Review: Girls Night Out by Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke

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Release date: July 24, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

For estranged friends Ashley, Natalie, and Lauren, it’s time to heal the old wounds between them. Where better to repair those severed ties than on a girls’ getaway to the beautiful paradise of Tulum, Mexico? But even after they’re reunited, no one is being completely honest about the past or the secrets they’re hiding. When Ashley disappears on their girls’ night out, Natalie and Lauren have to try to piece together their hazy memories to figure out what could have happened to her, while also reconciling their feelings of guilt over their last moments together.

Was Ashley with the man she’d met only days before? Did she pack up and leave? Was she kidnapped? Or worse—could Natalie or Lauren have snapped under the weight of her own lies?

As the clock ticks, hour by hour, Natalie and Lauren’s search rushes headlong into growing suspicion and dread. Maybe their secrets run deeper and more dangerous than one of them is willing—or too afraid—to admit.

Review:

Last summer I was raving about Liz and Lisa’s The Good Widow and was SO excited to hear that they would be sticking with suspense for this next book as well. This had many of the same aspects that worked so well for me in TGW; it’s extremely fast paced and exciting, it’s addictive the kind of book you can’t put down until you finish and it’s set in another stunning location that the authors bring to life!

At its core this book is about female friendships and not just the fun, sunny side. It explores the darker side and how the dynamics of a group of three can be so tricky even in a small group that’s known each other for two decades. You get to hear from all three ladies and it flips from the day they arrive to the morning after the night Ashley disappears. The idea of someone vanishing in Mexico scares the living hell out of me, my family and I travel to Mexico at least twice per year but three women vacationing alone there? Yikes, I won’t be doing that anytime soon! The possibilities were endless in terms of what happened to Ashley, was she kidnapped? Killed? Did she abandon her old life to start a new one? The theories were abundant and as more details were revealed about the intricacies of Ashley, Lauren and Natalie’s friendship, questions just kept piling up.

I’m going to stop there and just say this has beach read written all over it, it’s intense enough to satisfy thriller fans yet light enough for readers who don’t do well with violence, it will appeal to everyone, so don’t miss it!

Girls Night Out in three words: Dramatic, Entertaining and Addictive.

Overall rating: 4/5

Huge thanks to the authors for my signed copy!

Review: The Cottages at Silver Beach by RaeAnne Thayne

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Release date: June 19, 2018

Publisher: HQN

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

Years after betraying her, he’s back in Haven Point…and ready to learn the truth.

Megan Hamilton never really liked Elliot Bailey. He turned his back on her family when they needed him the most and it almost tore them all apart. So she’s shocked when Elliot arrives at her family’s inn, needing a place to stay and asking questions that dredge up the past. Megan will rent him a cottage, but that’s where it ends-no matter how gorgeous Elliot has become.

Coming back home to Haven Point was the last thing bestselling writer Elliot Bailey thought he’d ever do. But the book he’s writing now is his most personal one yet and it’s drawn him back to the woman he can’t get out of his mind. Seeing Megan again is harder than he expected and it brings up feelings he’d thought were long buried. Could this be his chance to win over his first love?

Review:

This is the eighth book in the Haven Point series, I’ve only read the last few, Serenity Harbor and Sugar Pine Trail. While they’re all set in the same world and you do get to briefly revisit characters from previous installments it’s definitely not necessary to read them in order, they stand just fine on their own. I always regret not starting at the first book though because these books are a true delight.

This book focuses on Megan and Elliot, she owns the local inn and he’s an FBI agent back in his hometown for a few weeks and staying at the inn. Megan’s sister in law vanished several years ago and her brother was close friends with Elliot and had suspicions that he was involved, so these two have a contentious history. I really liked the added bonus of an unsolved, light mystery to go along with a tender romance, it was something new and definitely helped maintain my interest.

As usual the characterization was great, when you finish a Thayne book you always feel like you have a solid sense of who these fictional people are and what they stand for. As much as I enjoyed the main characters the kids stole the show, (Megan has a niece and a nephew) they were adorable and brought some fun to the plot.

