REVIEW: A MOTHER’S CONFESSION, BY KELLY RIMMER

 

Your husband took his own life. Tell the truth and destroy what’s left of your family. Or keep a secret that will tear you apart. What would you do?

Olivia and David were the perfect couple with their whole lives in front of them. When beautiful baby daughter Zoe came along, their world seemed complete.

But now David is dead and Olivia’s world is in pieces. While she is consumed with grief, her mother-in-law Ivy is also mourning the loss of her son. Both women are hiding secrets about the man they loved. Secrets that have put the family in danger.

Something was very wrong in Olivia and David’s marriage. Can Olivia and Ivy break their silence and speak the truth? A mother should protect her child, whatever the cost… shouldn’t she?

MY THOUGHTS:
In alternating perspectives and over different timelines, Olivia, the wife, and Ivy, David’s mother, tell their stories, set in a small Australian village.

The “confession” part of the title could be seen from both sides, since each has played a role in how events unfolded. It is clear from the beginning of A Mother’s Confession that violence and domestic abuse are central themes. As for Ivy, David’s mother, her denial is the kind that allows abuse to continue and proliferate. She was the kind of mother who saw no wrong in anything her son did, from a very early age. And as for Olivia, her inability to accept that the abuse was not going to go away and that David would not change contributed to the final outcomes.

We do not learn all the details of that event, referred to as The Tragedy, the one that claimed David’s life, except in bits and pieces, and then, near the end, we are blindsided by the missing part of the puzzle that literally stunned me.

There were many clues along the way. Why was Olivia unable to function for months after her husband’s death? Since he was her abuser, wouldn’t she be feeling some relief? And why is Dr. Eric still making house calls for such a long period afterwards?

The therapy sessions also revealed details along the way, but slowly, leading us to realize that whatever we were about to discover would be huge, and would burst through a thick veneer of denial. The story was frustrating, in that we knew from the early pages that nothing good was going to happen. But by the end, there was a glimmer of hope that Olivia could move on and make a new life. 4.5 stars.

***
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REVIEW: THINGS WE DIDN’T SAY, BY KRISTINA RIGGLE

 

 

In her novel Things We Didn’t Say, the acclaimed author of Real Life & Liars and The Life You’ve Imagined (an Indie Next Notable Book) explores the messiness of life’s love stories, especially those involving teenage almost-stepchildren, a unreliable ex-wife, and the words no parent ever wants to hear: “Your child is missing.” A poignant, honest, and unforgettable novel that fans of Katrina Kittle and Elin Hildebrand will take into their hearts, Things We Didn’t Say is exactly the sort of well-written, complex relationships story that women love to read, discuss, and share with their friends.

My Thoughts: As our story begins, we meet Casey, who is engaged to and living with Michael, the father of three children. Two of them are teens: Angel and Dylan, and Jewel, the youngest, is sweet enough to make up for the issues with the other two.

Except that Casey has just about had it. Angel is sullen, lashes out, and because she recently read Casey’s journal, she is taunting her.

Just as Casey has packed a bag and is preparing to leave, a phone call from the school reporting that Dylan is missing changes her direction. For a while, anyway.

As the family goes through the drama of figuring out what has happened to Dylan, we are thrust into the melodrama of Mallory, the ex-wife, who hates Casey and has no qualms about expressing those feelings. She and Angel almost seem like twins in their behavior, with matching verbal taunts.

What will happen to each of them in the hours that Dylan is missing? Will the crisis give them an opportunity to reexamine what they thought to be true? Can they learn something important for their lives going forward? Will Casey decide to finally share the secrets of her past?

Michael also struggles with his job as a journalist, and is overwhelmed by his father’s disappointment in his career choice. A heart specialist, Dr. Henry Turner has no problem sharing his opinions. Will something happening at the newspaper take the choice out of Michael’s hands?

Narrated alternately by each of the characters, Things We Didn’t Say shows us in great detail what chaos can ensue when individuals do not say what is really on their minds. Instead, these characters gunny-sacked their issues and showed everyone their rage, their jealousy, and their fear in emotional outbursts, or, in the case of Casey and Michael, through passive-aggressiveness. An extreme incident forced them all to take another look at their behavior.

I enjoyed how the story unfolded, and I always love this writer’s style and how she tackles the issues. I disliked Mallory, Angel, and even Michael some of the time; I felt empathy for Casey, and I rooted for her. Dylan showed a surprising strength at the end, at which point I had started to feel some hope for them all. 4.5 stars.

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REVIEW: ANGELS BURNING, BY TAWNI O’DELL

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Police Chief Dove Carnahan is tough, makes her own rules, and chases away her childhood demons through her work in the small Pennsylvania town’s police station.

