REVIEW: THE CLOSER YOU GET, BY MARY TORJUSSEN

Coworkers Ruby and Harry are in love—but they’re married to other people. They decide to tell their spouses that their marriages are over and to start a new life together. Ruby has wanted to leave her controlling husband for a while, so she tells him she’s leaving and waits at the hotel where she and Harry are to meet. But Harry never shows up.

Suddenly, Ruby has lost everything. Harry won’t answer her calls, and she’s fired from her job. She finds a cheap apartment in a run-down part of town, all the while wondering what happened to Harry.

Just as Ruby thinks she’s hit rock bottom, strange and menacing things start to happen—someone is sneaking into her apartment, and someone is following her home late at night—and she is going to have to fight for her survival.


Alternating narrators tell the story in The Closer You Get. First, we connect with Ruby’s voice, and then with Emma’s.

Two women trying to move beyond the disappointments in their marriages. Who can they trust? Will they find what they are seeking, or will they realize that there is nothing good to be found in those they turn to?

At first, we believe that Ruby will have her happily-ever-after, but when he seemingly dumps her without a second thought, she almost reconsiders leaving her husband. But he is keeping things from her, and his bullying ways continue, even after she thinks he might have changed.

Emma seems like someone who could be an enemy, but as time goes on, we realize that she has not found what she wanted either. She might be more of a victim than we realize.

Back and forth the story takes us, making us wonder just who these women can trust, and what further secrets will be revealed. Twisty moments that kept us wondering what would happen next led to me awarding this book 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: MY DARK VANESSA, BY KATE ELIZABETH RUSSELL

2000. Bright, ambitious, and yearning for adulthood, fifteen-year-old Vanessa Wye becomes entangled in an affair with Jacob Strane, her magnetic and guileful forty-two-year-old English teacher.

2017. Amid the rising wave of allegations against powerful men, a reckoning is coming due. Strane has been accused of sexual abuse by a former student, who reaches out to Vanessa, and now Vanessa suddenly finds herself facing an impossible choice: remain silent, firm in the belief that her teenage self willingly engaged in this relationship, or redefine herself and the events of her past.
But how can Vanessa reject her first love, the man who fundamentally transformed her and has been a persistent presence in her life? Is it possible that the man she loved as a teenager—and who professed to worship only her—may be far different from what she has always believed?

Alternating between Vanessa’s present and her past, My Dark Vanessa juxtaposes memory and trauma with the breathless excitement of a teenage girl discovering the power her own body can wield. Thought-provoking and impossible to put down, this is a masterful portrayal of troubled adolescence and its repercussions that raises vital questions about agency, consent, complicity, and victimhood. Written with the haunting intimacy of The Girls and the creeping intensity of Room, My Dark Vanessa is an era-defining novel that brilliantly captures and reflects the shifting cultural mores transforming our relationships and society itself.

 

 My Dark Vanessa, narrated by our protagonist, begins in 2017, just as the vocal wave of women’s voices about the men that used and abused them hits the media and becomes a movement. We see that Vanessa is struggling with its impact, and the strength of her denial keeps her rooted in her own view of events.

Swinging back to the year 2000, we see the tentative beginnings of what Vanessa has dubbed a love relationship with her English teacher, Jacob Strane, and how she cannot seem to keep away from him. As much as he has manipulated her through his praise and the way he carefully asks for her consent along the way, we also view how Vanessa has responded to him as if they are in a consensual relationship. In fact, he defines her life for several years. She doesn’t see the inappropriateness of their relationship, but a part of her must sense that it is, since she is secretive and defensive.

Vanessa’s narrative offers the reader a detailed and descriptive view of the connection she feels to Strane, and the more we learn, the more we become aware of how she is trapped by the hold he has on her. She seems unable to accurately portray their reality in her own mind, idealizing the relationship and finding herself stuck by her own inability to move beyond it.

A vivid and dark portrayal of a form of addiction that glues the participants together by their own denial and desperate need for the connection, the book is one I could not put down and therefore, earned 5 stars from me.

***

REVIEW: LITTLE SECRETS, BY JENNIFER HILLIER

All it takes to unravel a life is one little secret…

Marin had the perfect life. Married to her college sweetheart, she owns a chain of upscale hair salons, and Derek runs his own company. They’re admired in their community and are a loving family—until their world falls apart the day their son Sebastian is taken.