These books are the type you should pick up when you want to escape the world and shut out all the negativity. They’re light, funny and easy and they’re set in a idyllic little town that’s simple to imagine.

The Cottages on Silver Beach in three words: Comforting, Warm and Sweet.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity and the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Three Days Missing by Kimberly Belle

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Release date: June 26, 2018

Publisher: Park Row

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Those closest to us are often the most dangerous…

It’s every parent’s worst nightmare: the call that comes in the middle of the night.

When Kat Jenkins awakens to the police on her doorstep, her greatest fear is realized. Her nine-year-old son, Ethan, is missing—vanished from the cabin where he’d been on an overnight field trip with his class. Shocked and distraught, Kat rushes to the campground where he was last seen. But she’s too late; the authorities have returned from their search empty-handed after losing Ethan’s trail in the mountain forest.

Another mother from the school, Stef Huntington, seems like she has it all: money, prominence in the community, a popular son and a loving husband. She hardly knows Kat, except for the vicious gossip that swirls around Kat’s traumatic past. But as the police investigation unfolds, Ethan’s disappearance will have earth-shattering consequences in Stef’s own life—and the paths of these two mothers are about to cross in ways no one could have anticipated.

Racing against the clock, their desperate search for answers begins—one where the greatest danger could lie behind the everyday smiles of those they trust the most.

Review:

Well that was one hell of a ride, talk about a desperate race to the finish line and I’m talking about myself tearing through the pages of this one, I was so eager to find out what happened to little Ethan! Belle writes about everyday, average people thrust into terrifying situations in such a relatable, yet exciting manner that you can’t help getting sucked into her books within just a few pages.

This is told alternately from Kat’s point of view as she searches for her missing son Ethan and then Stef who is married to the mayor and who’s son Sammy was Ethan’s classmate. Kat’s fear and anguish was tangible, Belle’s writing was so fantastic that it became a living, breathing thing that consumed me almost as much as it consumed Kat herself. I kept thinking, this woman could be me, how horrifying to not know where your child is after you’ve trusted his teacher and school to keep him safe on a field trip, it was scary to put it mildly. Besides the well crafted characters you have this highly tense atmosphere coupled with some gut punching twists that left me reeling, I couldn’t ask for more.

The ending of The Marriage Lie is one of my all time favorites and this one was excellent as well, it was executed to perfection and left me completely satisfied and impressed. Missing children premises are nothing new but Belle managed to put a fresh spin on the idea and managed to make me excited about a plot that’s been done before because she puts her unique stamp on it.

Three Days Missing in three words: Exhilarating, Pacey and Twisty.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Providence by Caroline Kepnes

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Release date: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Random House

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

Growing up as best friends in small-town New Hampshire, Jon and Chloe are the only ones who truly understand each other, though they can never find the words to tell one another the depth of their feelings. When Jon is finally ready to confess his feelings, he’s suddenly kidnapped by his substitute teacher who is obsessed with H.P. Lovecraft and has a plot to save humanity.

Mourning the disappearance of Jon and facing the reality he may never return, Chloe tries to navigate the rites of entering young adulthood and “fit in” with the popular crowd, but thoughts of Jon are never far away.

When Jon finally escapes, he discovers he now has an uncontrollable power that endangers anyone he has intense feelings for. He runs away to protect Chloe and find the answers to his new identity–but he’s soon being tracked by a detective who is fascinated by a series of vigilante killings that appear connected.

Whisking us on a journey through New England and crashing these characters’ lives together in the most unexpected ways, Kepnes explores the complex relationship between love and identity, unrequited passion and obsession, self-preservation and self-destruction, and how the lines are often blurred between the two.

Review:

This may be one of THE most anticipated new releases this summer, I know it was high on my list of must haves and I know many others feel the same, but if you’re looking for a book that is similar to You then you better adjust your expectations because while there are a few aspects of Kepnes’ trademark style Providence takes a completely different turn than her earlier books did. For me this was not a bad thing at all, but I think it’s crucial for future readers to be prepared to avoid disappointment.

