Wednesday, November 14, 2018

PROMO POST - Secrets Between Us


Today is my day on the Blog Tour for Secrets Between Us by Valerie Keough. 

DESCRIPTION:

One letter a week for fifteen years. 780 identical white envelopes brimming with my sister’s darkest secrets. All the intimate details of a life as different to mine as could possibly be.

I read each letter slowly to make sure I understand it perfectly, one day very soon it will be a matter of life and death…

At the end of each letter, after signing her name, there is always one final sentence:

Don’t forget to burn this letter. 

I’ll let you decide if I do… 

A jaw-dropping psychological thriller that you will read in one sitting. If you loved dark, twisty thrillers like The Girl on The Train, The Couple Next Door and Friend Request, this unputdownable novel will have your heart racing long after you’ve finished reading. 

Buy Links:



Please enjoy the following excerpt:

Chapter 1

The letter came every Monday. It was delivered to the reception desk of St Germaine’s school for the Differently Abled sometime during the morning, the postman cycling from the nearby Scottish border town of Peebles, come rain, shine or winter snow. He never complained, delivering the bag of post with a customary smile and wave.

In the basement kitchen, which served not only the school but the attached sheltered accommodation, Tia Bradshaw spent the morning as she always did, baking bread from a recipe she had memorised many years before. Occasionally, a new chef –and there had been several over the years –suggested changing the recipe. It always ended in disaster; Tia would start with one recipe but in the middle of mixing the ingredients, she’d forget and revert back to the ingredients from her old memorised recipe. The outcome was usually inedible.

The current chef left her to her own devices, making the same bread, morning after morning, never taking a day off, the concept of such a thing beyond her. A previous manager, appalled, had insisted she have at least one morning a week off. ‘You can’t work every morning, Tia,’ she’d said kindly. ‘You need to rest, go for a walk, maybe go into town with one of the staff and do some shopping.’ Tia had looked blankly at her and then, to the manager’s dismay, she’d started to cry. She was one of those rare people who could cry beautifully; fat tears appearing in the corner of her brown eyes, getting fatter and fatter until suddenly they’d overflow and run slowly down her cheeks. She never brushed them away, letting them fall until she was persuaded to stop.

‘I don’t want to have a day off,’ she had said, her voice thick. ‘I don’t like going outside.’

The manager could have insisted but, like everyone, faced with those rolling tears, she had conceded defeat. ‘Well, if you are quite sure?’

The change had been immediate and startling. The tears stopped, and Tia’s usual bland look returned. She was never asked to take a day off again, left alone to live her days as she chose.

She always finished her bread-making at two, leaving the last loaves cooling on wire racks for the kitchen staff to put away when they were ready. She usually took her time –she never had anything to rush away for –and sometimes she’d sit and have a cup of tea with the kitchen staff who’d finished their busy lunchtime slot.

But on a Monday, as soon as the minute hand reached twelve, she would rush to tear off her apron and run from the kitchen, flour on her face, dough on her hands, leaving a trail of both as she ran along the corridors and up the stairs to the floor where she lived. The housekeeping staff would later mutter Tia! under their breath as they wiped floury handprints from the walls and banister and swept up specks of dried dough from the floor.

Sometimes she’d see the letter before she got to her door, a corner of the envelope sticking out. If she wasn’t careful the letter caught when she opened the door, becoming pleated and torn. When this happened, she cried, her tears plopping onto the damaged envelope, rendering it soft and difficult to open.

It was best when the administrator sent the envelope sliding across the polished floor to land in the middle of her bedroom, sometimes as far as the opposite wall. She’d open the door, bright eyes full of expectation, and look around the room until she spotted it. She never doubted it would be there, somewhere. In all the years, her sister had never failed her.

Taking the precious letter out, she would sit in her chair in front of the window, curling her legs under her, and read every word. Her sister wrote of the everyday things she did, the people she met, boyfriends, lovers, enemies, friends. She shared secrets with her, intimate details of her life, a life as different from Tia’s as it was possible to be. In simple, easy-to-read language, she shared everything. At the end of each letter, after signing Your loving sister, Ellie, there would be one final sentence. Don’t forget to burn this after you’ve read it.

Tia finished each letter quickly, and would immediately read it again. Sometimes there would be a word she didn’t understand and she’d carefully write it down on a blank piece of paper and head to reception. ‘Can you tell me what this means?’ she’d ask the duty receptionist, handing her the piece of paper. It wasn’t always easy because a word out of context can have many different meanings, but the staff did their best.

‘Thanks,’ Tia would say before heading back to finish the letter, slowly this time, taking in every word. Sometimes, when the letter was long she’d reread it several more times before she was satisfied. And then, almost reluctantly, she’d fold it and head to the administration office.

In the beginning, she’d tried to do exactly as Ellie wanted, to burn the letters when she’d finished, becoming inconsolable when she was told she wasn’t allowed. ‘I have to,’ she’d said.

It had taken a lot of time and patient words to convince her that using a shredder was just as effective. ‘Your sister just wants to make sure her letters are destroyed. She wouldn’t mind if you shredded them instead. See,’ the manager had said, sliding a page into the shredder, pressing the button, and then opening the case to show her the resultant mass of shredded paper. ‘Just as good as burning.’

Only after several weeks had Tia become reconciled to it. Now, she didn’t think twice. ‘Is it ok if I use the shredder,’ she’d ask, politely. Each time, the staff would smile, nod and point to where the machine sat under the desk. When she was younger, they’d switch it on for her but now they left her to it. Sometimes, if it were someone new on the desk, they’d say she didn’t have to ask. But she always did.

And then Tia would wait, patiently, eagerly, for the next letter to come.

Every Monday, for fifteen years, the letters came.

If Tia had known the word, she would have said that for her sister the letters were cathartic; that in writing them, Ellie released the pent-up frustrations of a woman determined to make it in a tough world. And if for Ellie they were cathartic, for Tia they were fantasy stories about a different reality that she read and enjoyed like a multi-part novel, unfolding a chapter at a time.

Sometimes, a new resident or member of staff would ask Tia where she rushed off to every Monday. She would explain about her letter, and they would ask the inevitable question. Who’s it from? For a moment, Tia’s brow would crease and she would blink rapidly. Then her face would clear, her usual smile return, and she’d say, ‘It’s from Ellie.’

Rarely was she questioned further, but if anyone ever asked, Who’s Ellie? a look of puzzlement would skim across her face, her eyelids would flutter faster, and she’d walk away without answering and then, she’d turn and say, ‘She’s my twin.’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Valerie Keogh grew up reading Agatha Christie so when she started writing it seemed natural to write crime novels. She writes two different series, one based in Ireland featuring Garda Sergeant Mike West and a grittier one based in the UK featuring Nicola Connolly, a serial killer.

The Garda West series: THAT ONE MAY SMILE, CLOSE RANKS, MURDER ON CLARE ISLAND and DEATH IN FOXROCK. 

The Hudson and Connolly series: DEADLY SLEEP, TWISTED POWER, BITTER BUSINESS, and WICKED SECRET.

Valerie has also written a stand-alone psychological thriller, Exit Five from Charing Cross.

In March 2018, Valerie signed a two-book contract with the publisher, Bookouture. The first of these, Secrets Between Us, is out now.

Author Social Media Links:

FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/valeriekeoghnovels/
TWITTER: https://twitter.com/ValerieKeogh1

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

BLOG TOUR - The Truth Waits


https://amzn.to/2PPbSaf


Today is my day for the Blog Tour for The Truth Waits by Susanna Beard.

Title:  The Truth Waits
Author:  Susanna Beard
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher:  Legend Press 
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:  288
Date of Publication:  November 1, 2018
My Rating: 4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

‘This novel bears all the hallmarks of a great thriller. It not only deals with huge issues like greed, guilt, evil and revenge, but with Anna’s deeply personal search for justice, reconciliation, forgiveness and trust. Her journey takes her to the very limits of herself but, at its heart, The Truth Waits is also a story about love in its best forms and I defy anyone not to get swept up in it' Claire Dyer

Anna has everything worked out – a successful company, all the comforts she needs and no ties. But when she stumbles across the body of a young girl on a deserted beach in Lithuania, everything changes.

