Category Archives: Mira

Review: The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox

Title: The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Historical (70s & 80s), Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Hollywood, 1978

Tragedy sends troubled film star Vivien Lockhart into the arms of Giovanni Moretti—and it seems her fortunes have finally changed. Until she meets his sister and learns that her new husband’s past holds dark secrets…

Tuscany, Present day

Lucy Whittaker needs to disappear. But her new home, the crumbling Castillo Barbarossa, is far from the secluded paradise it seemed. Strange sounds come from the attic. The owner of the house will never meet her in person.

The fountain in the courtyard is silent—but has never run dry.

Across the decades, Vivien and Lucy find themselves trapped in the idyllic Italian villa.

And if they are ever to truly escape its walls, they must first unearth its secrets…

Review:

Seamlessly weaving back and forth in time, The Silent Fountain by Victoria Fox is a vaguely sinister mystery which takes place in an isolated Tuscan mansion.

Needing to escape from London, Lucy Whittaker is hired to work for reclusive former actress, Vivien Lockhart in Italy. With no internet or cell service at the spooky mansion, Castillo Barbarossa, she is blissfully unaware of whether or not the mistakes from her past have been exposed. Instead of dwelling on her own problems, Lucy is instead extremely curious about what happened to Vivien and why she lives such a solitary life with no company other than her maid, Adalina and groundskeeper, Salvatore.  After experiencing a few strange events she cannot explain, Lucy tries researching the history of Castillo Barbarossa and Vivien’s past. Finding little information, she teams up with Max Conti, Vivien’s former housekeeper’s nephew. When her personal life begins to implode, Lucy becomes more determined than ever to unearth the truth about Vivien and what happened at Castillo Barbarossa.

In the mid seventies, Vivien escaped her abusive father and fled to Hollywood where she discovered she had to a pay a pretty steep price for fame and fortune.  Just as her life was spiraling out of control, she unexpectedly finds romance with Italian doctor, Giovanni “Gio” Moretti.  Deliriously happy yet wary of his younger sister, Isabella, Vivien eagerly accepts his wedding proposal.  Her dream wedding is marred by a vindictive act by Isabella and soon the three are ensconced at Castillo Barbarossa.  Their initially happy marriage soon falters as Gio works long hours on a secret research project while Vivien grows increasingly frustrated by his refusal to believe Isabella is trying to drive Vivien away. As the years pass, Vivien and Isabella are locked in a battle of wills that culminates in tragedy.

Lucy has not had an easy life and once she is on her own, she makes a terrible decision when she puts her trust her boss, James Calloway. Now that things have gone horribly wrong, she feels incredibly guilty for her perceived role in what happened.  The job in Italy is the perfect opportunity for her to leave the past behind, but she is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with some of the inexplicable and eerie phenomena at  Castillo Barbarossa. While at first curious about the history of the Castillo and what happened to Vivien, Lucy’s quest for answers eventually turns urgent amid her fears about the increasingly disturbing incidents she is experiencing. At the same time, her past is beginning to catch up with her and Lucy is soon facing an inescapable decision about how to handle the situation.

The Silent Fountain is an atmospheric mystery with increasingly ominous overtones.  While Lucy’s story is interesting, readers will most likely find Vivien’s story arc the most compelling.  With the chapters flipping back and forth between past and present, Victoria Fox ratchets up the tension as Vivien’s secrets are slowly revealed. With numerous twists, turns and shocking revelations, the novel comes to a an poignant yet satisfying conclusion. A truly spell-binding, suspenseful mystery that I greatly enjoyed and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Historical, Historical (70s), Historical (80s), Mira, Mystery, Rated B, Review, Suspense, The Silent Fountain, Victoria Fox

Review: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra

Title: Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

What happens when ambition trumps the truth?

A town reeling in the wake of tragedy

An arsonist is on the loose in Colmstock, Australia, most recently burning down the town’s courthouse and killing a young boy who was trapped inside..

An aspiring journalist desperate for a story

The clock is ticking for Rose Blakey. With nothing but rejections from newspapers piling up, her job pulling beers for cops at the local tavern isn’t nearly enough to cover rent. Rose needs a story—a big one.

Little dolls full of secrets

In the weeks after the courthouse fire, precise porcelain replicas of Colmstock’s daughters begin turning up on doorsteps, terrifying parents and testing the limits of the town’s already fractured police force.

Rose may have finally found her story. But as her articles gain traction and the boundaries of her investigation blur, Colmstock is seized by a seething paranoia. Soon, no one is safe from suspicion. And when Rose’s attention turns to the mysterious stranger living in the rooms behind the tavern, neighbor turns on neighbor and the darkest side of self-preservation is revealed.

Review:

Set in a slowly dying town in Australia, Little Secrets by Anna Snoekstra is an intriguing mystery that begins with arson and quickly moves to the creepy porcelain dolls being left for the townspeople’s children.