Kepnes has one of the most unique voices out there and that’s just as apparent here as it was in You. Her writing is top notch, she really blows me away with the brand of prose she creates, parts of this were pretty out there and I honestly wasn’t totally sure what was going on yet I was still hanging ontonher every word. If that isn’t the sign of an outstanding writer, I don’t know what is then, the woman can captivate me like no other. I did get glimpses of the same obsession and complexities of male/female relationships as in You but it’s SO much different from that, saying it was similar would be like comparing apples to oranges.

This is a little out there, a major plot point deals with the paranormal/supernatural and I know not everyone enjoys that type of thing, but I think the blurb hints at enough that I wasn’t surprised by it and hence, was unbothered. This explores the relationship between Chloe and Jon over the course of several years and alternates between their points of view and a detective named Eggs. The time jumps are frequent and a little extreme but I felt that it propelled the plot forward in an exciting way and timeline changes never tend to bother me anyway. If you’re expecting an edge of your seat thriller you’re going to wind up disappointed because I would say this is more of a deep exploration of the relationship between two people with a side of odd and a handful of suspenseful moments instead of a standard thriller. Yes, it’s mysterious but more in an otherworldly way that leaves you with questions in the end, nothing is straightforward or easily wrapped up in the end so don’t expect a neat and tidy resolution.

Bottom line? This will be a decisive book, I think people will either love it because it’s so different or they’ll hate it for the same reasons, but if you’ve been waiting for it then I say give it a try for yourself and let me know what you think!

Providence in three words: Unique, Complex and Captivating.

Overall rating: 3.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Campaign Widows by Aimee Agresti

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Release date: May 22, 2018

Publisher: Graydon House

Genre: Women’s Fiction

Blurb:

Cady Davenport is living the American dream…

At least she’s supposed to be. She’s in a new city, with a new job and even a new fiancé . But when her husband-to-be hits the road for the upcoming presidential election, Cady realizes she’s on her own–and that her dream life might not be all she’d imagined.

Until she finds herself thrust straight into the heart of the most influential inner circle in Washington, DC: the campaign widows. As friends, they’re an unlikely group–a fabulous Georgetown doyenne, a speechwriter turned mommy blogger, an artsy website editor and a First Lady hopeful who’s not convinced she wants the job. But they share one undeniable bond: their spouses are all out on the trail during a hotly contested election season.

Cady is unsure of her place in their illustrious group, but with the pressures of the unprecedented election mounting, the widows’ worlds keep turning, faster than ever, as they hold down the fort while running companies, raising babies, racking up page views and even reinventing themselves. And their friendship might be just what Cady needs to find the strength to pursue her own happiness.

Review:

I’m not one to get too wrapped up with politics and I rarely read books based on the subject, but I knew just from reading the blurb of this one that it would be a fun read and I was right! While politicians and a crazy presidential race is the basis for the plot, this is also a super light and juicy look at the women behind the men in office.

This follows a group of women who are all campaign widows who bond over their relationship and parenting woes. While I enjoyed them all Reagan was my favorite, she’s a former speech writer turned advice columnist/blogger raising twins and I loved her brand of humor. There’s a little something for everyone here, between this eclectic cast of characters you would be hard pressed to not find one to love.

This was a fast and entertaining read with dishy gossip and diverse enough for readers from any political party. Fans of women’s fiction set in a different world from the norm will enjoy this one!

Campaign Widows in three words: Juicy, Light and Breezy.

Overall rating: 4/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Thinnest Air by Minka Kent

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Release date: July 1, 2018

Publisher: Thomas and Mercer

Genre: Psychological Thriller

Blurb:

Meredith Price is the luckiest woman alive. Her husband, Andrew, is a charming and successful financial broker. She has two lovely stepchildren and is living in affluence in a mountain resort town. After three years of marriage, Meredith’s life has become predictable. Until the day she disappears.

Her car has been discovered in a grocery store parking lot—purse and phone undisturbed on the passenger seat, keys in the ignition, no sign of struggle, and no evidence of foul play. It’s as if she vanished into thin air.