Anna is compelled to uncover the story behind the tragedy, despite concern from her partner, Will. Everything points towards sex trafficking, but as she searches, her own deepest secrets start to surface.

When Will disappears without a trace, Anna is pulled further into the murky world of organised crime. Time is running out for them all, and there’s a killer out there who will stop at nothing.

Beard enthralls the reader in this fast-paced psychological crime thriller. Anna serves as the perfect power-house protagonist, her daring escapades leaving the reader questioning: how far should one go to solve a murder?

I very much enjoyed reading The Truth Waits. It is taut and tense and builds to an electrifying conclusion' Kirsten Hesketh

‘Articulate and gripping - an impressive achievement’ Shelley Weiner

‘I enjoyed Susanna’s emotive and thought-provoking novel - I thought it was an engrossing mystery and loved the Lithuanian setting. She dealt with some dark themes and created great three-dimensional characters, especially Anna, who was complex and engaging. I wanted to go along with her in her journey for finding the truth' Sam Carrington



MY THOUGHTS:

Anna's very successful business brings her to Lithuania. She has traveled all the way from London and is getting anxious to return home. However, there has been a volcanic eruption and all travel has ceased. So she is stuck. She is trying to make the best of it until at least the airlines are running again.

She decides to take a walk, and when she is near the beach she discovers the body of a young girl. Horrified, she contacts the police right away. They make a quick investigation and ask her a few questions. She gets rather annoyed, however, when she notices that the death of the girl is barely mentioned in the media. 

While waiting at the hotel, Anna meets a few people, including Gavin, his wife Charlotte, and a travel journalist named Will. He tells her about some of the articles he's worked on, and he mentions sex trafficking. This is an activity that is prevalent in countries like Lithuania. Due to what Anna has learned from Will, among other things, she wonders if that could have played a role in the young girl's death. If so, why aren't the police doing more?

She decides to investigate things herself, despite being warned by Will and others to leave matters alone. Anna and Will draw closer together, but suddenly Will disappears. Anna starts wondering if he could have a role in the nefarious activities that went on while they were in Lithuania.

This story vacillates between the criminal activity of organized crime, drugs, and the aforementioned sex trafficking. The Truth Waits also delves into the pasts that Anna and Will seek to hide, and deep emotions that affect Anna in several ways. It is quite a compelling, if not often tragic, story. Although it was a stressful read at times, I was pleased with the conclusion.

Many thanks to Legend Press and NetGalley for this ARC to review in exchange for an honest opinion.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Susanna Beard studied Linguistics before embarking on a career in PR and marketing. She has helped a multitude of clients promote everything from tourist destinations, to Californian wine, to cuddly toys. 

Dare to Remember is her first novel, followed by the greatly anticipated The Truth Waits.

Key Selling Points:

- Author graduate of Faber Academy
& included in the 2015 Faber

Academy Anthology


Monday, November 12, 2018

Consumed by J.R. Ward YouTube Review


Review: Consumed

https://amzn.to/2DBNTWe
Title:  Consumed
Author:  J.R. Ward
Series:  Firefighters #1
Genre: Mystery/Thrillers, Romance
Publisher:  Gallery Books
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:  409
Date of Publication:  October 2, 2018
My Rating: 4.5 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the popular Black Dagger Brotherhood series comes a brand-new novel about arson investigator, Anne Ashburn, who is consumed by her troubled past, her family’s scorched legacy, and her current case: chasing a deadly killer.

Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed...

By her bitter family legacy, by her scorched career as a firefighter, by her obsession with department bad-boy Danny McGuire, and by a new case that pits her against a fiery killer.

Strong-willed Anne was fearless and loved the thrill of fighting fires, pushing herself to be the best. But when one risky decision at a warehouse fire changes her life forever, Anne must reinvent not only her job, but her whole self.

Shattered and demoralized, Anne finds her new career as an arson investigator a pale substitute for the adrenaline-fueled life she left behind. She doesn't believe she will ever feel that same all-consuming passion for her job again--until she encounters a string of suspicious fires setting her beloved city ablaze.

Danny McGuire is a premiere fireman, best in the county, but in the midst of a personal meltdown. Danny is taking risks like never before and seems to have a death wish until he teams up with Anne to find the fire starter. But Danny may be more than a distraction, and as Anne narrows in on her target, the arsonist begins to target her.

From the creator of the bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood, get ready for a new band of brothers. And a firestorm. 


MY THOUGHTS:

One of the most spine-tingling openings I have ever read. Firefighters. Incredible danger. Near loss of life and limb. Utter tragedy that turned out to be one of the best love stories that I have read in a while. 

Anne Ashburn is a woman consumed. By her job as a firefighter and by her carnal thoughts of fellow firefighter Danny Maguire. He knows it too. The two share an all-consuming night together. Just one night. However, as fellow firefighters, they spend even more time together, but this is about to come to a tragic end. I know that there are three prequels to this story, so the history between Anne, Danny and the rest of the unit is well-defined. However, I have not had the opportunity to read those books. They are The Rehearsal Dinner, The Reception and The Wedding from Hell. Despite missing those books, I was still very much brought into the drama between these two volatile individuals. 

Three weeks after a team member’s wedding, which turned out to be the one and only night the two spent together, Anne and Danny are fighting a brutal fire. The entire team is incredibly busy battling the flames. Anne sustains a life-changing injury as a result of being stuck that changes her life and career forever. Those tragic events have truly changed Danny as well. He has become extremely reckless, on the job, and in life. As it is, Danny is in love with Anne. Not only does he no longer see her on the job, he is also unable to see her at all. She has completely walked away.

Anne has good reason. She has to rebuild her life. Distractions will only get in the way, even if she has to suffer a broken heart. Anne begins to train as a fire inspector. Although her job doesn’t entail jumping into burning buildings, it can be just as dangerous. 

Circumstances pull Anne and Danny back into each other’s lives. It is increasingly evident that their passionate desire for one another cannot be denied any longer. Anne and Danny find that they cannot fight the feelings they have been trying to avoid. Meanwhile, Anne begins to piece together situations involving several fires. What ensues is an incredibly sensitive romantic suspense that was extremely difficult to put down. 

This book has a lot to offer, wonderful characters, an amazing dog an intrigue. The readers get to see a couple that has struggled to deal with adversity come together and find wonderful happiness. We also get to see the beginning of another series that holds much promise by J.R. Ward. This author has written numerous series, including the long-running Black Dagger Brotherhood series.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

J.R. Ward is the author of over twenty novels, including those in her #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling series, the Black Dagger Brotherhood. There are more than 15 million copies of Ward’s novels in print worldwide and they have been published in 25 different countries around the world.

After graduating from law school, Ward  began working in healthcare in Boston and spent many years as Chief of Staff of one of the premier academic medical centers in the nation. She lives in the south with her incredibly supportive husband and her beloved golden retriever. Writing has always been her passion and her idea of heaven is a whole day of nothing but her computer, her dog and her coffee pot.


Thursday, November 8, 2018

Review: Hard Sell

https://amzn.to/2qxToNa
Title:  Hard Sell
Author:  Lauren Layne
Series:  21 Wall Street #2
Genre:  Romance
Publisher:  Blackstone Publishing
Format:  Amazon Kindle
No. of Pages:  247 Pages
Date of Publication:  September 4, 2018
My Rating: 4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

He’s a Wall Street wolf. She’s been hired to tame him. From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes a wildly sexy novel of business and pleasure.

Twenty-eight and filthy rich, Matt Cannon is the youngest broker on Wall Street. He may be a “boy wonder,” but he’s every inch a man. Ask any woman—any night. But when Matt’s latest fling makes scandalous headlines, his clients get anxious, and his bosses at Wolfe Investments level an ultimatum: keep his assets zipped, get a “real” girlfriend, and clean up his act. Only one woman can help Matt with something this hard.

For PR genius Sabrina Cross, the best fixer in Manhattan, playing Matt’s steady is going to be a challenge, even if it’s just for show. They already have an explosive history, she can’t stand the cocky party boy, and worse—she can’t stop thinking about him. So who’ll dare to break her “no touching” rule first? Because when that happens, Matt and Sabrina’s game of let’s pretend will get so hot it could set both their reputations on fire.


