The perfect winter night read with a dash of murder and buried secrets.
Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2
Villain(s)/Reveal(s): ★★★★ 1/2
A car is found stranded on the side of a snowed-in road later one dark evening. The door is open. Inside the rapidly freezing car is a small baby boy staring out.
What happened to the mother? Why did she appear to go peacefully, yet leave her child to the freezing elements with the door open?
Vera Stanhope and her squad of British cops are on the case. It's Vera herself who discovers the baby and the car, and when she takes him to the nearest lit house in the dark she's shocked to realize that it's the ancestral manor home of her estranged father. That side of the family is rich and snooty and Vera's not thrilled to be back. But the baby and his mother take priority.
This interesting clashing of the classes occurs in the midst of the missing persons case turned deadly: within a few hours, the mother's body is discovered brutally murdered on the grounds of the estate.
With a closed list of suspects, a small town filled with buried secrets, and the threat of an undiscovered murder, it's time for Vera to connect the dots of the past and see just what happened on the darkest evening.
So this was my first Vera Stanhope and Ann Cleves novel, but it will NOT be my last one. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Vera took some getting used to and her team was odd, but overall a really solid mystery tale with all the hallmarks of the classics. Strong points in this novel were the final reveals, the atmosphere, and the unfolding of secrets.
Thank you to the publisher for my copy of this title in exchange for an honest review.
The last of a trilogy, and it feels like it—this was a nostalgic run through of this series' highlights and a long-awaited romance from two opposing characters. Bring on the tension, the drama, and the steam! (And a house-flip reality TV show?? I should probably mention that first.)
Standalone factor: ★
Overall Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2
Tools of Engagement comes out on September 22!
So, real quick - NO, this is not a standalone despite what the marketing says. This is the third book in a trilogy of related characters in a small town and it feels like it. This was SO not a bad thing for me, a devoted reader to the series, but might be for you so please keep that in mind.
Bethany Castle lives a flawless life. No really, she totally does. Ignore the fact that she's hyperventilating in the corner and has a stress rash on her neck and is incapable of letting anyone know the crushing level of perfectionism that keeps her awake at night. Everything is fine, life is perfect, and she is a flawless 30 year old.
The only in Bethany's "perfect" life that upends her image is Wes Daniels.
A cowboy hat wearing, 23-year-old freewheeling guy who lived a spontaneous life until his half sister dumped her 5 year old niece in his lap, Wes Daniels works for Stephen Castle (Bethany's older brother) and flips houses. Wes has been circling Bethany for months and he thinks he's got her number: one day the tension will snap, and they're going to settle things in the sheets.
But then Wes sees the Perfect Life™ of Bethany's dreams is actually just a flimsy sheet in the wind and he realizes that this isn't a game—it's something bigger.
Now let's add in the fact that Bethany and her brother Stephen are asked to compete in a "Flip Off" HGTV reality show of epic sibling rivalry proportions and we've got ourselves some DRAMA.
Will Bethany and Wes get to the good stuff, or will Bethany's need for perfection collapse on top of them under the pressure of the film lights?
Ready, set, ACTION.
What an ending to this trilogy! This installment takes the characters' careers (house building and flipping) to its most literal interpretation: an HGTV competition show. As someone who normally doesn't like the "movie set" life depicted in books, I could handle this one because it really didn't matter to the plot. This was very much a story about Bethany and Wes, and barely involved the "movie" element at all.
This was also the least steamy of the three books, which was interesting. Given the crackling dialogue between Wes and Bethany in the first books, I was ready for some serious steam. There was steam... but I'd almost call it tame compared to Fix Her Up and Love Her or Lose Her. Something to note for those who really enjoyed that element of Bailey's other books.
Like I said at the beginning, if you're new to this series this is NOT the book to start on. Wes and Bethany's plot line relies heavily on prior knowledge of their interactions in the previous books, and their side plots with the other characters are absolutely meaningless without that added background.
Thank you to the publisher for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
A modern tale of one woman discovering her own sense of purpose in Ghana amidst family drama, expectations, and marriage. I'm not one who automatically goes for domestic stories, so extremely pleased to say that this was such a fantastic read.
Enjoyment: ★★★★ 1/2
“Elikem married me in absentia; he did not come to our wedding.”
That's the first line. I think it's charismatic enough on its own—it definitely made me want to pick it up—but for the sake of reviewing, let's get into it.
Afi is a young woman living in a small, rural community near the city of Accra in Ghana. Her mother and herself have existed on the edges of poverty, clinging to the good graces of their extended family and of Aunty, the rich benefactor of the community.
So when Aunty tells Afi and her mother to do something, they do it. Aunty's latest request is more than a passing task, however--Aunty wants Afi to marry her son, Eli.
Now there's obviously a catch to Aunty's "benevolence"--Afi also has another purpose as Eli's wife. Eli is currently living with a Liberian woman...who hates Aunty and doesn't allow the family to be close to them. It is Afi's job to lure him away and make him come back into the family fold.
Whew. Talk about an intense start to a marriage.
Afi was such an interesting character to spend time with, mostly because I found her pure heart and stalwart sense of self to be such a refreshing perspectivee in a female protagonist. This is a novel where it would have been easy to remove the woman's sense of agency—Afi is essentially a bought bride, who is meant to break up an existing relationship and trick her husband--but Afi stands strong. In a reality where she came from nothing and is thrust into a world unrecognizable to her own, she does her best.
And her best is pretty darn good... Accra is a big city, with big dreams. It's time for Afi to find herself and discover what it means to truly be free.
Thank you so much to Algonquin Books for my copy in exchange for an honest review.
Amy Imogene Reads
Just someone looking for her own door into Wonderland.