The Couple At Number 9 by Claire Douglas

As this intensely twisted heart pounding story begins, we find Sutton (Saffy) Cutler and her boyfriend Tom who have just moved into Saffy’s grandmother Rose’s cottage. It was a place neither she nor her mother Lorna knew Rose even owned until she was put into a home for dementia, and they went through her possessions. Purchased years ago, Rose would apparently rent it out. Why did she never tell anyone of its existence?

When they moved in, Saffy and Tom decided to make a few renovations inside and out as they just had found out Saffy was pregnant. All was going well until the workmen discovered what looked like skeletal remains in the garden. Shocked, Saffy calls the police and her mother who is at the moment living in Spain with her younger boyfriend.

When the results of the bones come back as actual human remains, two to be exact, and they both are considered to be homicides, the police begin an investigation and Lorna returns to England to try and assist Saffy and figure out how this could possibly have happened. It certainly could have nothing to do with Rose who they found out lived in the small town with Lorna only for a short time many years ago when Lorna was about two, a period in Lorna’s life of which she has very little memory.

Rose has very confusing answers as to who lived there years ago. And as Saffy and Lorna try to investigate on their own with the tidbits they are able to make sense of, the police are interested in speaking to Rose as a person of interest when they discover the name of one of the dead seems to have disappeared around the time Rose may have been staying at the cottage, the other body still unidentified. If she had been involved, how on earth could she have kept that a secret for so many years? Could something be buried deep in her subconscious, and she just can’t remember anymore?

As Saffy and Lorna begin to make progress, there is someone out there who does not want them to continue. Lorna is accosted and threatened that if she does not find the information which is hidden in the house and get it to him Saffy will pay. And then the house is broken into and although nothing was taken, it’s very clear the person was looking for something. But What? Who is watching them? Could Rose, this sweet woman who would do anything for her family be a killer? And is so why?

But believe it or not this is only one part of this incredible story, which with the sub-plots as it all comes together makes for a scandalously delicious ending! Buckle up readers! You are in for quite the ride!

Thank you #NetGalley #HarperPaperbacks #ClaireDouglas #TheCoupleAtNumber9 for the advanced copy.

Smells Like Tween Spirit by Laurie Gelman

For all of us who thought the wonderfully funny Class Mom series by Laurie Gelman had ended with book 3, oh boy were we happily wrong! In the latest installment, Smells Like Tween Spirit, Jen Dixon is back and as hysterical as ever!

In book 4 we find Jen has left her Class Mom days behind as her young son Max heads off to Middle School, only to find out he has decided to join the wrestling team! Jen decides to join the Mat Moms, a group of women whose sons are on the team and do fundraisers and their stinky laundry. So, as she becomes acquainted with the Pioneer Middle School wrestling moms, (PMS for short) and yes, they DO have t-shirts! she must begin the old get to know their personalities routine feeling out the other moms to find out who the fun ones are and who are the villains.

As if she needs anymore to do now that she is teaching spin classes with a cult following, babysitting her granddaughter, taking care of her aging parents, with her father sinking deeper into dementia, trying to mediate her two daughters’ drama with each other as they try and open a business together and a low libido which has her making excuses to her kind of understanding husband. She even develops a stalker! Well, sort of.

Jen takes us through her holiday seasons which begins with a Halloween party at their house for the wrestlers. Nothing could go wrong there! And a quiet Christmas as her two daughters go elsewhere. It’s then that Jen realizes her life might begin to get much quieter than she really wants!

But Jen is also faced with a sadness she and her readers hoped would never come. But in the real world, this sub-plot is all too painful and is written with perfection causing the reader perhaps a few tears.

With that said, all I can say is Jen Dixon is alive and well and continues to make the readers who love her laugh through her emails and snarky foot in mouth dialogue! Welcome back Jen and thank you Laurie Gelman!

Thank you #NetGalley #HenryHolt&Co. #LaurieGelman #SmellsLikeTweenSpirit for the advanced copy.

Such a Good Mother by Helen Monks Takhar

When push comes to shove, a mother’s love for her child is endless. Their happiness is your happiness, their pain, your pain. No one should ever take what a mother won’t do for their child for granted.