A year later, Marin is a shadow of herself. The FBI search has gone cold. The publicity has faded. She and her husband rarely speak. She hires a P.I. to pick up where the police left off, but instead of finding Sebastian, she learns that Derek is having an affair with a younger woman. This discovery sparks Marin back to life. She’s lost her son; she’s not about to lose her husband, too. Kenzie is an enemy with a face, which means this is a problem Marin can fix.


We begin our tale with Marin’s POV in Little Secrets, so it was understandable that I rooted for her. Even when she began making choices that were less than ideal.

Then Kenzie’s voice takes over, alternating with Marin’s, and when we first meet up with her, we sense that there is more to her story. Is there some other connection between her and Marin? Is Derek a target of some kind? Kenzie’s backstory makes us lean toward her perspective.

Marin’s losses are huge, and they are exacerbated by her discovery of her husband’s affair. Will she have to move on beyond her marriage, or will she find another solution?

Kenzie’s need for someone in her corner, even someone to love her, drew the reader into empathizing with her side of the story.

Meanwhile, I loved entering the world of these people, on opposite sides of the wealth/poverty spectrum, enjoying how Marin relished her home, her business, and her privilege. And I also liked watching Kenzie tiptoe secretly into their world, too, wanting and longing for everything they had.

Twists and turns kept me turning pages, wondering how it would all turn out. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: HAVE YOU SEEN ME?, BY KATE WHITE

The key to her missing memories could bring relief—or unlock her worst nightmares.

On a cold, rainy morning, finance journalist Ally Linden arrives soaked to the bone at her Manhattan office, only to find that she’s forgotten her keycard. When her boss shows, he’s shocked to see her—because, he explains, she hasn’t worked there in five years.

Ally knows her name, but is having trouble coming up with much beyond that, though after a trip to the psychiatric ER, she begins to piece together important facts: she lives on the Upper West Side; she’s now a freelance journalist; she’s married to a terrific man named Hugh. More memories materialize and yet she still can’t recall anything about the previous two days. Diagnosed as having experienced a dissociative state, she starts to wonder if it may have been triggered by something she saw. Could she have witnessed an accident—or worse—had something happened to her?

Desperate for answers, Ally tries to track where she spent the missing days, but every detail she unearths points to an explanation that’s increasingly ominous, and it’s clear someone wants to prevent her from learning where those forty-eight hours went. In order to uncover the truth, Ally must dig deep into the secrets of her past—and outsmart the person who seems determined to silence her.

 

Ally’s nightmare trauma has turned into her new reality, as she tries to sort through her actions in the days that went missing. Clues she gathered from the depths of her mind and her memories only led to partial answers until a private detective begins helping her figure out her actions during the missing hours.

Another clue comes in the form of a past traumatic event that might have triggered her break from reality.

But before she finally reaches a resolution, she finds herself in more danger than she could have imagined, and from a totally unexpected source. Along the way, she realizes there are few people she can even trust.

Have You Seen Me? is a captivating book that kept me turning pages until suddenly the pieces fell into place. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE NEW HUSBAND, BY D. J. PALMER

-He knows all her favorite foods, music, and movies.
– Her son adores him. He was there when she needed him most.
– He anticipates her every need.
– He would never betray her like her first husband.

The perfect husband. He checks all the boxes.

The question is, why?

Nina Garrity learned the hard way that her missing husband, Glen, had been leading a double life with another woman. But with Glen gone—presumably drowned while fishing on his boat—she couldn’t confront him about the affair or find closure to the life he blew apart.

Now, a year and a half later, Nina has found love again and hopes she can put her shattered world back together. Simon, a widower still grieving the death of his first wife, thinks he has found his dream girl in Nina, and his charm and affections help break through to a heart hardened by betrayal. Nina’s teenage son, Connor, embraces Simon as the father he wishes his dad could have been, while her friends see a different side to him, and they aren’t afraid to use the word obsession.

Nina works hard to bridge the divide that’s come between her daughter and Simon. She wants so badly to believe her life is finally getting back on track, but she’ll soon discover that the greatest danger to herself and her children are the lies people tell themselves.

 

As I immersed myself in The New Husband, I was on edge right away, not sure what to think about Simon, who, in my opinion, aroused every suspicion and fear that one could imagine. First, nobody is as perfect as Simon seemed to be. Plus, Maggie’s radar was alerting her to danger, and despite Nina’s efforts, nothing could make her daughter feel safe and comfortable with the usurper that had stepped into her dad’s place.

Were Maggie’s concerns just about missing her dad? Or was she more perceptive than everyone else?

