Review: The Happy Couple by Samantha Hayes

Happy CoupleMe and Will. Will and Me. A perfect match. He said he would always be there for me, but it’s been a year since he drained his coffee, walked out the front door and vanished.

Did he leave me? Or did something terrible happen? I’m scared someone finally found out about what happened on the drive home that night…

I lie awake at night trawling the internet for rental properties, desperate for an escape. Until I see my husband’s gorgeous face smiling back at me from a photograph on the fireplace in someone else’s home, and something inside of me snaps.

At the house, I find no trace of him and the woman who lives there has no idea who I am. But I’m certain she’s hiding something behind the locked door upstairs. I know that if I want answers, I have to stay.

You might think that what’s inside that room is the answer to all my questions and the end of all my pain. But it’s only the beginning… 

Review

I loved the premise of Samantha Hayes’ The Happy Couple. Will simply disappeared one day. They did find his car, phone and all other personal items but nobody knew what happened to him. Days turned to weeks and soon a year went by and then one day his wife saw his photo in an advert for a rental home.

I love a good mystery and this one had me scratching my head. I kept changing my mind about what happened to Will. At some point I thought he was dead/murdered. Again, I thought he had met someone new and simply walked out on his wife. His disappearance was quite puzzling and I was eager to put the pieces together. I felt sorry for Jo who couldn’t move on with her life and spent all her days looking for him and hoping that he would walk back into her life.

My feelings about this book were up and down though. While I loved the mystery, I felt that some parts of the book dragged on and my mind began to wander. I loved following the clues especially once Jo went to the rental property and all these ominous occurrences started happening. At the same time, I wasn’t too crazy about some of the twists. Towards the end, suspension of disbelief wasn’t working anymore, I just felt like the conclusion was waaaay out there.

I know my review sounds confusing but that was my experience reading this book. Loved the mystery, didn’t love parts of the plot and the ending. Interestingly, because of the uniqueness of the premise, this is one mystery that is likely to stay with me.

In the end, this was an okay read but it didn’t wow me like 4 previous books by the author that I’ve read and enjoyed. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next though.

Review: He Started it by Samantha Downing

he started itBeth, Portia, and Eddie Morgan haven’t all been together in years. And for very good reasons—we’ll get to those later. But when their wealthy grandfather dies and leaves a cryptic final message in his wake, the siblings and their respective partners must come together for a cross-country road trip to fulfill his final wish and—more importantly—secure their inheritance.

But time with your family can be tough. It is for everyone.

It’s even harder when you’re all keeping secrets and trying to forget a memory—a missing person, an act of revenge, the man in the black truck who won’t stop following your car—and especially when at least one of you is a killer and there’s a body in the trunk. Just to name a few reasons.

But money is a powerful motivator. It is for everyone. 

Review

Wow! I can’t remember the last time a book knocked me off my feet.

Beth, Portia and Eddie are siblings on a road trip. Sounds good, right? I mean taking a trip with your brother and sister should be fun. However, this trip is anything but fun. These aren’t your regular siblings. It’s a crazy family full of secrets, lies, greed and manipulation.

I thought the road trip was so interesting though bizarre. Some of the attractions they stopped at like the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum sounded made up but the author’s note at the end and Google confirm that this is an actual tourist attraction. Its not the only one in the story. The siblings stopped at a number of ‘not your everyday’ tourist attractions and some very dodgy motels.

Apart from their interesting stops, more danger is lurking on their road trip. It seems someone is following them and messing with their car in the middle of the night. Then comes the haunting music and nightly appearances. This book certainly had me at the edge of my seat. I couldn’t guess who was after the siblings and why.

Family secrets is another key feature of this road trip. The three are all hiding individual secrets and each reveal had my jaw dropping. Some of the twists were so good that I had to go back and reread them. I just loved every suspenseful bit of this story.

He Started It is a suspenseful, twisty, fast-paced, compelling thriller that will take you on one of the most insane road trips that you have ever been on. The ending is just as crazy. It actually made me gasp out loud. I can’t recommend this book enough. Once again, Samantha Downing has delivered a stunner of a psychological thriller!