Rose O’Connell has lived a rather rough life. Her father was a con man who scammed people, even his friends for his entire life. Rose, who had no mother was endlessly bullied as a child as many knew of her father’s schemes. But when her dear friend Jacq introduced her to her brother Pete and they fell in love she was sure her luck would change. And when their son Charlie was born, he became the light of her life.

Money has always been a bit of a struggle, but they have been making ends meet with Rose working for a bank and Pete being a plumber. But when Rose sees a new elite school right across the street from them where her own old school sat which is called Woolf Academy, she gets it in her mind that Charlie should go there no matter what. At the interview she meets Amala Kaur, the wealthy leader of a group of women known as The Circle who seem to be able to exert great power at the institute. Rose knows her chances of Charlie being accepted are slim, but he is accepted! And when one of The Circle women tragically dies, Amala asks her to take her place, although the other Circle women don’t believe Rose meets their standards.

Amala assures Rose that tuition would not be a problem as there are many ways she would be able to work within The Circle to make the money. At first, Rose becomes giddy with power. As the other mother’s look at her differently, as she begins to dress differently when not in her bank uniform, as she and Pete are able to eat at a fancy restaurant and are invited to powerful fundraisers, she is blinded by the materialism.

But when things begin to take a different turn and Amala begins to ask her to perhaps not be as honest as she should, it begins to affect her relationship Amala, with Pete and even Charlie who at first seemed to be having a difficult time adjusting to the school. She feels over her head and is unable to find a way out of the situations she is being put in. As she begins to discover the hidden Circle secrets, she feels the price she has to pay is not worth what she has been given. But it could be too late for her to leave. It seems she has been conned. And now her family is paying the price.

The more Rose goes against Amala, the more terrifying the stakes become for her family. But nothing will stop her from protecting those she loves, no matter what. Especially a mother who has been scorned and their child who is now being manipulated.

Such a Good Mother is an incredible psychological thriller which takes the reader along Rose’s ride of sadness for never being accepted, to Rose’s newfound strength as she fights for those she loves and will not stop until her family is whole again. With a satisfyingly twisty ending you don’t see coming!

Thank you #NetGalley #RandomHouse #SuchaGoodMother #HelenMonksTakhar for the advanced copy.

Booked on a Feeling by Jayci Lee

Lizzy Chang is an LA lawyer. It’s something she (and her mother) have dreamed about forever. Lizzy being a successful something and making lots of money. So, when this overachiever passes out during her first opening statement in her first trial, she bounces right back thanks to her best friend forever, Jack Park.

Jack is Lizzy’s safety net. He’s always been there for her even when she had no idea she needed him. But Jack has a bit of a secret. He has had a massive crush on Lizzy for years. He works as a bookkeeper at his family’s brewery in a small town called Weldon. Although he knows his family needs him, he has always seen himself as a financial something in a high-powered business in a big city like Los Angeles.

So, when Lizzy shows up in Weldon unexpectedly after her first trial is over to decompress, he’s hesitatingly excited to see her. She tells him she’ll be there for 3 weeks. He finds himself in the position of either telling her how he feels or moving on. He has also made the decision to interview for a job in LA, which would let him be able to see Lizzy more.

So as Lizzy settles herself into her little apartment over the local bookstore for her stay, she feels she is in her happy place. Books have always been Lizzy’s go to for everything. She loves everything about books, and even turned Jack onto reading years ago. But this bookstore seems to need a little help. The owner has a young son and seems a bit stretched. There is hardly any people traffic at the store, and it is in need of a facelift. Lizzy, who has a hard time sitting still even when she’s relaxing decides to assist the owner and proceeds to make it her pet project. Of course, she gets Jack’s help as well.

That’s when the Lizzy and Jack story really heats up. Especially when Lizzy sees Jack’s toolbelt! But can two best friends with the best friendship each has ever had withstand this next step? And then when Jack throws a surprise curveball into the new relationship will Lizzy, who always needs to be in control be able to handle it? Can best friends ever be anything more without hurting the friendship?