Nina did seem to pick up on her own alerts that made her sometimes worry about Simon. Could she simply be giving in to Maggie’s feelings? Or is she finally beginning to wonder about the “too perfect” new man?

As we move along in the story, and as certain events happen to finally alert Nina to behaviors that are concerning, even issues she might have overlooked, we are offered a peek behind the scenes and learn the dark secrets that would change everything. Enticing and intense, I couldn’t put this book down. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: DEAD TO HER, BY SARAH PINBOROUGH

Marriage can be murder…

SOMETHING OLD

Marcie’s affair with Jason Maddox catapulted her into the world of the elite.
Old money, old ties, old secrets. Marcie may have married into this world—
but she’ll never be part of it.

SOMETHING NEW

Then Jason’s boss brings back a new wife from his trip to London.
Young, attractive, reckless—nobody can take their eyes off Keisha.
Including Marcie’s husband.

SOMETHING YOU CAN NEVER, EVER UNDO…

Some people would kill for the life Marcie has—what will she do to keep it?

 

Marcie is trying to fit into her new life in Savannah without letting the past keep her captive.

Keisha wants the money she would have if her wealthy and brutish husband dies.

Jason longs to take over the company from his boss.

All of these people have secrets, and the darkness that keeps them from being truly good will surely dictate what happens next in their lives.

Dead to Her unfolds from the perspectives of them all, and we are left trying to guess who has suddenly turned a corner into true darkness. Just when I thought I had it figured out, the author surprised me in the end.

An enjoyable read, but it seemed to take forever to read it as I sank further into the darkness with the characters. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: GOOD GIRL, BAD GIRL, BY MICHAEL ROBOTHAM

 

A girl is discovered hiding in a secret room in the aftermath of a terrible crime. Half-starved and filthy, she won’t tell anyone her name, or her age, or where she came from. Maybe she is twelve, maybe fifteen. She doesn’t appear in any missing persons file, and her DNA can’t be matched to an identity. Six years later, still unidentified, she is living in a secure children’s home with a new name, Evie Cormac. When she initiates a court case demanding the right to be released as an adult, forensic psychologist Cyrus Haven must determine if Evie is ready to go free. But she is unlike anyone he’s ever met—fascinating and dangerous in equal measure. Evie knows when someone is lying, and no one around her is telling the truth.

Meanwhile, Cyrus is called in to investigate the shocking murder of a high school figure-skating champion, Jodie Sheehan, who dies on a lonely footpath close to her home. Pretty and popular, Jodie is portrayed by everyone as the ultimate girl-next-door, but as Cyrus peels back the layers, a secret life emerges—one that Evie Cormac, the girl with no past, knows something about.. A man haunted by his own tragic history, Cyrus is caught between the two cases—one girl who needs saving and another who needs justice. What price will he pay for the truth?

 

In Good Girl, Bad Girl, we are pulled into a dual story line immediately. A young girl has been murdered, and Cyrus Haven is tasked with helping the police solve the case. Meanwhile, in a high-security children’s home in Nottingham, a resident social worker requests Cyrus’s help in working with a young girl dubbed Evie Cormac, whose identity has never been uncovered. She was found under mysterious circumstances. Was she held captive, or was there more going on with the man assumed to be her captor?

Alternating narrators tell the tale, and as more details emerge, we try to solve the mystery of who murdered the figure skater named Jodie Sheehan. The most obvious perpetrator begins to seem less likely as more secrets and lies soon add to the growing list of questions about who did what to whom.

Evie’s connection to Cyrus leads to a bond that will keep us intrigued throughout. I kept rapidly turning pages until the final revelations, while rooting for both Cyrus and Evie. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE LYING ROOM, BY NICCI FRENCH

 

It should have been just a mid-life fling. A guilty indiscretion that Neve Connolly could have weathered. An escape from twenty years of routine marriage to her overworked husband, and from her increasingly distant children. But when Neve pays a morning-after visit to her lover, Saul, and finds him brutally murdered, their pied-à-terre still heady with her perfume, all the lies she has so painstakingly stitched together threaten to unravel.

After scrubbing clean every trace of her existence from Saul’s life—and death—Neve believes she can return to normal, shaken but intact. But she can’t get out of her head the one tormenting question: what was she forgetting?

An investigation into the slaying could provide the answer. It’s brought Detective Chief Inspector Alastair Hitching, and Neve’s worst fears, to her door. But with every new lie, every new misdirection to save herself, Neve descends further into the darkness of her betrayal—and into more danger than she ever imagined. Because Hitching isn’t the only one watching Neve. So is a determined killer who’s about to make the next terrifying move in a deadly affair….