MY THOUGHTS:

Matt Carson is on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. As an investment banker at Wolfe Investments he actually loves the newspaper. This picture, however, shows something that could destroy the company. This infuriates his bosses. They tell him: get a girlfriend and clean up your act or get a new job. Who in the world could Matt get to look like is actually serious about settling down with, thus improving the image of the agency? Just recently, one of his best friends, Ian, and also a coworker, was accused of insider trading. He was found innocent, but the agency is still doing damage control due to that.

Sabrina Cross is not Matt’s favorite choice. Simply put, he is fully aware that she hates his guts. Yet she just might be the ideal person. Sabrina is a PR genius, so she may actually be the best person for the job. But how can she pretend to be Matt’s one and only if she can hardly bear the sight of him? Yeah, he is the hottest guy she knows, but, she really can’t stand Matt. They share a shaky past. Will they continue with their antagonistic feelings for one another, or will they give into their mutual, hotter than hot attraction?

For a quick, enjoyable read where two people really discover each other’s worth, I encourage you to read Hard Sell. It is a sizzling romance with humor, especially as the story is delivered in both Matt’s and Sabrina’s perspectives. I read this book straight through in just a couple of hours.

As this is the second book in the 21 Wall Street series, Matt and Sabrina had already been introduced. While these books can certainly do well as standalones, it was definitely a delight to have familiarized myself with the various characters. The first book in the series is Hot Asset, and the third book, Huge Deal, is due for release in February, 2019. It is Kennedy and Kate’s story. Sigh. February is so long away.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren's work has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She’s based in New York City.


Review: Hot Asset

https://amzn.to/2qwMPdv
TitleHot Asset
Author:  Lauren Layne
Series:  21 Wall Street #1
Genre:  Romance
Publisher:  Montlake Romance
Format:  Amazon Kindle
No. of Pages:  266 Pages
Date of Publication:  May 22, 2018
My Rating:  4  Stars

DESCRIPTION:

A sexy agent hounds Wall Street’s hottest new wolf in an exhilarating novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne.

Ian Bradley is the definition of a Wall Street hotshot: seven-figure salary, designer suits, and a corner office. His drive off the floor is just as potent. Every woman who knows him has felt the rush. But now he’s met his match in Lara McKenzie—a woman with the power to bring Ian to his knees.

An ambitious, whip-smart daughter of FBI agents, Lara is a rising star in fighting white-collar crime. Her latest case—the investigation of Ian Bradley for insider trading—could make her career. She knows a scoundrel when she sees one. Ian fits the bill: a cocky, ridiculously handsome bad boy with a slick swagger.

She’ll do anything to prove he’s guilty. He’ll do anything to prove he’s not. But it’s only a matter of time before their fierce battle of wits gets oh so hot and personal. Now, taking down Ian has become more than business for Lara. It’s become a pleasure—and there’s more at risk than she ever dreamed.


MY THOUGHTS:

Ian Bradley is a very successful investment banker for Wolfe Investments. His best friends are Matt Cannon and Kennedy Dawson and they are also his coworkers. This job, his seven-figure salary and an office to die for didn’t come easy. He had a very bleak past. He has worked incredibly hard, including growing up in the foster system, to get where he is today. Everything could come toppling down, however. He has been accused of insider trading and is under investigation.

Ian is a self-described manwhore. He never sleeps with the same words woman twice. When Ian sees a woman in the break room at the office, he lays down the charm really thick. From the outset, she challenges him. Lara McKenzie does not bite. Worse yet, Ian discovers she is the very SEC agent hired to investigate him.

Lara is completely shaken by Ian. Simply put. Well, he was just . . . too much. Too tall. Too charming. Too masculine. Wait. He could end up behind bars and it is her job to do just that. She never loses. Lara’s long-term career goals depend on finding Ian guilty. She wants a white-collar job with the FBI. This just may be her ticket. As Lara spends time looking for evidence or proof against Ian, both are fighting a sizzling attraction. Ian’s career is at stake. Lara’s future is at stake.

Hot Asset is written in dual first person points of view, each alternating chapter written in either Ian’s or Lara’s perspective. This is done in an effective, lighthearted manner and is peppered with humor. This is the first book in the 21 Wall Street series. What a great couple to start with!

This sizzling story is fast-paced with a wonderful ending. Quite naturally, we are introduced to a bevy of characters, who no doubt will have roles in successive stories. I am certain that their stories will be just as delicious. Lauren Layne is new to me, but not for long, as my very next read is Hard Sell, book two, available now. Book three, Huge Deal, is slated for February, 2019.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies, in nine languages. Lauren's work has been featured in Publishers Weekly, Glamour, The Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She’s based in New York City.




Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review: The Perfect Family

https://amzn.to/2qxaYkk
Author:  Shalini Boland
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher:  Bookouture
Format:  Kindle ARC
No. of Pages:  284 Pages
Date of Publication:  November 6, 2018
My Rating:  5 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

‘Mummy, she’s gone…’ 

Gemma Ballantine is getting ready for work one morning when her eldest child comes running down the stairs, saying the words every mother dreads.

The front door is open. And her six-year-old daughter has disappeared. Frantic with fear, Gemma starts a nail-biting search for her little girl.

After what feels like forever, her mother-in-law Diane finds Katie wandering lost a few streets away. Relieved to have her youngest child back in her arms, breathing in the sweet scent of her hair, Gemma thinks the nightmare is over.

But then her perfect family starts to fall apart.

And she realises it’s only just beginning…

From the top ten bestselling author of The Secret Mother and The Child Next Door, this completely addictive psychological thriller of secrets, lies and betrayal will make you gasp out loud at the heart-stopping final twist. If you loved Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train and The Sister this book is for you. 


MY THOUGHTS:

Gemma Ballantine’s car was defaced with the words “bad mother” Her daughter is suspended from school. Her house key doesn’t work. If only those were the worst things Gemma was dealing with, then maybe she could have worked things out. But, no, it was much, much more. How did it all begin?

Gemma’s six-year-old daughter Katie has seemingly disappeared into thin air. This happens just before Gemma was to take Katie and her sister Eva to school. After frantically searching for several moments, Gemma heads to her car to look some more. However, she hears the voice of her mother-in-law and suddenly sees the tear-stained face of little Katie! Where was she? Why was Katie with her grandmother?

Gemma’s perfect little family may just be beginning to unravel. Before the reader is even able to see the drama unfold, another perspective is presented. This is by an unnamed narrator. As always with stories delivered by multiple points of view, many questions immediately begin to pop up.

Gemma is a busy wife and mother. She has a very demanding job and in some ways it is interfering with her family. She has been pressured by her mother-in-law to hire a nanny. It has come up before, but now more than ever. Would hiring a nanny to take the load off help Gemma so that she doesn’t doubt herself as a mother so much?

While Gemma is trying to sort things out, she has a critical business meeting. As if things weren’t interesting enough up until this point, there was a particular scene that made me say aloud, “Oh Snap!” That is the vein in which this story is delivered. Shocker after shocker.

As if my attention wasn’t riveted enough in this absolutely thrilling story by Shalini Boland, let me tell you that I literally could not put this book down. It kind of reminded me of a snowball being rolled down a hill. Well, what happens? The snowball gets bigger and bigger. Well, in comparison, this story gets better and better. At this point I felt like I was about to put the pieces of a 1,000 piece puzzle together.

Needless to say, not only is this book full of twists and turns, but boy, are the red herrings incredibly well thought out. All I can say at this point is that I was wrong in my guesses. Every. Time. Yes. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong. Well done Shalini Boland!

Run - do not walk - and get your copy of The Perfect Family. I have recommended many psychological thrillers this year. This is definitely one of them. Yes, indeed, this book is most certainly one of my favorites. This is the second book that I’ve read by the author, and I rated it 5 Stars as I did this one.


PLEASE ENJOY THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT:

Prologue

I gaze through the kitchen window. A gust of wind shakes the sepia leaves on the grapevine twisting across the pergola. A sparrow hops lightly along the rattan sun lounger. It’s so pretty. So domestic. So perfect.

Sometimes I forget myself. I let myself relax and believe that everything is okay.

But it’s never okay.

And I can never relax.