Review: Little Whispers by K. L. Slater

whisphersYou shared a secret with the wrong person.

Janey Markham is thrilled to be moving with her family to Buckingham Crescent, the smartest address in a desirable suburban town.

Worried she’ll be excluded by the glossy local mothers, Janey is thrilled when she meets Tanya, the kind of woman she has always looked up to. Tanya takes Janey under her wing, and her teenage daughter Angel is amazing with Janey’s little boy. As Janey and Tanya grow closer, Janey feels she can finally leave her troubled past behind.

But then everything changes…

 

 

Review

K. L. Slater is one of my auto-request/purchase authors. I don’t even have to read the blurbs, I just grab each of her books that I come across. Little Whispers is her latest title. Whilst not one of my favorites, it was still a good read.

This suburbian mystery centers around Janey, a new resident in an affluent neighborhood. As soon as Janey moved into the neighborhood, I knew something was bound to go wrong although I couldn’t guess exactly what. I was wary of the cliquey mom group that she joined and silently screamed at her not to trust them but of course, she didn’t listen to me.

The secrets held my attention from the first to the last page. I couldn’t guess what Janey was hiding from her past. Italicized chapters mixed in with the main story had me scratching my head. In the end, the revealed secrets didn’t really wow me and actually had me puzzled about why it was such a huge deal for the MC. Maybe it is just me though. I might have been expecting something more especially after the buildup thus the reason I was underwhelmed.

Would I recommend this one? Most definitely! I didn’t love it like I thought I would but I certainly liked it. I can’t wait to see what else the author comes up with.

Review: The Caretakers by Eliza Maxwell

caretakersFilmmaker Tessa Shepherd helped free a man she believed was wrongly imprisoned for murder. When he kills again, Tessa’s life is upended.

She’s reeling with guilt, her reputation destroyed. Worse, Tessa’s mother has unexpectedly passed away, and her sister, Margot, turns on her after tensions from their past escalate. Hounded by a bullying press, Tessa needs an escape. That’s when she learns of a strange inheritance bequeathed by her mother: a derelict and isolated estate known as Fallbrook. It seems like the perfect refuge.

A crumbling monument to a gruesome history, the mansion has been abandoned by all but two elderly sisters retained as caretakers. They are also guardians of all its mysteries. As the house starts revealing its dark secrets, Tessa must face her fears and right the wrongs of her past to save herself and her relationship with Margot. But nothing and no one at Fallbrook are what they seem.

Review

Tessa is a filmmaker who helped exonerate a convicted murderer that she believed had been wrongly accused. Things turn haywire after the ex-convict is suspected of another murder. Needless to say, a lot of people are angry at Tessa. On the other hand, she is battling with the guilt of possibly having helped a dangerous criminal. This is what led her to the derelict property that she inherited from her mother. Although the property has Caretakers, it stands in neglect and holds secrets that threaten everyone around it.

This story is narrated in two timelines. I was intrigued by Tessa’s story and the ex-convict. On the other hand, the second timeline held secrets of the house from decades ago. At first, I struggled to keep track of this story-line and the many characters but soon, I found myself completely immersed in the past. The Caretakers, two old women in their 80s who were hiding decades old secrets, fascinated me.

This was an atmospheric read. The old, crumbling property with its secrets added a gothic vibe. At some point, I expected a lady in white to start floating down the stairs. I couldn’t believe that Tessa wanted to stay in that house. This setting definitely did add to the heaviness that loomed over the narrative creating a foreboding feeling.

This is a story about secrets, lies, betrayal, estranged families. At times, it felt like there was a lot going on in the story. Luckily, it never got confusing and the pieces of the puzzle eventually all slid into place. Definitely recommended to fans of atmospheric thrillers.

Stars Over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth

Star Over Clear Lake

 

For the first time in decades, Lorraine Kindred has returned to the ballroom where she was swept away by the big bands during the 1940s – and by a star-crossed romance. As she takes in the magnificent energy and brassy sounds of her youth, the past comes to life, along with the fateful decision all those years ago that forced her to choose between personal conviction and social expectations, between the two men who had captured her heart. It had been a time of great music and love, but also of war and sacrifice, and now, trying to make peace with her memories, Lorraine must find the courage to face buried secrets. In the process, she will rediscover herself, her passion, and her capacity for resilience.