It’s not like Meredith to simply abandon her loved ones. And no one in this town would have reason to harm her. When her desperate sister, Greer, arrives, she must face a disturbing question: What if no one really knows Meredith at all? For Greer, finding her sister isn’t going to be easy…because where she’s looking is going to get very, very dark.

Review:

Minka Kent is one of those authors who I think I’ll always follow closely based solely on the fact that she writes highly addictive and entertaining stories that I’m able to devour in a few hours. I’m always hooked within the first few pages and find her books to be incredibly hard for me to put down, what’s better than that?! While the bulk of this one was fantastic the ending was lackluster and left me wanting more making this my least favorite of hers to date.

The premise is nothing new, a woman vanishes without a trace leaving absolutely no clues behind, but what held my attention was the structure and the sheer number of possible outcomes that could have happened. It’s told from sisters Greer and Meredith’s point of view, Greer’s chapters begins the day her sister goes missing and Meredith’s thirty six months prior until the timelines collide. I’m a huge fan of Kent’s writing style, it’s fluid and fast paced, there’s something slick about the way she weaves a tale, there’s no denying she’s talented.

The whole time I was reading I kept imagining some crazy theories that may come to fruition but when everything was revealed I was disappointed. It wasn’t the actual reveal itself that was a let down but rather the resolution felt rushed and I felt like I still had SO many questions that were left unanswered. I did find a few aspects to be predictable as well which is never great, but really the lingering questions bothered me the most in the end. Again, Kent is an author I’m still firmly standing beside, this just wasn’t her best in my opinion but I’ll still be reading her next book no matter what!

Overall rating: 3/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Heaven Adjacent by Catherine Ryan Hyde

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Release date: June 19, 2018

Publisher: Lake Union

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Blurb:

Roseanna Chaldecott spent her life as a high-powered lawyer in Manhattan. But when her best friend and law partner dies suddenly, something snaps. Unsure of her future, Roseanna heads upstate on one tank of gas and with no plans to return.

In the foothills of the Adirondacks, Roseanna discovers the perfect hideout in a ramshackle farm. Its seventy-six acres are rich with possibilities and full of surprises, including a mother and daughter squatting on the property. Although company is the last thing Roseanna wants, she reluctantly lets them stay.

Roseanna and the young girl begin sculpting junk found around the farm into zoo animals, drawing more newcomers—including her estranged son, Lance. He pleads with Roseanna to return to the city, but she’s finally discovered where she belongs. It may not provide the solitude she originally sought, but her heart has found room for much more.

Review:

There is a little bit of magic in every CRH book I’ve read, not true magic but just a magical feeling I get whenever I’m reading one of her books. She doesn’t ever shy away from heavy issues but she manages to write about difficult subject matter and important issues with grace and humility. I always finish her novels having learned something, not only about myself but about humanity in general and I never feel like I’m being lectured but rather I’m lost in the pages of a page turning story.

Roseanna is the kind of character I’ve come to expect in a CRH book, she isn’t wholly likable or relatable right away but as she grows throughout the story you fall a little bit in love with her. She wakes up for work one day and decides she’s just had enough so she drives out to the middle of nowhere and buys a ramshackle farm with picturesque views. I’m sure we’ve all thought about running away before at some point in our adult lives and Roseanna just up and does it. While I adored her what made this book special was the eccentric cast of characters that enter her life after her move. Most of them also stole a piece of my heart but a few were awful, much like real life, but they were unforgettable in their own way.

I imagine book clubs devour CRH books and this one would be ideal as well, there is much to discuss and dissect and could provide endless hours of conversation. If you’ve never read one of her books before she’s a highly recommended author, I loved every single one that I’ve read and plan on continuing as long as she keeps writing.

Heaven Adjacent in three words: Perceptive, Heartfelt and Enlightening.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to Little Bird Publicity for my review copy.

