SHADOW GARDEN by Alexandra Burt


Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 21, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★


A wealthy woman suspects something is off about the luxurious complex she lives in…and she is right, in this riveting domestic-suspense novel from international bestselling author Alexandra Burt.

Donna Pryor lives in the lap of luxury. She spends her days in a beautifully appointed condo. Her every whim is catered to by a dedicated staff, and she does not want for anything.

Except for news of her adult daughter.

Or an ex-husband who takes her calls.

Donna knows something is wrong, but she can’t quite put her finger on it. As her life of privilege starts to feel more and more like a prison, the facade she has depended on begins to crumble. Somewhere in the ruins is the truth, and the closer Donna Pryor gets to it, the more likely it is to destroy her.


This dark dysfunctional family drama centers around mother Donna living at an opulent place called Shadow Garden. Her husband Edward ignores her, and she wishes her daughter Penelope would call. Something is off, but Donna can’t figure out what.

Though I was intrigued by the blurb, I had a hard time staying interested in the story. I found it too wordy, and the characters were flat and unlikable. A lot of abrupt timeline changes made the book hard to follow. In the end, I felt like I missed the reasoning behind the characters’ behaviors. I suspected what was going from the beginning, and unfortunately there were no big twists that surprised me.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

BEHIND THE RED DOOR by Megan Collins


Publisher: Atria Books
Release Date: August 4, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★★


The author of the “suspenseful, atmospheric, and completely riveting” (Megan Miranda, New York Times bestselling author) debut The Winter Sister returns with a darkly thrilling novel about a woman who comes to believe that she has a connection to a decades old kidnapping and now that the victim has gone missing again, begins a frantic search to learn what happened in the past.

When Fern Douglas sees the news about Astrid Sullivan, a thirty-four-year-old missing woman from Maine, she is positive that she knows her. Fern’s husband is sure it’s because of Astrid’s famous kidnapping—and equally famous return—twenty years ago, but Fern has no memory of that, even though it happened an hour outside her New Hampshire hometown. And when Astrid appears in Fern’s recurring nightmare, one in which a girl reaches out to her, pleading, Fern fears that it’s not a dream at all, but a memory.

Back at her childhood home to help her father pack for a move, Fern purchases a copy of Astrid’s recently published memoir—which may have provoked her original kidnapper to abduct her again—and as she reads through its chapters and visits the people and places within it, she discovers more evidence that she has an unsettling connection to the missing woman. With the help of her psychologist father, Fern digs deeper, hoping to find evidence that her connection to Astrid can help the police locate her. But when Fern discovers more about her own past than she ever bargained for, the disturbing truth will change both of their lives forever.

Featuring Megan Collins’s signature “dark, tense, and completely absorbing” (Booklist) prose and plenty of shocking twists and turns, Behind the Red Door is an arresting thriller that will haunt you long after you turn the last page.


BEHIND THE RED DOOR is a dark family drama/mystery about a woman desperate to unlock her repressed memories in order to save another woman who’s gone missing. Astrid Sullivan was kidnapped as a young teen, but was released a month later. Now, after two decades, Astrid has gone missing again, and seeing her face on the news has sparked something in Fern Douglas’ mind did she know her?

The author created the perfect ominous atmosphere for this disturbing tale. While my initial hunch was right about what happened, I was still on the edge of my seat as everything was playing out. At times I felt like I was Fern’s memories screaming for her to remember!

This was a well-written and suspenseful novel filled with compelling characters, both shady and unreliable. A gripping page-turner, for sure.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS by Megan Miranda


Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Release Date: June 23, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★★


From the New York Times bestselling author of The Last House Guest — a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick — comes a riveting new novel of psychological suspense about a young woman plagued by night terrors after a childhood trauma who wakes one evening to find a corpse at her feet.

Everyone knows the story of “the girl from Widow Hills.”

Arden Maynor was just a child when she was swept away while sleepwalking during a terrifying rainstorm and went missing for days. Strangers and friends, neighbors and rescue workers, set up search parties and held vigils, praying for her safe return. Against all odds, she was found, alive, clinging to a storm drain. The girl from Widow Hills was a living miracle. Arden’s mother wrote a book. Fame followed. Fans and fan letters, creeps, and stalkers. And every year, the anniversary. It all became too much. As soon as she was old enough, Arden changed her name and disappeared from the public eye.

Now a young woman living hundreds of miles away, Arden goes by Olivia. She’s managed to stay off the radar for the last few years. But with the twentieth anniversary of her rescue approaching, the media will inevitably renew its interest in Arden. Where is she now? Soon Olivia feels like she’s being watched and begins sleepwalking again, like she did long ago, even waking outside her home. Until late one night she jolts awake in her yard. At her feet is the corpse of a man she knows — from her previous life, as Arden Maynor.

And now, the girl from Widow Hills is about to become the center of the story, once again, in this propulsive page-turner from suspense master Megan Miranda.


Reading this book immediately brought to mind Baby Jessica’s rescue back in the late 80s. That was a major news event with everyone’s eyes glued to the TV, hoping for the best. Once something like that is over, do you ever wonder what impact the attention has on those involved as the years pass?

In THE GIRL FROM WIDOW HILLS, six year-old Arden Maynor’s life is changed forever when she’s swept away in a storm drain after sleepwalking. After a huge search and media circus, she’s miraculously rescued a few days later, and unfortunately the fame she didn’t ask for never goes away.

Now approaching the 20-year anniversary of the incident, Arden has left her hometown and changed her name to Olivia. The anniversary is putting her under stress, and she finds herself sleepwalking once again. This time, she trips over a dead body in her backyard. What could it mean?