 

 

Review

I knew that this would be a special book from the first page. Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth tells the story of Lorraine. This story is narrated in two timelines. One is in the 1940s and the second one in 2007. In 2007, Lorraine goes to a Ballroom which sparks memories of events that took place in 1943. The story shifts between the two timelines connecting the past and the present. We find out about events that happened in the 1940s which reveal the secrets of the present day.

This book just made me feel good. I wanted to keep reading it. I needed to know how it would all end but I had to stop myself from rushing through it. Each time that I picked it up, it felt like I was being reunited with a long, lost friend. I loved the moments but didn’t want them to end. Lorraine is an amazing protagonist in both timelines. I loved how different she was. She had dreams and aspirations that she was committed to despite the hostile environment that she lived in which unfortunately did not allow her to yearn for a different kind of life.

There are many characters that I loved in this book. I will just mention two of my favorite ones without explaining much so as not to spoil the book. The first one is Lorraine’s dad. He now joins my list of favorite literary dads. His relationship with Lorraine reminded me of Hans Huberman and Liesel in The Book Thief. The two were so close and it was a delight to get to know them through the chapters. I loved Jans. Oh, this man was something else. I just liked everything about him.

There are a number of major and minor themes interwoven in this lovely tale. The role of women in the 1943 society was a minor theme but it still played a major role in the story. I can’t imagine what it was like to be a woman in that era. Marriage was considered as being enough for women.  That title Mrs. was supposed to be all that a girl needs. If you wanted more, that implied that marriage wasn’t enough which was unacceptable. I loved reading the little details about life back then.

Love and societal expectations are major themes in this book. There was a lot of prejudice in that era. The war was going on and so sides had been chosen. The book is set in Iowa. However, there is a Prisoner of War (PoW) camp in the town. The POWs are Germans. In the story, we get to meet a group of them. We get know their character. Some were good people but others weren’t. Nevertheless, the rest of the town just thought of them all as Nazis. The relationship between the locals and the POWs was made worse by the fact that a lot of men in the community had died at the war. Many families were grieving and to them, the POWs represented the enemy who tool their loved ones. In the midst of all this, there is love. Familial love that knows no boundaries, friendships that may seem odd due to the differences but they worked and love between different couples. Needless to say, not everyone accepted all these relationships.

Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth will break your heart. There are chapters that I struggled to get through. I wanted to know what would happen to the characters but I was afraid of the truth. There were other characters that had a different ending than what  I would have liked. I was also very torn about other characters that were not bad but things couldn’t work out for them. Most of the chapters made me smile though. There is one relationship that I really loved to read about. They reminded me of Noah and Allie in The Notebook. The relationship was so well portrayed. It was realistic and cute and I just loved this couple. I can’t stop thinking about some of the scenes involving them. The writer did such a wonderful job with this relationship. She created passion between the two characters that made me feel like I was part of their story. I wanted them to be together and each obstacle just broke my heart.

I have already said this but I loved this book. It had memorable characters and the storyline was beautiful, heartbreaking and yet a delight to read. I liked the 1940s time period more than 2007 although both were necessary for the story. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that the historical aspects of this story are actually based on reality. The POW camp in Iowa which later became a museum is still there. It is called Algona. In the story, a lot happened at the Surf Ballroom which later burned down in 1946 but was rebuilt at a different site and is still standing. Yeah, the Surf still exists today and it did burn down in 1946 in a fire although in this case, the author created a story about what caused the fire. Clear Lake is an actual place in Iowa. There are a lot of things that I can mention about the setting and history but let me just say that I truly loved this detail. I don’t know anything about Iowa so it was lovely to find out so many different things about the place and its history. I loved how history and fiction were interwoven to create the masterpiece that is Stars over Clear Lake by Loretta Ellsworth. I highly recommend this book especially to fans of historical fiction.

Set during the 1940s and the present and inspired by a real-life ballroom, Stars Over Clear Lake is a moving story of forbidden love, lost love, everlasting love – and self love.