 

From the very first page of The Lying Room, we watch every move Neve Connolly makes, keeping track of her actions, her lies, and what she must do to make sense of a murder…and to figure out who is responsible.

With the police on her heels at every turn and with a growing list of friends and acquaintances that she must not trust, Neve and her troubled daughter Mabel play against time, juggling events and hoping to save themselves.

All along, we also follow Neve’s efforts to get through the routines of home, work, and caring for her children, staying clear of anything that will bring the police to her door. It was hard to figure out who might be setting up Neve, and I had plenty of people to mistrust along the way. Red herrings, misdirection, and troublesome moments from the past kept me on guard as I tried to sort it all out. A riveting tale that kept me fully engaged…and then suddenly, it all made sense. 5 stars.

***

REVIEW: MY EX-BEST FRIEND’S WEDDING, BY WENDY WAX

 

Prized and stored away for safekeeping, the timeless ivory wedding dress, with its scooped neck and cleverly fitted bodice, sits gently folded in its box, whispering of Happily Ever Afters. To Kendra, Brianna, and Lauren it’s a reminder of what could have been, the promise of a fairy tale, and a friendship torn apart. But as Kendra knows firsthand: it wasn’t the dress’s fault.

Once closer than sisters, Lauren and Bree have grown up and grown apart, allowing broken promises and unfulfilled dreams to destroy their friendship. A successful author, Lauren returns home to the Outer Banks, fiancé in tow, to claim the dress she never thought she’d wear. While Bree, a bookstore owner, grapples with the realities of life after you marry the handsome prince. As the former best friends wrestle with their uncertain futures, they are both certain of one thing: some betrayals can never be forgiven.

Now on the eve of her daughter Lauren’s wedding, Kendra struggles with a secret she’s kept for far too long. And vows to make sure the dress will finally bring Lauren and Bree back together—knowing they’ll need each other to survive the coming storm.

My Thoughts: When successful novelist Lauren James accepts boyfriend Spencer’s proposal and begins to think about going home to the Outer Banks for the wedding ceremony, she has some mixed feelings. Her former best friend Bree is not someone she really wants to see again. As she thinks back on their falling out all those years ago, she still feels the pain.

Back home, Bree hears the news and realizes that she is not so eager to reconnect either. After all, Lauren has gone on to become a best-selling author, a dream they both shared. But Bree is still working on her one and only manuscript after fifteen years.

Meanwhile, Lauren’s mother Kendra has just realized that a forty-year-old secret she has kept could be coming out soon. How should she reveal it in a way that will do the least damage?

Our alternating narrators in My Ex-Best Friend’s Wedding offer just what we need to know in the most titillating way possible, and I couldn’t help rapidly reading, wondering how the secrets and the past damages would be brought to light. A 5 star read.

***

REVIEW: BECAUSE YOU’RE MINE, BY REA FREY

 

Single mother Lee has the daily routine down to a science: shower in six minutes. Cut food into perfect squares. Never leave her on-the-spectrum son Mason in someone else’s care. She’ll do anything-anything—to keep his carefully constructed world from falling apart. Do anything to keep him safe.

But when her best friend Grace convinces her she needs a small break from motherhood to re-charge her batteries, Lee gives in to a weekend trip. Surely a long weekend away from home won’t hurt?

Noah, Mason’s handsome, bright, charismatic tutor—the first man in ages Lee’s even noticed—is more than happy to stay with him.

Forty-eight hours later, someone is dead.

But not all is as it seems. Noah may be more than who he claims to be. Grace has a secret—one that will destroy Lee. Lee has secrets of her own that she will do anything to keep hidden. And what will happen to Mason, as the dominoes begin to fall and the past comes to light?

Perhaps it’s no mystery someone is gone after all…

 

My Thoughts: What began as a story about friendship and the world of single parenting would morph into a suspense thriller with so many layers of deceit that it would take rapidly turning those pages to find out more. As we delve further into Because You’re Mine we learn snippets of those long-held secrets, but we won’t realize the extent of them until the very end.

What is the story behinds Mason’s paternity? What happened to each woman’s family members that would change the course of their lives? How did Noah fit into each of their lives, past and present?

Each revelation begins to offer a peek of those lives in the past, as well as the present, but it would only be in the final pages that we truly understand the depths of the duplicity. 5 stars.

***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.