From the very first page, I was engrossed in Dove’s everyday life, from her work situations to the family issues that presented themselves.

Narrated in her first person voice, Angels Burning showed the reader her interior thoughts and feelings, and gave us a good sense of how she had managed to move past the bad stuff, including the fact that her mother was murdered when she herself was only fifteen. She protected her younger sister Neely and little brother Champ as best she could, but there were some things nobody could have protected them from.

Neely is another loner, living for the work she does training dogs for the police and as service animals. Like Dove, she has chosen the solitary life as a way to combat the problems created through family relationships.

The younger brother Champ has been gone for twenty-five years, and there is a hint of what happened in his childhood that darkens the dysfunction of the family they all shared. His reappearance with son Mason adds to the mystery of his life.

Just as the man imprisoned for murdering their mother is released and making threats, Dove is about to meet a tougher case than usual: the brutal murder of a teenage girl named Camio, whose beaten and burned body is discovered in a sinkhole.

Camio Truly came from the kind of family that everyone looked down on. Troubled, criminal, and downright “white trash,” the very idea of dealing with any of the family members could be challenging. But Camio was different. She was beautiful, bright, and had hopes for the future.

Who among the family members, if anyone, wanted her dead? Who had texted her boyfriend, using her phone? Why did someone encourage Camio’s brother to go after Zane, the boyfriend, when all signs suggest someone else was responsible?

Dove’s relationship with a state trooper adds some romantic interest to the story, but she clearly is best on her own, living in the privacy of the life she has chosen.

Underlying secrets shroud both Dove’s family and the Truly family, and as they are revealed, bit by bit, I was stunned. When the police peel back the layers of the Truly family, their secrets will yield up the final answers about who killed Camio. 4.5 stars.

***I received my e-ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

REVIEW: RAINY DAY SISTERS, BY KATE HEWITT

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Fiona Bagshaw had not a maternal bone in her body, and for most of their lives, her two daughters have lived apart: Juliet in England and Lucy in Boston. Fiona has become a rather famous artist and relishes that world.

But after a humiliating experience because of her mother, Lucy has fled to Cumbria in the Lake District, and to the small village of Hartley-by-the-Sea. Home to Juliet, who owns a Bed and Breakfast.

Juliet had invited her and even arranged for a short-term job for Lucy in the primary school.

Juliet is somewhat abrasive, while Lucy is friendly, open, and wears her heart on her sleeve.

Immersing myself in the world of Rainy Day Sisters was a cozy and delightful experience. I felt like I was a part of their world, and loved discovering why the sisters (half-sisters, as Juliet often pointed out) had been separated, and what would need to happen before they connected completely.

I rooted for each of the sisters as they struggled to overcome the rejections their mother had handed out, and I hoped, for their sake, that Fiona would somehow make amends and help them heal. But could that even happen at this late date? And even if Fiona made overtures, would the sisters accept them? Would Juliet and Lucy find romance, despite their history?

I loved this book and recommend it for all who enjoy family stories, especially families fraught with dysfunction. 4.5 stars.

REVIEW: BEFORE WE MET, BY LUCIE WHITEHOUSE

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Hannah has always wanted to choose a different path than her mother did. She has seen her mother’s bitterness and wanted nothing to do with this kind of life. Growing up outside of London, in Malvern, she wants to get as far away as she can, so she goes to Manhattan.

Shying away from commitment, as she pursues her advertising career in New York, she is totally unprepared for Mark Reilly, the handsome, charming Brit who makes her feel at home again. A whirlwind romance, followed by marriage and a lovely life in London in a gorgeous townhouse, she feels adored and forgets about her reservations. She is happy to be back “home” in London, even though she still wants nothing to do with her childhood home in Malvern, or her mother. Her brother Tom, however, is a confidante, who begins to help her sort through everything when her life suddenly spirals out of control.

It happened one night when Mark did not return from his business trip. After Hannah has waited for days, he finally calls, says his phone was lost and he will be delayed.

Suspicion sets in, as there are holes in Mark’s story. When he finally returns, he sets her mind at ease, telling her just enough to make her feel she can trust him again.

But over the next few weeks, more and more bits and pieces of Mark’s stories do not add up. Why has he told her nothing about his brother Nick? Who is Hermione, and what does she have to do with Mark, or with Nick? And what about his parents, who presumably died ten years ago? How can Hannah believe anything at all when so much of what he tells her does not fit together with the facts she comes to learn? And why has her substantial savings account been cleared out?

Before We Met: A Novel is the kind of story that makes the reader constantly question the reliability of the characters. Who is telling the truth, and why does nothing make sense?

It was easy to feel satisfied with the stories Mark told, until too many holes appeared. But I was completely stunned by the final reveal. Definitely a page turner for those who enjoy suspense and psychological thrillers. 5 stars.