Find out in this too cute, funny, love story which will absolutely put a smile on your face!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sGriffin #JayciLee #BookedonaFeeling for the advanced copy.

For Butter or Worse by Erin La Rosa

For Butter or Worse is a tender, sweet, yummy love story about two people who must work together although they hate each other.

You would think Nina Lyon, a premier chef who owns a restaurant and appears on a cooking reality show called The Next Cooking Champ would believe she has it all, but unfortunately due to her snarky, degrading co-host Leo O’Donnell a businessman whose family owns a chain of Italian restaurants her life is miserable. Yes, their chemistry on the show is one of the reasons for its popularity, but their rivalry towards each other has no boundaries. And when Nina decides Leo has gone too far embarrassing her on live television, she decides to quit the show, to the horror of Leo, the producers and the live audience.

But when Nina and Leo find out that not only do fans think they are secretly dating, but love the idea, Nina’s publicist Tom has the brilliant idea for the two of them to fake a romance in order to get the most out of the publicity this has caused and will help both their brands which could use a bit of a push. Nina wants to barf. Leo sees dollar signs.

So, with the help of Tom who plans their dates and comments on the social traffic which occurs as the two of them try to love each other while despising each other, both begin to see benefits of the romance. They even begin to slightly soften about each other.

What they did not ever think would happen is that they might actually like each other a great deal which confuses both of them. And when you add a hunky ex who suddenly reappears, you have a disastrously funny recipe for a wonderfully crafted love story in For Butter or Worse.

Thank you #NetGalley #HQNBooks #ForButterorWorse #ErinLaRosa for the advanced copy.

The Last to Vanish by Megan Miranda

The Passage Inn is an upscale hiker’s paradise in North Carolina near Appalachian trails. The views and hiking paths are extraordinary. People come from all over to hike, take in the small town and listen to the folklore of the town’s people of Cutter’s Pass. You see, the town and the inn have quite a history. For the people who live there, it is more of a curse as they always get tourists who think they can solve its secrets.

And mysteries they are. Over the years, a few hikers have just disappeared, starting with a group of hikers named the Fraternity Four who together all went missing over ten years ago and not one body has ever been discovered. Then another hiker disappeared and another. The town had been quiet for a while until three months ago when Landon West, a journalist researching the missing hikers disappeared. He has not been found and the tourists are once again coming to the town in full force.

Abilgail Lovett has been the manager of the Passage Inn for years after showing up one day looking for a job. Although she has lived there a good amount of time, she still does not feel like she belongs. Quite frankly she feels like an outsider who is not allowed to learn the secrets of the town. Curiosity is not her friend in a place where everyone holds what secrets they have to themselves. And as the manager of the inn where the missing hikers stayed, she feels like no one will give her the answers she is looking for. Because of this, Abby has always felt as if nothing really added up when it came to the disappearances.

But when Trey West, Landon West’s brother comes to look for his missing sibling she can’t help but take him up on his offer to help him find clues as to his vanishing. As Trey and Abby begin to find clues, which make no sense, they find no one wants to listen to their theories, including the sheriff. Abby is warned to stop digging. But she can’t and when she discovers shocking revelations as to what happened years ago, she could possibly she could become the next missing person. All she ever wanted was to feel as if she was part of this small town. But perhaps the town will eat her up and spit her out because she now knows the truth.

In true Megan Miranda style, with a thrilling mystery to solve and a shocking conclusion to digest, you are immediately sucked into the story starting on the first page. With twists and turns galore, The Last to Vanish is an epic thriller and wonderful read.

Thank you #NetGalley #Scribner #TheLasttoVanish #MeganMiranda for the advanced copy.

Wish You Were Gone by Kiernan Scott

From the outside, Emma Walsh, her husband James and two teenage children, Kelsey and Hunter look to be the perfect happy family. The children are smart, they are well-off thanks to the success of the elite PR firm James and his partner Darnell started years ago. Emma is content taking care of the family, but…

What is not known and is hidden from their friends is they all live in fear of James. He drinks and he’s abusive. The more he drinks, the more he escalates. Fear is the underlying emotion in the house when James comes home, never knowing just what will set him off.