One


Strange – I don’t remember seeing the front door open when I came down earlier. I peer outside, frown and push it closed with a click.

‘Girls! Come on, get your shoes on, we’re going to be late!’

Moments later, my ten-year-old daughter Eva bounds down the stairs, her caramel hair tied back off her face in a ponytail.

‘Is your sister ready too?’ I ask.

Eva shrugs.

‘Katie!’ I yell up the stairs, but there’s no reply. I sigh. My six-year-old is such a little dreamer. I kiss Eva’s forehead. ‘Can you run back up and tell Katie to get a wriggle on?’

Eva does as I ask while I slide my feet into two-inch heels and check my reflection in the hall mirror. I have an important meeting this morning with a potential new client. I need to look professional and I absolutely cannot be late. The school run must go like clockwork.

‘She’s not in her room,’ Eva says, reappearing in the hallway.

‘Try the bathroom.’ I smooth my eyebrows and turn away from the mirror.

‘I looked. She’s not there either. Or in my room.’

‘What about—’

‘She’s not up there,’ Eva interrupts, a look of panic darting across her face. ‘I even looked under the beds and in the wardrobes in case she was hiding.’

‘Katie!’ I begin marching through the downstairs rooms of our shabby Victorian fixer-upper that we’ve never quite managed to fix up, with its draughty hallway and rattling windows. My husband Robert and I had such grand designs for this place when we bought it. Maybe it’ll happen one day. My heels tip-tap across the stripped floorboards as I search the lounge, the kitchen, utility room, dining room, the downstairs loo… but there’s no sign of my youngest daughter. Back in the hallway, I freeze, remembering the previously open front door. Katie is a curious child. With a stab of pure terror, I think of the busy main road beyond the driveway and my skin goes cold. ‘Eva, check upstairs again –look in every single room.’

‘I already did that.’

‘I know, but can you do it again?’ As I bark out instructions to Eva, I’m almost falling over myself to reach the front door.

‘Mum, are you okay? What are you doing?’

‘I’m fine,’ I cry, but my heart has suddenly started beating like a machine gun. As Eva disappears back upstairs, I wrench open the front door and step out onto our driveway, scanning the small front garden as rush-hour traffic thunders past beyond the hedge. The sky is clear and blue, but there’s a nip of autumn in the air, a damp chill that makes me shiver. I weave between our two cars, checking my youngest daughter is not hiding behind either of them. Then I call Katie’s name and stare blindly around, trying to keep calm, but it’s plain to see she’s not out here. Shaking away images of cars screeching to a halt and my daughter’s little body tossed up over a car bonnet, I stride down onto the pavement and peer up and down the road, praying that I’ll catch sight of her. But there’s no sign, and despite her absent-mindedness, she surely wouldn’t leave the safety of our driveway. I’ve told her enough times that the road is dangerous. But she’s not out here, so she must be back in the house. She has to be.

Back inside, I check the downstairs rooms once again with Eva at my side. Katie’s not in any of them. Perhaps she went into the back garden for some reason. I ask Eva to keep searching the house while I go into the utility room and try the back door. It’s locked and the key is still on the hook, so it’s highly unlikely Katie is out there. But maybe she went out of the front door and then came around the side of the house, distracted by something or other. I slip the keys off the hook and open the back door, stand on the threshold scanning the garden –the mossy patio, the overgrown rectangle of grass, the fruit trees at the back, and the ramshackle, sage-green summer house.

‘Katie!’ I cry, my voice disappearing into the still morning air. ‘Katie! Are you out here? Time to go!’ I cross the stone patio and step onto the grass, my heels sinking into the soft earth. ‘We’re going to be late for school!’ My voice is definitely wobbly now, but I’m determined not to let my mind jump ahead again and imagine the worst. I make my way across the dew-soaked lawn to the summer house, try the door –it’s locked –and peer through one of the windows. Empty. Just the kids’ bikes and some gardening equipment.

‘Hello, Gemma, everything okay?’

I snap my head round to see my retired neighbour’s round face peering at me over the garden fence. ‘Sherry, hi. I don’t suppose you’ve seen Katie? I can’t seem to find her…’ I give a short laugh to show that I’m not really worried. But I don’t know why I did that because I am really worried. I make my way back down the lawn towards her.

Sherry frowns. ‘No, sorry. I’ll go in and ask Paul. I take it she’s not in the house then?’

I shake my head and bite my lip.

‘I’m sure she won’t have gone far.’

‘Mum?’

I gasp and look up, hopeful that it’s Katie. But it’s Eva standing by the back door, white-faced. ‘Did you find her?’ she asks.

‘Not yet, darling, but she’s got to be around here somewhere.’ My voice sounds hollow and bright.

‘Maybe she went to school on her own,’ Eva suggests.

I turn as Sherry clears her throat discreetly behind me. ‘Let me know if you need any help looking. And try not to worry. I’m sure she’ll turn up any minute.’

‘Thanks, Sherry. I appreciate it.’ I step off the grass, take Eva’s hand and we go back inside. ‘This is ridiculous,’ I mutter. ‘She can’t have just disappeared.’ I turn to Eva with another thought. ‘She’s probably hiding. You know how much she loves to play hide and seek. Let’s check the house again. Have a proper scout around.’ I stomp up the stairs, calling Katie’s name. Eva follows, and I try to keep my panic in check. I don’t want her to see how freaked out I’m becoming. It’s already been five minutes since I first realised Katie was missing.

‘Where is she, Mum? Is she going to be okay?’

‘Of course,’ I reply, trying to keep my voice from trembling. ‘Katie!’ I yell. ‘It’s not funny any more. We’re going to be late for school. Come on!’ I march into her bedroom, the floor a tangled mess of cuddly toys and discarded clothes. What I would give to see her lounging around on her bed right now. Her PJs are strewn across her pillow, her favourite book left open –everything looks so normal.

I crouch down and look under the bed, even though Eva said she’d already checked. But Katie’s not there. It’s just an empty black space. If only I had been paying more attention to her this morning instead of spending ages getting myself ready. I shouldn’t have taken my eyes off her for a second. But we’re at home. Surely we should be safe here. How can she have vanished into thin air? Robert and I are always in a rush, always doing a million things at once. Right now, he’s out with his regular Tuesday-morning client. He’s a personal trainer and works odd hours so, between the two of us, looking after the girls always manages to end up a messy and unpredictable affair with one or the other of us getting stressed and running late.

I get to my feet again and run my fingers through my short hair, not caring that I’m messing up the careful style that took me ages to perfect earlier.

‘Mum?’ Eva stares up at me. ‘Mum, where is she? I’m scared.’ Her eyes start to pool with tears.

I’m scared too. I take my precious daughter’s hand in both of mine. ‘Don’t worry. Don’t cry, she’s fine. I’m sure she’ll show up any second, and we’ll give her a big fat hug and tell her off for scaring us senseless.’

I’ve looked everywhere. It can’t be more than ten minutes since I first found she was missing, but it already feels like hours. If she’s not in the house she must have gone out the front door. But I already looked on the driveway and on the road beyond. There was no sign of her. She wouldn’t have run off, would she? Did she go out of her own accord?

Or did somebody take her?

I shiver at the sickening thought. Suddenly the seriousness of the situation slams into me like a truck. My normal life has turned into every mother’s nightmare in a matter of moments. I rush into my bedroom, kick off my muddy high heels, slip on some trainers, hitch up my skirt and run down the stairs.

‘Mum! What are you doing?’ Eva cries as I yank open the front door. ‘Where are you going?’

‘Stay in the house!’ I yell back. ‘I won’t be long. I’m going to look for your sister!’ Every second matters now. It could be the difference between finding Katie… and not.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Shalini Boland lives in Dorset, England with her husband, two sons and their cheeky poodle-terrier cross. Before kids, she was signed to Universal Music Publishing as a singer/songwriter, but now she spends her days writing suspense thrillers (in between school runs and hanging out endless baskets of laundry).

Her debut psychological thriller The Girl from the Sea published in June 2016 reached Number 1 in the US Audible charts. Her second thriller The Best Friend published in October 2016 reached a high of number 10 in Amazon's UK Kindle charts. It also achieved number 1 in all its categories and was a Kindle All Star title for several months in a row.