I have mixed feelings about this book. It’s a slower paced novel with a couple of good twists, particularly when the identity of the body Arden/Olivia finds is revealed. For such an intriguing premise, there wasn’t a lot of excitement or suspense in the plot, and I wish the secondary characters would have been fleshed out more. The ending was kind of crazy, not at all what I was expecting! Overall, this was a good mystery that just needed a little more thrill.

— 𝓓𝓲𝓪𝓷𝓪

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Now in Paperback: THE VANISHED BRIDE by Bella Ellis [Re-Post Review]


Series: A Brontë Sisters Mystery, #1
Publisher: Berkley
Release Date: July 7, 2020
Source: Review copy from the publisher
Rating: ★★★★½


Before they became legendary writers, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë were detectors in this charming historical mystery…

Yorkshire, 1845. A young wife and mother has gone missing from her home, leaving behind two small children and a large pool of blood. Just a few miles away, a humble parson’s daughters–the Brontë sisters–learn of the crime. Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë are horrified and intrigued by the mysterious disappearance.

These three creative, energetic, and resourceful women quickly realize that they have all the skills required to make for excellent “lady detectors.” Not yet published novelists, they have well-honed imaginations and are expert readers. And, as Charlotte remarks, “detecting is reading between the lines–it’s seeing what is not there.”

As they investigate, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are confronted with a society that believes a woman’s place is in the home, not scouring the countryside looking for clues. But nothing will stop the sisters from discovering what happened to the vanished bride, even as they find their own lives are in great peril…


Hello! I’m re-posting my review of THE VANISHED BRIDE from last year to celebrate the paperback release with a brand new cover (which I love!). I’m also including the cover and blurb for the next book in the series, THE DIABOLICAL BONES, coming in November…♥


THE VANISHED BRIDE is a unique historical mystery that casts the famous Brontë sisters as amateur sleuths who set out to solve a local missing persons case. It’s 1845, and Charlotte, Emily, and Anne are once again living at home with their father Patrick and brother Branwell, before they became published authors. The sisters are struggling to find their place in the world as unmarried women who would prefer to set their own course in life. When they hear a young wife has disappeared under gruesome circumstances, the Brontës become “lady detectors” and use their smarts & daring to find out what happened.

I enjoyed this book very much! Not only was I intrigued by the twisty mystery, I absolutely loved being able to live in the world of the Brontës for a little while. From what I’ve previously learned about them, I think the author did a fantastic job capturing the sisters’ personalities, conflicts, and closeness to one another. Though the mystery was fictional, it had many elements that would have influenced this Charlotte to write Jane Eyre. THE VANISHED BRIDE is a must read for Brontë fans — intriguing, well-written, and great fun.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

…and coming November 10, 2020, THE DIABOLICAL BONES:


Haworth Parsonage, February 1846: The Brontë sisters — Anne, Emily, and Charlotte — are busy with their literary pursuits. As they query publishers for their poetry, each sister hopes to write a full-length novel that will thrill the reading public. They’re also hoping for a new case for their fledgling detecting enterprise, Bell Brothers and Company solicitors. On a bitterly cold February evening, their housekeeper Tabby tells them of a grim discovery at Scar Top House, an old farmhouse belonging to the Bradshaw family. A set of bones has been found bricked up in a chimney breast inside the ancient home.

Tabby says it’s bad doings, and dark omens for all of them. The rattled housekeeper gives them a warning, telling the sisters of a chilling rumour attached to the family. The villagers believe that, on the verge of bankruptcy, Clifton Bradshaw sold his soul to the devil in return for great riches. Does this have anything to do with the bones found in the Bradshaw house? The sisters are intrigued by the story and feel compelled to investigate. But Anne, Emily, and Charlotte soon learn that true evil has set a murderous trap and they’ve been lured right into it…


 

THE DILEMMA by B.A. Paris

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Release Date: June 30, 2020
Source: Review copy from NetGalley
Rating: ★★


A woman’s birthday party takes a dark turn in a poignant, heart-stopping new novel from the reigning queen of suspense, NYT and USA Today bestselling author of Behind Closed Doors, The Breakdown, and Bring Me Back.

Knowing the truth will destroy her. Keeping it secret will destroy him.

It’s Livia’s 40th birthday, and her husband Adam is throwing her the party of a lifetime to make up for the wedding they never had. Everyone she loves will be there, except her daughter Marnie, who’s studying abroad. But Livia is secretly glad Marnie won’t be there.

Livia has recently uncovered a secret about their daughter which, if revealed, will shake the foundation of their family to its core. She needs to tell Adam, but she’s waiting until the party is over so they can have this last happy time together.

Adam, meanwhile, has his own surprise for Livia: he’s arranged for Marnie to secretly fly back for the party. But before Marnie arrives, Adam hears some terrible news. Now he too is faced with a dilemma: Does he share what he’s learned with his wife? Is hiding the truth the same as telling a lie? And how far are Adam and Livia willing to go to protect the ones they love―and give each other a last few hours of happiness?


Not every book can be your cup of tea, and unfortunately this one wasn’t mine. THE DILEMMA is a domestic suspense novel with both husband and wife hiding dreadful secrets and not communicating. For me the book was terribly sad. Most suspense/thrillers are sad or disturbing in some way, but there’s an element or twist that still makes them satisfying — not the case here.

The blurb states that Adam is throwing his wife a 40th birthday bash, but that’s not really true. Livia has been planning and saving for this party for the past 20 years to make up for her small wedding. (???) She and Adam have different secrets about their daughter Marnie that they want to keep hidden so Livia’s birthday isn’t ruined. (???) I just can’t wrap my mind around these people’s priorities and way of thinking.

Though THE DILEMMA didn’t work for me, I appreciate the publisher giving me the opportunity to review this book.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.