Review: Jar of Hearts by Jennifer Hillier

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Release date: June 12, 2018

Publisher: Minotaur

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

This is the story of three best friends: one who was murdered, one who went to prison, and one who’s been searching for the truth all these years . . .

When she was sixteen years old, Angela Wong—one of the most popular girls in school—disappeared without a trace. Nobody ever suspected that her best friend, Georgina Shaw, now an executive and rising star at her Seattle pharmaceutical company, was involved in any way. Certainly not Kaiser Brody, who was close with both girls back in high school.

But fourteen years later, Angela Wong’s remains are discovered in the woods near Geo’s childhood home. And Kaiser—now a detective with Seattle PD—finally learns the truth: Angela was a victim of Calvin James. The same Calvin James who murdered at least three other women.

To the authorities, Calvin is a serial killer. But to Geo, he’s something else entirely. Back in high school, Calvin was Geo’s first love. Turbulent and often volatile, their relationship bordered on obsession from the moment they met right up until the night Angela was killed.

For fourteen years, Geo knew what happened to Angela and told no one. For fourteen years, she carried the secret of Angela’s death until Geo was arrested and sent to prison.

While everyone thinks they finally know the truth, there are dark secrets buried deep. And what happened that fateful night is more complex and more chilling than anyone really knows. Now the obsessive past catches up with the deadly present when new bodies begin to turn up, killed in the exact same manner as Angela Wong.

How far will someone go to bury her secrets and hide her grief? How long can you get away with a lie? How long can you live with it?

Review:

Do you ever read a book by a new to you author and then immediately run to see if they have any other books because you liked their style that much? That’s exactly what happened the minute I finished Jar of Hearts and I was excited to see Hillier has several older books for me to add to my never ending TBR. There was something about her writing style that drew me in within a few pages of starting this and my interest never waned for one minute.

This was absolutely perfectly paced, there were no dull moments or times where I wanted things to speed up a little, I was on the edge of my seat so many times waiting to see what would happen next. It alternates between Geo and Kaiser and is broken into five parts and the ending of each one was exciting and opened the door for another delicious twist. There were many shocking moments and I only figured one surprise out just before it revealed, but overall this was fantastically well plotted and extremely exciting.

The less you know the better for this one, but I will say I’m not sure if I’ve ever struggled with how I feel about a character more than I did with Geo. One minute I hated her and thought she was a horrible human being and then the next I would be jolted by the sympathy I was feeling towards her. To me, that’s always the sign of a gifted writer, bringing out unexpected emotions in me, (especially in a thriller!) is an appreciated bonus and not something I take note of lightly.

Jar of Hearts in three words: Intricate, Exciting and Gripping.

Overall rating: 5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering #TellMeLiesBook

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Release date: June 12, 2018

Publisher: Atria

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Blurb:

A thrilling, sexy coming-of-age story exploring toxic love, ruthless ambition, and shocking betrayal, Tell Me Lies is about that one person who still haunts you—the other one. The wrong one. The one you couldn’t let go of. The one you’ll never forget.

Lucy Albright is far from her Long Island upbringing when she arrives on the campus of her small California college, and happy to be hundreds of miles from her mother, whom she’s never forgiven for an act of betrayal in her early teen years. Quickly grasping at her fresh start, Lucy embraces college life and all it has to offer—new friends, wild parties, stimulating classes. And then she meets Stephen DeMarco. Charming. Attractive. Complicated. Devastating.

Confident and cocksure, Stephen sees something in Lucy that no one else has, and she’s quickly seduced by this vision of herself, and the sense of possibility that his attention brings her. Meanwhile, Stephen is determined to forget an incident buried in his past that, if exposed, could ruin him, and his single-minded drive for success extends to winning, and keeping, Lucy’s heart.

Alternating between Lucy’s and Stephen’s voices, Tell Me Lies follows their connection through college and post-college life in New York City. Deep down, Lucy knows she has to acknowledge the truth about Stephen. But before she can free herself from this addicting entanglement, she must confront and heal her relationship with her mother—or risk losing herself in a delusion about what it truly means to love.