Tuesday, November 6, 2018

An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena YouTube Book Revew

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage YouTube Book Review

Review: A Wrench in the Works

https://amzn.to/2SJNkOg
TitleA Wrench in the Works
Author:  Kate Carlisle
Series:  Fixer-Upper Mystery #6
Genre:  Cozy Mystery
Publisher:  Berkley Books
Format:  ebook
No. of pages
: 304
Published: November 6, 2018
My Rating: 4 Stars

DESCRIPTION:

Contractor Shannon Hammer has to dig through murder suspects in the latest Fixer-Upper Mystery from the New York Times bestselling author of Eaves of Destruction and Once Upon a Spine.

Don't miss the Hallmark Movies & Mystery Originals starring Jewel, based on the Fixer-Upper Mystery series!

Shannon Hammer's younger sister Chloe left Lighthouse Cove after high school to make it big in Hollywood. And she did it! For several years now, Chloe has been the co-host of a popular home repair show on the Do-It-Yourself Network. Now, after ten years, Chloe returns to Lighthouse Cove with her crew and co-host to film several shows featuring her sister Shannon, along with some special mini-segments on Victorian style and design.

But Shannon realizes quickly that things are not exactly blissful in TV land. Her sister's handsome co-host is being stalked by someone who turns out to be his estranged wife, Erica--who also happens to be the executive producer of the show. Erica's got a knack for stirring up sticky situations and when she's found dead, Chloe and the entire crew are under suspicion.

Shannon soon discovers the real reason why Chloe was so eager to move away from Lighthouse Cove all those years ago. Can Shannon figure out if that ten-year-old secret is connected to Erica's death? And can she track down the real killer before her beloved sister becomes the next victim?


MY THOUGHTS:

Sisters Shannon and Chloe Hammer are glad to be back together after Chloe left their hometown of Lighthouse Cove for Hollywood. Both of their lives are quite on track. They are both involved in home improvement and Chloe has a job on a home makeover show. Shannon is delighted that Chloe’s show is going to be doing a renovation of a house in Lighthouse Cove. The sisters are very much looking forward to working together.

Plans go horribly awry for more than one reason. Before things even get off the ground, Chloe has something very important that she is reluctant to share with Shannon. Shannon and Chloe are excited to begin the project. The crew visits the house where the renovation is to take place. To their surprise and horror, Chloe discovers a dead body. The entire crew is under suspicion, including Chloe. 

Shannon makes it her aim to clear her sister’s name. After all, it has been a very busy year for Shannon as this is not the first dead body she’s come across. While identifying the murder is of top priority, Shannon realizes that Chloe is more than just a suspect, she may actually be in danger.

This was a quick read and it was rather fun watching Shannon work hard at being an amateur detective. Although a horrible argument between Chloe and the murdered person was heard by herself and several others, Shannon is positive about her sister’s innocence.

A Wrench in the Works is a delightful cozy mystery and the characters are fairly well rounded. Of course, Shannon is primary, as this story was delivered from her first-person perspective. There are a few twists and turns along the way. There were a couple of scenarios that didn’t appeal to me, but I still found this to be a quick and enjoyable read.

When I requested this book, I was not aware that it is the sixth book in the Fixer Upper Mystery  series. Despite not having read the previous stories, A Wrench in the Works did quite well as a standalone. I would love to not only read the previous titles in the series, but to check out Kate Carlisle’s backlist. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and think that she is an excellent author.

Many thanks to Berkley Books and First to Read for this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion. 


PLEASE ENJOY THE FOLLOWING EXCERPT:

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

Copyright © 2018 Kate Carlisle

Chapter 1

Two months earlier

“Shannon!”

I turned and saw my friend Jane Hennessey waving at me from halfway down Main Street. She ran to catch up with me, despite the fact that she was wearing a lovely dress and high heels. I guess when you owned the Hennessey House Inn, the most elegant world-class inn in Lighthouse Cove, you had to dress the part.

“Hi, Jane.” I set my toolbox down on the sidewalk and gave her a quick hug. “You look so nice. Where are you headed?”

“I’m swinging by Lizzie’s shop to pick up Mac’s latest thriller and then we’re going to have lunch at Emily’s. You should come with us.”

“What a coincidence,” I said, gazing up at the clear blue sky. It was early fall and the weather was warm and sunny with a slight breeze. Perfect for walking along the town square. “I was just on my way to Emily’s to fix a stopped-up sink. I’ll walk with you.” I surreptitiously brushed my hand over my mop of curly hair, hoping to swipe away as much sawdust as I could. “But I should probably pass on lunch. I’ve been working at the old Parton mansion all morning, redoing the staircase. I’m covered in wood shavings.”

“We’re used to seeing you like that,” she said with a grin. “Emily won’t mind. We’ll just hose you down before we go inside.”

“That’s so sweet.” Our friend Emily Rose owned the popular Scottish Rose Tea Shoppe on Main Street, facing the town square. She made the absolute best sandwiches and tiny delectable pastries. My mouth began to water just thinking about them. And that settled it. “I’d love to join you if you’re sure I’m not interrupting anything.”

She laughed. “Since our whole point in having lunch is to talk about Chloe’s visit, you won’t be interrupting anything and you should definitely be there.”

I cocked my head in confusion. “You and Lizzie are talking about my sister?”

“Yes, Shannon,” Jane said with infinite patience. “You know she’ll be here in two short months, right?”

“Of course, but . . .”

“And you know she asked me to help book the hotel rooms for the crew and the production staff, right?”

“No.” I picked up my toolbox. Jane slipped her arm through mine and we strolled toward Lizzie’s bookshop a half block away. “I hadn’t heard that.”

“Well, she did and I’m thrilled to do it. But it’s going to take some jockeying and planning, as you might imagine.”

“I believe it.” Chloe was the co-star of Makeover Madness, a popular rehab and design show on the Home Builders Network. I was thrilled with her success and overjoyed that the show was coming to Lighthouse Cove to feature some of our beautiful old Victorian mansions. And I was pleased to hear that my best friends were jumping in to help make the visit a success.

“But what’s Lizzie doing?” I asked. “Is she helping you make reservations?”

“Oh no. I can do that on my own. But Chloe was hoping that Lizzie will stock her new book and maybe host a book signing while she’s in town. So a few of us decided to get together to work out all the schedules and logistics.”

“My sister, the superstar,” I murmured. I still couldn’t believe that Chloe had recently published her very own book on home rehab, design, and décor. She had sent me an advance copy and it was gorgeous. Her accomplishments had far exceeded everyone’s expectations—including her own—and I couldn’t be happier or prouder of her.

Jane squeezed my arm. “She really is a star. And besides, she’s our hometown girl. We’re all excited to see her again.”

“Me, too.” I meant it. Especially since my little sister rarely came home anymore, except for the occasional holiday. And even then, she would sneak into town for a day or two and be gone before we’d even had a chance to catch up on old times.

Chloe had left town ten years ago, the summer after she graduated from high school. It had been her dream to make it big in Hollywood, and she’d been determined to do whatever it took to make that happen.

She had started out as a lowly office go-fer and in her spare time she worked for a local theater company building sets. And after a few years . . . it happened. She was discovered in that theater, not as an actress but as a carpenter. A producer hired her for a bit part on a DIY Network show and from there she went on to hit the big time as co-host of Makeover Madness. With her innovative ideas and her talent as a contractor, she helped turn that show into the highest-rated program on the network. It didn’t hurt that she was smart and talented and beautiful, but viewers loved her most of all because she had the best sense of humor and absolutely loved her job.

And now, besides being a TV star, Chloe would soon be a bestselling author. Did I mention how ridiculously proud of her I was? Who would’ve thought that hanging out on construction sites with our dad all those years ago would turn out to be so profitable for both of us?

I’m Shannon Hammer, a building contractor specializing in Victorian home renovation. My hometown is listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation because of its hundreds of Victorian-era houses and buildings, so it made sense that Chloe would eventually bring her television show back home to Lighthouse Cove. She and her producers planned to shoot a series of episodes featuring major rehab jobs on Victorian homes. And the best news of all was that Chloe wanted me to work on the houses with her. Me! I was beyond excited.