As she sees her children’s lives deteriorate from his constant mistreatment, Emma decides she has to divorce him. She sets up a meeting with him at a restaurant before a company party to tell him. But James never shows up. Irate, Emma skips the party and goes home seething.

Hours later, Emma is woken up by her son. There was a loud crash and James is dead in the car which somehow smashed into their garage. Shocked and horrified, Emma can’t help to feel like this was bound to happen at some point. James was always a reckless drinker and driver, let alone abusive.

With the help of her two close friends, Lizzie and Grey, she attempts to rebuild her family’s life, somewhat embarrassed and guilty by the peace and relief she feels with James’s death. But there are a few things about the accident that just don’t seem to make sense. Primarily he did not have his work computer or phone on him when he died. She and both her friends debate what could have happened. And then Emma decides to call his phone thinking perhaps it’s in the house. A woman answers. Is it possible James was having an affair?

As Emma’s damaged world completely begins to fall apart, she realizes there have been many who have tried to keep secrets from her. And as the story whose timeline goes back to hours leading up to the accident, and then present day, we begin to see no one is without hidden agendas on that tragic day.

What Emma does not realize that in figuring out what happened that day could destroy friendships, dreams and lives. One thing she does know for sure. She was married to a monster.

Wish You Were Gone is a rollercoaster ride of mystery and secrets. Beginning with the realization that the best part of the story is the death!

Thank you #Goodreads #GalleryBooks #KiernanScott #WishYouWereGone for the copy of the book.

The Bodyguard by Katherine Center

Katherine Center has always been a favorite writer of mine. Her wisdom and emotional stories have satisfied me for years. But with The Bodyguard, Center seems to have found a different writing style and voice and it is incredibly entertaining! The adorable story, rooting for the underdog, quick and snarky dialogue which seems to make you fall in love with all the characters, well, most of them, is perfect. And I loved it!

Hannah Brooks looks like an ordinary no make-up wearing plain Jane who wears pants suits and cuts her own hair, (when she remembers). Someone who would not be noticed. Ever. Which is good because if you cross her, she can kill you with her bare hands, or a bottle opener which she carries on her person, somewhere. Hannah works for an exclusive Executive Protection Agency. It is an elite private bodyguard company. She is a bodyguard. A good one.

But having just lost her mother, she is told to take some time off. Something she doesn’t know how to do. Always series and by the book, Hannah does not know what the word relax, or rest even means. When she begs for a job to keep her mind off her life which seems to be suddenly blowing up on her, her boss gives her one. She says no… next. He says take it or leave.

So, Hannah finds herself as the bodyguard to a superstar, hunky, adorable, muscly actor named Jack Stapleton. But there are a few problems. Jack, whose mother is sick, and he is going home to their ranch in Texas does not want his family knowing that his off again on-again stalker, a woman who breeds corgis for a living is trying to track him down. He is not looking forward to the visit because he and his brother hate each other, and oh, he does not want his family to know he has a bodyguard, so they are to pretend to be a couple. Something which most of Hannah’s office finds delightfully hysterical.

Considering the threat level is low, and Hannah has been promised a plum assignment if she accepts this job, she agrees. She thinks she will be in an out and in Korea in days. Alas, she is wrong. As problems begin to heat up in Jack’s family and with Jack and Hannah who both could win Oscars for their acting skills, Hannah finds herself attracted to a family life she never saw or had growing up. But just when Hannah thinks she is free and clear of whatever her mind is trying to tell her, everything changes, and all is not fun and games anymore. As a matter of fact, they become deadly.

The Bodyguard is a charming story about a woman with a mind of her own, who does not care what others think of her, who takes on any challenge (even wearing a sundress), to protect her clients even if it means she could die. Along with the sassy exchanges and terrific comedic timing throughout the story, this book is a winner!

Thank you #NetGalley #St.Martin’sPress #KatherineCentter #TheBodyguard for the advanced copy.