With the psychological insight and biting wit of Luckiest Girl Alive, and the yearning ambitions and desires of Sweetbitter, this keenly intelligent and staggeringly resonant novel chronicles the exhilaration and dilemmas of young adulthood, and the difficulty of letting go, even when you know you should.

Review:

Tell Me Lies is not your typical romance novel, not even close. It’s an intense exploration of a twisted relationship between two people who have no business being together. Reading it is like watching a car accident, it’s sickening, devastating and makes you feel gross even looking at it but you CANNOT help but stare.

This is told from both Lucy and Stephen’s viewpoints and starts in 2017 then switches back to 2010 and works it’s way forward until the timelines merge. This was a super compulsive read for me and it’s because it was so relatable it was almost uncomfortable. I feel like anyone who has dated the wrong person could relate to this one, especially if you’ve found yourself in a toxic relationship, it’s hits close to home especially as Lovering has created these characters whose anxieties, fears and issues are so easy to understand. Stephen is a total nightmare, a real prick and seeing his lack of emotion or care for others feelings was no less interesting for me than seeing inside the mind of a serial killer. Lucy, oh broken little Lucy frustrated me to no end because you just want her to stop obsessing, realize her self worth and never speak to Stephen again, but I couldn’t get mad at her because I’ve been her. For a book where not much happens besides these two having an on and off again relationship I was wholeheartedly invested and surprisingly hooked.

Read this if you want a realistic “romance” with manipulation, deception, betrayal and too many lies to count. Don’t pick this one up if you want a feel good romance, despite it’s pretty little cover the inside is dark as hell.

Tell Me Lies in three words: Twisted, Dark and Obsessive.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.

Review: The Banker’s Wife by Cristina Alger

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Release date: July 3, 2018

Publisher: GP Putnam

Genre: Mystery/Thriller

Blurb:

On an early morning in November, a couple boards a private plane bound for Geneva, flying into a storm. Soon after, it simply drops off the radar, and its wreckage is later uncovered in the Alps. Among the disappeared is Matthew Lerner, a banking insider at Swiss United, a powerful offshore bank. His young widow, Annabel, is left grappling with the secrets he left behind, including an encrypted laptop and a shady client list. As she begins a desperate search for answers, she determines that Matthew’s death was no accident, and that she is now in the crosshairs of his powerful enemies.

Meanwhile, ambitious society journalist Marina Tourneau has finally landed at the top. Now that she’s engaged to Grant Ellis, she will stop writing about powerful families and finally be a part of one. Her entry into the upper echelons of New York’s social scene is more appealing than any article could ever be, but, after the death of her mentor, she agrees to dig into one more story. While looking into Swiss United, Marina uncovers information that implicates some of the most powerful men in the financial world, including some who are too close to home. The story could also be the answer to Annabel’s heartbreaking search—if Marina chooses to publish it.

Review:

The Banker’s Wife is a globe trotting thriller that grabbed my attention instantly and held it throughout. It switches back and forth between Marina, a journalist and Annabel a recently widowed young woman and I loved both of these clever, strong women. They were both incredibly well drawn and believable, and falling down the rabbit hole of offshore banking alongside them was quite the wild ride.

There was a slick sophistication to this one, the setting took me from Geneva and the world of high class Swiss banking to New York and the world of high powered politics and then to small town France just to name a few of the exotic locales Alger explored and they were all beautifully depicted. While the plot focused on banking, something I know next to nothing about, Alger did a fantastic job of explaining the finer details in layman’s terms. I was never confused or bored, rather I was riveted and desperate to find out the truth about what really went down.

I hate to even mention this because thrillers really shouldn’t appeal to one gender over the other, but I kept thinking while I was reading this that my husband would love the storyline, so I would definitely recommend to males as well as females, it had an edginess that I think men would be drawn to and I know my husband wouldn’t be interested in half of the thrillers I read but this one would be a surefire hit.

The Banker’s Wife in three words: Slick, Sophisticated and Twisty.

Overall rating: 4.5/5

Thanks to the publisher for my review copy.