But that didn’t mean I was totally on board with Chloe allowing Jane to do all this heavy lifting for her staff and crew. Had my sister gone so completely Hollywood that she didn’t think about the “little” people anymore? That didn’t sound like Chloe at all. I wondered if maybe she was just overly stressed and pressed for time.

“I guess I’m still confused,” I said to Jane. “Chloe’s producers usually arrange all the travel details. Why did she ask you to do it?”

Jane smiled. “She didn’t really ask. She just called to get some information on hotels and the next thing I knew, I was on the phone with her executive producer, Bree Bennett, who wanted to hear all about Hennessey House. How many rooms we have, our rates, what meals and amenities are included, you know. We worked out a few specifics and I told her I’d take care of everything else.”

I frowned. “Everything else?”

“Her staff and crew are going to need a lot more rooms than I have available, so I offered to take care of booking the Inn on Main Street for them.”

I nodded slowly. “That makes sense. You’re kind of an expert in that regard.”

“I am,” she said with a confident smile. Jane had been the manager of the inn for five years before she opened her Hennessey House, a massive Victorian mansion left to her by her grandmother. “And then Bree called back for more info and I happened to mention that Emily’s catering company could provide pastries and coffee every day. And then Chloe called to ask about the book signing, so that got Lizzie involved. And then Emily reminded me that Gus has a limousine service if anyone on the show wanted to use it. And, well, here we are.”

Jane and I had gone to school with gorgeous Gus Peratti, the best auto mechanic in town and the guy who had won Emily’s heart.

I smiled, feeling better knowing that Chloe wasn’t running our friends crazy. Not personally, anyway. And besides, nobody here seemed to mind. At least, not so far. I would have to make sure that once the production people arrived, they didn’t steamroll Jane, Lizzie, Emily, and everyone else in town. “So you managed to get the whole gang involved. I’m officially impressed.”

“And we’re all going to get credit on the show. Isn’t it wonderful?”

“That’s very cool,” I said. “I just hope you’re not too busy to handle all this extra work. If it starts to feel like Chloe’s imposing on you . . .”

“She’s not.” Jane laughed. “It just feels that way to you because she’s your sister. I, on the other hand, am totally psyched. It’s sort of like I’m working in showbiz, you know?”

I chuckled. “Showbiz-adjacent, anyway.”

“Close enough,” she said breezily. “Besides, Chloe is so sweet.”

Sweet? Chloe? I loved my sister, but that was not a word I would normally apply to her. Smart, savvy, a little snarky, sure. But sweet? I wondered just how thickly she’d laid on the sweetness. On the other hand, my friends weren’t exactly naïve. Especially Jane, who had known Chloe her whole life. If she and the others didn’t want to do the work, they wouldn’t have volunteered. Still . . .

I glanced up at Jane, who was two inches taller than me—and had been since first grade when we were the two tallest kids in class, a fact that had bonded us for life. “If you feel like you’re about to freak out from all the demands, just call Chloe and tell her to get the producers to take over. They’re used to doing this kind of stuff. And I can help, too. With . . . whatever.”

“No way would I dump my work on you,” she said adamantly. “First of all, you’ve got your own arrangements to take care of, right?”

True, I thought. I was supposed to scout out three or four run-down Victorian houses ripe for rehab. The producers would come to town in the next week or so and choose a few of them to be featured on the show. Chloe also wanted me to line up four or five other smaller interior jobs that the two of us would tackle for the show’s website. And in the meantime, I had a bunch of ongoing jobs that would start to get backed up as I spent more time working on the TV show projects.

“And second,” Jane continued, “I’ve got a ton of people offering to help me. This is going to go off without a hitch.”

Famous last words, I thought. “We’d better knock on wood.”

“Very funny,” she said, lightly elbowing me in the side.

“Yeah, I’m just kidding. It’s going to be great.” But as we passed one of the many sycamore trees that grew along Main Street, I reached out and knocked on the thick brown wood trunk. Because why tempt fate?

Two weeks later

I met with Wade Chambers, my head foreman, at the site of one of the first houses on my Chloe list. I was already waiting by the tailgate when he climbed out of his truck and together we pulled the extension ladder out of the back.

“They picked the Bloom house for the show?” he asked.

“It’s one of the four they’re going to decide on,” I said as we lugged the ladder up the walkway. “I really hope they choose it because it’s got great bones. The final result would be beautiful.”

“You’re right,” he said, gazing up at the three-story tower. “It’s got all the Victorian elements and it would be perfect for the show. As long as it doesn’t crumble and fall down between now and the time Chloe gets here.”

“It could happen.” In its heyday, this Queen Anne Victorian had surely been one of the more stately jewels of Lighthouse Cove. With its traditionally asymmetrical roofline, multiple gables, rounded front tower, and wraparound veranda, not to mention the overabundance of gingerbread trim, the home was a true classic. But it had been deserted for at least twenty years and, like Wade said, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the place collapse at any moment.

“I ran into Margaret Bloom at the market,” I said. “She begged me to put in a good word. She told me she’s spending every day in church, lighting candles and praying that the house gets chosen for Makeover Madness.”

Wade chuckled. “I’m not sure it works that way.”

Margaret still owned the house that had been in her family for six generations, but when she got married, she moved into her husband’s home, a beautiful Eastlake-style Victorian over on Ivy Hill north of the town square. She had kept her maiden name of Bloom just as her three sisters had done since the Blooms had long been one of the most prominent families in Lighthouse Cove.

“She told me they can’t spare the money to refurbish both of their houses and according to the terms of her father’s will, she can’t sell this one. She’ll have to pass it on to her kids eventually, but meanwhile, it’s falling apart. She’d be thrilled if Chloe and the producers choose it. That way, she can get the work done for free.”

“It definitely needs help,” Wade said, glancing at the veranda. “It’s kind of a disaster and that’s a damn shame.”

“Disasters are exactly what Chloe asked me to find for the show,” I said with a grin. “She told me to come up with some real stinkers.”

He chuckled. “Then she’ll be very happy with this place. So what are we doing here?”

“I’ll show you.” I lifted the front of the ladder up. “Let’s go around to the side.”

Wade grabbed the far end and we carried the heavy ladder around the side of the house to the point where the wraparound veranda ended. “Let’s set it up right here.”

“I guess I shouldn’t complain that so many of the old houses are falling apart,” Wade reasoned as he helped lean the ladder up against the side of the house. “It keeps us gainfully employed.”

I grinned at him over my shoulder. “You got that right.”

“Okay, I assume you’re the one climbing up there.” He grabbed hold of the railings. “I’ll keep it steady for you.”

“Thanks.” I stared at the ladder, looking all the way to the top. I wasn’t afraid of heights but this thing stretched up thirty-two feet. Even my most macho crew guys were a little daunted by the climb. My throat was suddenly dry. “That’s a long way up.”

“And it still won’t reach the peak of the gable,” Wade said, pointing up at the decorative wood pieces tucked under the peak of the roof. “We’ll have to get the boom lift out here if Chloe wants to restore those gable carvings.”

My construction company owned a two-man boom lift with a basketlike platform and a fifty-two-foot articulated arm, the kind of thing the telephone company used to reach the highest electrical poles. It was an expensive piece of heavy equipment that my father had won in a poker game a few years back from the owner of our local hardware store. True story. Because of Dad’s good fortune, we were happy to rent it out to other contractors when we weren’t using it ourselves.

“For now,” I said, “I just want to get close enough to check out the dentils along the eaves.” Taking a fortifying breath, I slowly climbed thirty-some feet until I could reach out and examine the closest square wooden molding. But as soon as I touched the first one, my fingertips went right through the rotted wood. I tested a few more spots along the eave and found them all as badly damaged.

“I was afraid of this,” I shouted down to Wade. “We’ve got to get these repaired before Chloe shows up.”

“Why?”

“Because the wood is rotten.”

“But that’s part of the deal, isn’t it? It actually looks kind of cool in a disturbing sort of way.”

Was he smoking something? “No, it doesn’t. It looks plain old creepy. Decrepit, faded, and sad.”

“Exactly,” Wade shouted cheerfully. “Chloe will love it. She’ll want to get some close-up shots of the rot first before we get to work making it beautiful.”

I sighed. He had a point. “But I hate to think that people watching the show will believe that the houses in Lighthouse Cove are dilapidated and mangy.”

