screenplay for THE IMITATION GAME won the Academy Award and WGA Award for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2015 and was nominated for a BAFTA and a Golden Globe. The film, directed by Morten Tyldum and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley, received 8 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. 

Graham's first novel, THE SHERLOCKIAN (2010), was published in 16 countries and translated into 13 languages. It was called "sublime" and "clever" and "delightful" by the New York Times, "savvy" and "entertaining" by the Los Angeles Times, and lots of other nice things as well. Graham's second novel, THE LAST DAYS OF NIGHT will be published in fall 2016 by Random House.

Graham lives in Los Angeles.