The Edge of Summer by Viola Shipman

I have no more words left to express the beautiful and tenderness of a Viola Shipman novel. Constantly giving homage to his grandmothers, this magnificent story is about loss, sadness, trust and finding out who you are and where you came from. Set during the time of Covid with an empathetic feel we can all relate to, the tale is about the value of life, forgiveness, letting go with a bit of a mystery thrown in. Delightful!

When Sutton Douglas loses her mother to Covid, she also loses her only relative, and her unknown history of where she came from and who is her family. Her mother, Miss Mable was a hardworking seamstress whose family died in a tragic fire. Miss Mable refused to talk to Sutton about what happened or give her any information as to who her father was, or even where she came from. The only observation Miss Mable passed down to Sutton were don’t trust anybody but yourself. She also passed down her passion for sewing and her love of buttons.

When Sutton gets a letter from her mother after her death, basically telling her to let go of the past, and just move on, Sutton is heartbroken. But when she finds a hidden picture of a man in her mother’s belongings, she realizes she must try and find the answers to the questions. She feels she at least deserves this closure to become free.

So, she packs up and heads to a resort town in Michigan which has her last name, Douglas. She begins to fall in love with this wonderful community of people and the peacefulness of the landscape all the while trying to somehow piece her, or Miss Mable’s history, together. There she meets the matriarch of the community, Bonnie Lyson, who seems to take a liking? to her. Bonnie sells her a collection buttons Sutton sees, which are the exact type her mother cherished for all these years. The same buttons Sutton has continued to use in her own designs.

As she begins to let her guard down, she discovers a strength in herself she thought she never had. A trust in in those around her, and a faith in her own decisions. As she begins to put the sketchy pieces of her history together, a stronger Sutton wonders what in the world Miss Mable did not want her to find out.

And the ending is the wonderful pinnacle of a delightful and strong story of forgiveness and coming out of the dark whole on the other side.

Thank you #NetGalley #GraydonHouse #TheEdgeofSummer #ViolaShipman for the advanced copy.

Ali’s Well That Ends Well by Ali Wentworth

If you have never read a book of essays by Ali Wentworth, actress, comedian and wife of Good Morning America host George Stephanopoulos, you are seriously missing out on an enjoyable, funny, laugh out loud read. Her latest book covers her, and her families lives during Covid, which also includes her hound mix dog and obese dachshund! If that does not pique your interest, I don’t know what will!

She begins the book with an essay on she herself being one of the first people to get Covid early on when not much was known about the virus. She realized she really did have it when her hound dog who had been missing for a few days jumped on her bed and she smelled…well, nothing! She praises her husband George who slipped meals in or came to check her in hazmat gear. Her thanks to him was that in her delirium and after watching season after season of Mad Men on Netflix continuously, accused him of having an affair with one of the women characters on the show!

In another essay she explains how her family enjoyed their food tremendously during their isolation especially Carvel’s whale shaped ice cream cakes which they all relied on to keep them happy. Until the night she got a 10:00 pm call from her doctor telling her they had to talk about her cholesterol readings. The ice cream almost killed her!

But, in Ali fashion she does try to make something good out of something bad. During the family’s isolation, she discovered “clamming” a solitary sport which has now grown into an obsession for her and a not so benefit for her loved ones who now seem to eat clams continuously. She also explains how what began as a purging of her basement, turned into a sobbing love letter to her from her family and how hard it became letting her daughter go when it was time for her to move into college.

But, with all her positivity, there were some not so nice lessons which were learned. Although they hardly had contact with the neighbors around them, when Ali discovered she had Covid they supported her by dropping notes into her mailbox saying if you need anything just call. Except for one neighbor who, of course is nameless, happened to see her husband George in a drug store and called the local rag to say he was out galivanting while his wife was on death’s door. So, it seems, just like us even celebrities can have horrible neighbors!

Overall, the essays are filled with sassy, funny, make you smile stories or heartfelt anecdotes which can make you tear up. But spread throughout the book are great stories with celebrity name drops. And having met Ali, I can honestly tell you she is the same way in person, real, funny and wonderfully gossipy!