Wade snorted a laugh. “Why would they think that? Lighthouse Cove is famous for the hundreds of beautiful Victorians we have here.”

“Right, so why would we want to show off all the ugly parts?”

“Because if they see all this rotting wood and peeling paint, they’ll think we’re freaking geniuses when we make it all shiny and pretty again.”

I gazed down at him and nodded reluctantly. “You’re right. Guess I’m just nervous about the whole television thing.” I stared up at the offending dentil and sighed again. “Okay, we’ll leave them for now.”

“Good. Ready to come down?”

“Not yet.” I pointed up at the main gable rising thirty more feet above me. “Look at those gable brackets. I can see the worm holes from here. And the carvings are falling apart. They’ll need to be filled and sanded and then painted.”

“Yup,” Wade agreed. “But after the film crew gets here. Chloe loves stuff like that.”

I frowned because he was right. “How is it that everyone knows my own sister better than I do?”

“I watch her show,” he said with a shrug, clutching the ladder as I studied the weathered wood siding. “It’s really interesting and Chloe’s great. I always learn something new.”

I didn’t respond, just made a point of scratching off a bit of peeling paint.

Wade started to laugh. “Do you even watch your sister’s show?”

“Of course I watch it,” I said, properly outraged. “I mean, usually.” I huffed out a breath. “Okay, fine. I record them so I can watch them anytime I want.”

“Uh-huh. Better watch a few episodes before she gets here.”

“I will,” I groused. I would never admit out loud that watching my sister’s TV show made me feel a bit inadequate. I mean, we were both contractors and basically had the same job, only she did hers on national television. It was weird. Despite being proud of her, I guess I was a little jealous, too, which was just plain silly.

I took another minute to check out some water damage I noticed under the eaves of the veranda, then began the climb down. “I would love the chance to restore this house to its former glory.”

Wade scraped at a patch of peeling paint. “You and me both.”

We retracted the extension ladder and carried it back to Wade’s truck. Once it was secured, he took his tablet out of his backpack. “Do we have a schedule yet of the work we’ll be doing with Chloe while she’s here?”

“I’m expecting the producer to come to town this weekend. I’ll show her each of the houses and she’ll make the decisions on which houses we’ll work on and in what order. And once we’ve nailed down those details, I’ll get together with you and Carla and finalize a schedule for the crew. According to Chloe, they plan on using some of our guys.”

“I hope so. That would be a kick.”

“At the very least, I’ll see if they’ll let our guys work on the smaller projects we’ve got lined up.”

“Do you know what those are?”

“Yeah. Chloe’s been in touch with one of her high school friends to expand a closet. Freddie Baxter wanted to add on a new bathroom and Mac wants to build a deck on the side of his house.”

“Off the kitchen?”

“Yes. The northern exposure will be perfect in the summer. I was going to do the work anyway, but if Chloe wants us to do it for the show, that would be great.”

“Oh, yeah. Right by the ocean, they’ll be able to get lots of great shots of the waves and the beach.”

“And the lighthouse.”

“Awesome,” he said, and climbed into his truck. “Keep me in the loop.”

I grinned. “Always.”

Present day

After arriving home from work tired, drywall-mud-caked, and downright grungy, I jumped into the shower. I hadn’t even dried my hair when my dog, Robbie, began to bark frantically and made a beeline down the stairs and straight for the front door.

“All right, all right,” I said. Throwing on a T-shirt and sweatpants, I followed him down and opened the door in time to see a sleek black limousine come to a stop in the driveway. “Looks like the queen has arrived.”

I walked down the front steps just as my sister stepped regally out from the backseat of the limousine. She wore jeans and a bejeweled denim jacket, and her long blond hair was pulled back in a ponytail, making her look like a teenager.

At first glance, the two of us didn’t look related at all. But if you looked beyond our hair color, you’d see that we were obviously sisters. When Chloe turned sixteen she decided to become a blonde and never looked back. I had always been happy with my wavy red hair, despite its occasional similarity to an unruly mop.

I grinned and felt my heart stutter in my chest. It had been too long since she’d been home.

Hurrying down the walkway, I grabbed her in a hug. “Come here, you. Gosh, you look so great! I can’t believe you’re finally here.”

“I can’t, either. We’re going to have so much fun.” She held me at arm’s length. “How do you keep getting more beautiful?” And then she pulled me close again.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, my hair is a wet mess.”

“And yet you still look fabulous. I should hate you.”

I laughed. “We’re definitely related. I was just thinking the same thing about you.”

She smiled. “Aren’t we lucky?”

“And just a little full of it.”

Still laughing, we both turned as Gus Peratti jumped from the driver’s seat. “Hey, Shannon.”

“Hi, Gus. Haven’t seen you in forever.” I gave him a quick smooch on the cheek. “Thanks so much for taking care of Chloe.”

“Not a problem.” He jogged around to the open trunk and began pulling out at least a dozen various suitcases, a hanging wardrobe bag, and several large duffel bags.

“Did you bring enough stuff?” I asked.

She smoothed her hair back. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m very important.”

I chuckled and pulled her close. “God, I’ve missed you.”

Chloe wrapped her arm around my waist and rested her head on my shoulder while Gus loaded up on suitcases and traipsed up the steps and into the house.

“Is everything okay with you?” I asked her.

“Wonderful,” she said a little too emphatically. “I’m just so glad to be here.”

Chloe stared up at the house we had grown up in. Like so many of the homes in town, it was a Queen Anne Victorian with the usual charming affectations. I had painted the entire house white with touches of sky blue trim a few years ago, which was a big change from the previous multiple-color style of dark browns and blues with forest green trim and a splash of beige here and there. I had also replaced the clamshell shingles covering the top half of the house with horizontal wood siding that matched the rest of the exterior. It gave the house a clean, tidy look that I loved.

“It looks so peaceful,” Chloe whispered.

She couldn’t have given me a better compliment. “I hope you like it.”

“I love it.” Her eyes narrowed. “Wait, did you replace the bay windows?”

“I did.” Originally there were three narrow sash windows that I replaced with a gracefully bowed, single piece of glass.

“Wow. That’s a showstopper.” She climbed the ten steps up to the front porch and walked over to study the bay window up close. “The glass itself is curved. How did you do that?”

“It was tricky but I found a glazier in Eureka who rose to the challenge.” Tricky was one way to put it, I thought. Pain in the rear would be more accurate.

“Gorgeous.”

“Thanks. That means a lot.” And it reminded me that Chloe hadn’t been home to visit in over five years. Oh, we talked on the phone or Skyped every other week or so, and Dad and I had traveled south to see her a few times. To this day, I still didn’t know why she didn’t come home more often. Maybe she would finally open up to me on this trip. I could only hope.

Gus came back out, grabbed two more large bags plus two smaller bags, and easily walked back up the front stairs to the door.

“We’d better help,” I said.

“Good idea.”

We jogged down the steps to the car. I grabbed a duffel bag and a couple of the smaller totes. Chloe picked up the last three shopping bags and we followed Gus into the house.

“Where would you like these?” he asked.

“Oh, just leave them here and we’ll take them upstairs eventually.”

“A couple of these bags are really heavy,” Gus said. “Let me take them upstairs for you while you two get reacquainted.”

He was going above and beyond the call of duty, but that was what friends were for. “Thank you, Gus. Chloe’s room is down the hall, the third door on the left.”

“My old room?” Chloe said.

“Do you mind?”

“Absolutely not.” She clapped her hands together. “It’ll really feel like I’m back home. Actually, I’m getting a little emotional just thinking about it.”

I grinned. “That’s only fair since I’ve been freaking out for weeks in anticipation of your arrival.”

“Why?” Chloe looked surprised. “The show is going to be a blast. I’m so excited you’re doing it with me.”

“I’m pretty excited, too. Also scared to death, but I’ll snap out of it.”

She gave a light shrug. “If we screw it up, we’ll just do another take.”

“You make it sound so easy,” I said with a laugh.

“It will be.”

Gus made two more trips upstairs and then took off, but not before Chloe tried to tip him.

He politely refused. “Your company made us a very generous deal while you’re in town, so tips are not necessary.”

“Then how about if we take you and Emily out to dinner later this week?” I said.