Rose Blakey’s mom and stepfather are forcing her to move out of the family home and she is counting on a cadetship with a newspaper to help her realize her dream of becoming a journalist. In the meantime, her hometown of Colmstock is plagued by a series of fires and unfortunately, the latest fire claimed the life of thirteen year old Ben Riley.  When a porcelain doll is delivered to her home that bears an eerie resemblance to her younger sister Laura, Rose is shocked to discover a few other children have also received similar gifts.  In an order to jumpstart her journalist career, Rose writes a sensational story that is published by a tabloid. Under intense pressure, the police investigation fails to uncover any leads. Rose’s subsequent articles ratchet up the town’s fears but they lead to unintended consequences.

Rose and her best friend Mia are working dead end jobs at the local tavern. While Mia seems resigned to remaining in Colmstock and marrying a local, Rose is ambitious and cannot wait to leave the economically depressed town behind. Growing desperate following numerous rejections for her articles, she eagerly takes advantage of the uneasiness of the town’s residents following young Ben’s death and the deliveries of the frightening dolls. Rose also exploits the cops who visit the tavern to get insider information for her titillating articles. As events begin to spiral out of control, how far is Rose willing to go in her pursuit of her ambitions? How many people will suffer the consequences of her actions?

Little Secrets is a rather slow-moving novel and quite frankly, none of the characters, including Rose, are particularly likable.  The storyline is interesting and the town’s decay, the townspeople’s fears for their safety and their economic struggles are palpable. Despite the unlikable characters, the bleak setting and the story’s slow pace, Anna Snoekstra brings the novel to a twist-filled conclusion that very neatly ties up all the various story arcs loose threads.

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Filed under Anna Snoekstra, Contemporary, Harlequin, Little Secrets, Mira, Mystery, Rated C+, Review, Suspense

Review: Lilac Lane by Sherryl Woods

Title: Lilac Lane by Sherryl Woods
Chesapeake Shores Series Book 14
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

No one writes about friends, family and home better than Sherryl Woods. Told with warmth and humor, Lilac Lane is a brand-new story in her beloved Chesapeake Shores series, one readers all over the world have waited two years to read!

At the heart of Lilac Lane is Keira Malone, who raised her three children alone after her first marriage broke apart, and who, after years of guarding her heart, finally finds love again. But that love is short-lived when her fiancé suffers a fatal heart attack. Grieving and unsure of what’s next, Keira agrees to move from Dublin to Chesapeake Shores, Maryland, to spend time with her daughter, Moira, and her new granddaughter, Kate, as well as to help her son-in-law, Luke, with his Irish pub, O’Briens.

Not wanting to live underfoot, she rents a charming cottage on Lilac Lane, replete with views of the ocean and her neighbor’s thriving garden—not to mention views of the neighbor himself. The neighbor is none other than Bryan Laramie, the brusque and moody chef at the pub, with whom Keira is constantly butting heads. But things get real when Bryan’s long-lost daughter, whom he hasn’t seen since she was a baby, shows up out of the blue. As Bryan and Keira each delve into their pasts, reopening wounds, the rest of the town is gearing up for the Fall Festival Irish Stew cook-off, and making no bones about whose side they’re on. It’s Kitchen Wars meets This is Your Life—a recipe for disaster…or a new take on love?

You won’t want to miss this epic return to Chesapeake Shores, a place we’re betting you’ll want to stay forever.

Review:

Featuring a heartwarming romance, close family ties and delightful friendships, Lilac Lane is an endearing addition to Sherryl Woods’ Chesapeake Shores series.

Following the sudden death of her mother Keira Malone’s fiancé, Moira O’Brien is worried about her mom so she comes up with a foolproof plan to lure her to the US from Ireland. She convinces her mom that her husband Luke could use her help in his pub and she could use a helping hand with their baby.  Keira readily agrees to visit temporarily and while waiting for her visa issues to be fully worked out, she is working at the pub as a consultant. Keira has not had an easy life and she is not one to mince words or hold back from voicing her opinions. Needless to say, she immediately gets on the pub’s chef Bryan Laramie’s nerves, who is not always amenable to her suggestions.

Bryan is haunted by the fact that he has not seen his daughter since his wife walked out on him years ago and he has never stopped looking for her. Although he is always pleasant, he is a bit of a loner who is devoted to his job. He wants to get along with Luke’s mother-in-law, but Keira always manages to irritate him with her unsolicited advice. However, when she moves in next door to him, the unlikely pair end up spending a lot of time in each other’s company.  After his daughter unexpectedly re-enters his life, Keira is instrumental in smoothing over the rough spots in their reunion.