“That sounds perfect. Good to meet you, Chloe.” He winked and strolled out the door.

Chloe waved, then sighed. “God, he is a beautiful man.”

“That’s the consensus. And Emily sure thinks so.”

“He told me he went to school with you, but I don’t remember him.”

I laughed. “How could you forget him?”

“I have no idea.” She shook her head and stared at the door where Gus had just departed. “I guess I was a little self-absorbed in high school.”

“Weren’t we all?” I led the way into the kitchen and while feeding Robbie and my pretty orange-striped cat, Tiger, and cleaning their water bowls, I told Chloe the story of Gus and Emily and how the ghost of Mrs. Rawley brought them closer together.

“That is so amazing,” she said, taking a seat at the kitchen table. “So the ghost led you to the wall where she’d hidden her diary?”

“Yes. It was pretty bizarre to see paint cans flying through the air and the chandelier swinging all on its own.”

“Oh my God, you’re giving me goose bumps.” She rubbed her arms briskly. “Will you tell that story on the air?”

“You really want me to?”

“I do. That’s exactly the sort of thing that viewers love to hear, especially when it’s connected to an old home like this story is.”

I took a breath to fortify myself. This whole showbiz thing was new to me. “Okay, I’ll do it.”

“Great.” She pulled out her phone and began to type. “I’m just making myself a note.”

Robbie finished his nibbling and scurried over to the table, where Chloe patted her knees in invitation. The friendly Westie immediately jumped onto her lap and settled in for some petting, scratching, and stroking. Not to be outdone, Tiger curled herself around Chloe’s ankles and made herself at home on top of her shoes.

“I love your little creatures,” Chloe murmured.

“They love you, too. Do you have any pets?”

“No. My old boyfriend was allergic, or at least that’s what he always told me. Now that’s he’s gone, maybe I’ll get a cat.”

“You should. It’s nice to come home to someone who’s absolutely thrilled to see you.”

She laughed. “It probably helps that you’re the one feeding them.”

“That’s the bargain we’ve struck. I feed them and they love me.”

She put her elbow on the table and rested her cheek in her hand. “I could use some unconditional love.”

As if on cue, Robbie turned and licked her chin.

Chloe laughed and gave Robbie’s ear a soft scratch. “Thank you, Robbie. See, that’s what I’m talking about.”

“So, speaking of your old boyfriend . . . what ever happened to Joe? You never really said.”

She gazed at me. “He turned out not to be the dreamboat I described when I first met him.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s my own fault.”

“But you lived with him for two years.”

“We had fun for a while. I thought we would get married. I love his parents. I still miss them. But you know, when the guy you’re living with turns around and gets another girl pregnant, it’s usually a sign.”

“Ugh. A really big sign. What an idiot.”

“It’s okay. I’m too busy to have a relationship.”

I sat down across from her, anxious to change the subject to something a little less upsetting. “So, it’s almost five o’clock. Do you want to unpack?”

“Not really. Do you mind if we just chill out for a little while?”

“Do you want to take a nap?”

“God, no. But I would love a glass of wine.”

“We are definitely related.” I opened a bottle of Pinot Noir and poured two glasses, and then we walked back to the living room to relax. Tiger and Robbie followed, naturally, and we all settled down on the big comfy couch.

“So tell me about your life,” I said, after waiting for her to swallow her first sip of wine. “The show is going well, I know. And you always look so smart and beautiful, even when you’ve got paint on your hair.”

She groaned. “You saw that episode, did you?”

“Yes.” I had finally managed to binge-watch three seasons of the show and while I would never admit that little fact, I was prouder than ever that Chloe was my sister. She was truly talented. “That same thing happened to me a few years ago and it took weeks to get the paint out. Now I never paint a ceiling without wearing a hat. Which isn’t easy with this head of hair.”

She waved her hand at me. “That’s another thing you should mention on the show. Any little details or stories or advice. The viewers love it.”

“Speaking of viewers, you know you’ve got a lot fans in town. I hope you’re ready for the adulation.”

She laughed. “It never gets old.”

I scrunched a pillow and leaned back into the cushions. “It feels like forever since I saw you last. So tell me everything. The show is incredibly popular and your book is selling like crazy, that has to feel good.”

“The book.” She shook her head in wonder. “I’m in shock over how well it’s doing.”

“I’m so proud of you.” I smiled at her for a long moment. “Never mind that I’m consumed with jealousy.”

She laughed again as I’d hoped she would, but then she sobered. “I feel bad for not calling more often, but it has been sort of a whirlwind. My head still spins at the thought of all those personal appearances. I just got back to the show last week and now we’re on the road again.”

“Was your crew happy to see you? I hope everyone is treating you well.”

“They are the best. Everyone’s so supportive.”

“Good. I remember when you first started on the show, you said that Blake Bennett was really nice and helpful to you. Is he still? Was he happy about your book?” Blake was Chloe’s co-star and one of the producers of Makeover Madness. He was married to Bree, the executive producer.

“Oh, yeah, Blake has been totally supportive. I asked if he wanted to help with the book and he said, no way.” She chuckled. “He figures I can do all the work and if the book is a hit, it means more people will watch the show.”

“I guess he’s right.” I swirled my wineglass. “Oh, speaking of Blake, I met his wife Bree last month when she was up here scouting for locations. She was, um, nice. A very interesting woman.”

Chloe’s smile tightened. “Seriously? Nice?”

The last thing I’d wanted to do was diss Chloe’s boss, but Chloe obviously knew me too well. “I guess she was a little full of herself.”

“That’s more like it.” She gave Robbie an absent scratch. “Don’t get me wrong, Bree can be nice when she wants to be. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen very often.”

My gaze narrowed. Okay, I might not see my sister often, but I could still read her expressions and emotions fairly easily. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing really.” Chloe shrugged and reached for her wineglass. “Except that right before I left the studio this morning, she fired me.”

Excerpted from A Wrench in the Works by Kate Carlisle. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

New York Times bestselling author Kate Carlisle is a native Californian who worked in television production for many years before turning to writing. It was a lifelong fascination with the art and craft of bookbinding that led her to write the Bibliophile Mysteries, featuring Brooklyn Wainwright, whose bookbinding and restoration skills invariably uncover old secrets, treachery and murder.

Her first book, Homicide in Hardcover, debuted in February 2010, followed by If Books Could Kill, The Lies That Bind, Murder Under Cover, One Book in the Grave, Peril in Paperback, A Cookbook Conspiracy, The Book Stops Here, Ripped from the Pages, Books of a Feather, Once Upon a Spine, Buried in Books and The Book Supremacy. She also wrote a Bibliophile e-novella, Pages of Sin, available in e-format only.

With the publication of A High-End Finish in November 2014, Kate launched the Fixer-Upper Mysteries featuring building contractor Shannon Hammer, who specializes in Victorian home renovation and repair. The series is set in Lighthouse Cove, a seemingly idyllic town with many dark secrets hiding under its floorboards. This Old Homicide, Crowned and Moldering, Deck the Hallways, Eaves of Destruction and A Wrench in the Works continue the series. Three of the Fixer-Upper Mysteries have been brought to the small screen by Hallmark Movies & Mysteries.

Kate's television credits include numerous game shows, music videos, concerts, and variety shows, including The Midnight Special, Solid Gold and The Gong Show. She traveled the world as a Dating Game chaperone and performed strange acts of silliness on The Gong Show, most notably as a member of the girl group, The Whispers. They didn't sing, exactly, but spit water on the host of the show.

Kate also studied acting and singing, toiled in vineyards, collected books, joined a commune, sold fried chicken, modeled spring fashions and worked for a cruise ship line, but it was the year she spent in law school that finally drove her to begin writing fiction. It seemed the safest way to kill off her professors. Those professors are breathing easier now that Kate spends most of her time writing in Southern California where she lives with her perfect hero husband.

Kate is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She is the proud recipient of the Golden Heart and Daphne du Maurier awards, and her first Bibliophile Mystery received a Best First Mystery nomination from RT Book Reviews. Kate loves to travel and read and drink good wine and watch other people cook.

Despite the appearance of overnight success, Kate's dream of publication took many, many years to fulfill. If you're wondering why, here's the real scoop.