The relationship between Bryan and Keira is originally a little antagonistic as they bicker back and forth at the pub. Their peaceful moments are often short-lived due to their respective baggage.  Their surprising friendship paves the way for their unlikely yet incredibly sweet romance but Keira’s fears come between them on more than one occasion.  She is quick to put obstacles in their path since she is afraid of risking her heart again. Until Bryan meets Keira, his unsettled past with his wife makes him hesitant to become seriously involved but his growing feelings for the feisty Irishwoman are the catalyst he needs to take steps to resolve these issues.

Lilac Lane is an engaging novel with a fantastic cast of characters and a slow moving but heartfelt romance.  Readers who enjoy close-knit families, small town settings and clean romances are sure to love this newest installment in Sherryl Woods’ homespun Chesapeake Shores series.

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Filed under Chesapeake Shores Series, Contemporary, Harlequin, Lilac Lane, Mira, Rated B, Review, Romance, Sherryl Woods

Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Title: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel. 

They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

Review:

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison is a twist-filled, suspense laden mystery about a missing wife whom the police eventually suspect the husband might have murdered.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair are a seemingly perfect couple.  Both are successful authors who lead a somewhat glamorous life. They live in a beautifully remodeled home in an upscale neighborhood. However, after enduring an absolutely heartbreaking loss, cracks appear in their once rock solid happy marriage and both suffer a few upsetting career setbacks.  So when Ethan wakes up to find that Sutton has disappeared without taking any of her personal possessions, he is concerned about her in spite the note she left for him telling her not to look for her.  After Ethan reports her disappearance to the police, he becomes their prime suspect after they uncover damning information that leads them to believe he might have murdered Sutton. One of the investigators on the case, Holly Graham, is not quite convinced that Ethan is responsible for his wife’s disappearance but will she uncover the evidence she needs to clear him of wrongdoing?

The mystery surrounding Sutton’s disappearance is gripping and initially, Ethan’s version of events rings true. However, disquieting information is quickly disclosed that allows doubts to gradually creep in. His behavior is erratic and some of his reactions seem just a tad bit… off. The information the police uncover is sinister but would Ethan really be stupid enough to leave evidence if he is actually responsible for Sutton’s suspicious disappearance?

Interspersed with the unfolding events are chapters from an unidentified person’s perspective. These chilling entries paint the picture of a very disturbed individual. The addition of this unknown entity ratchets up the tension as the search for Sutton intensifies.

Lie to Me is an extremely clever mystery with a dark and twisted storyline that keeps the novel moving at a blistering pace. The characters are not likeable and as the story progresses, they become increasingly unreliable. Readers will remain glued to the pages of this diabolical thriller as they attempt to piece together the truth about whether or not Ethan has anything to do with Sutton’s disappearance.  Through a series of cunning twists and shocking turns, J.T. Ellison  brings the novel to a jaw-dropping conclusion. A masterfully written thriller that I absolutely LOVED and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, JT Ellison, Mira, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense

Review: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr

Title: The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

The brand-new novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Robyn Carr that Kirkus calls “a blissful beach read.” The Summer That Made Us is an unforgettable story about a family learning to accept the past, to forgive and to love each other again.

That was then… 

For the Hempsteads, summers were idyllic. The lake was a magical place, a haven where they were happy and carefree. All of their problems drifted away as the days passed in sun-dappled contentment. Until the summer that changed everything.

This is now…

After an accident turned the lake house into a site of tragedy and grief, it was closed up. None of the Hempstead women speak of what happened, and relationships between them are uneasy at best to hurtful at worst. But in the face of new challenges, one woman is determined to draw her family together again, and the only way that can happen is to return to the lake and face the truth.

Robyn Carr has crafted another beautifully woven story about the complexities of family dynamics and the value of strong female relationships.

Review:

The Summer That Made Us by Robyn Carr is a multi-layered novel about a once close-knit family that was torn apart by tragedy.

Once upon a time, sisters Louise and Josephine, along with their daughters, spent idyllic summers together at the family’s lake house.  They each had three daughters and the cousins were just as close as their mothers. However, in the aftermath of  a tragic accident, Lou and Jo become somewhat estranged and their daughters’ lives take very troubling turns. Fast forward to the present and Lou’s daughter Meg decides it is time for the family to reconcile and she invites everyone back to the lake house for the summer.  There is never any doubt Meg’s sister Charley will agree to her sister’s plan but will cousins Hope, Krista and Beverly accept her invitation? And is it too late for Lou and Jo to repair their long strained relationship?

Alternating between the various characters’ perspectives, Robyn Carr’s newest release is not a light or happy read and quite frankly, it is a bit of a chore to even like many of the characters. Meg is the most sympathetic, and while she sets the reunion into motion, she remains firmly in the background as the story unfolds. Her sister Charley is probably the least likable as she alienates her long-term partner, Michael, after she loses her job. On the other end of the spectrum is their cousin Krista whose life took a dramatically wrong turn but she is incredibly appealing as she faces each challenge with a positive and cheery attitude. Krista’s sister Hope makes a couple of very memorable guest appearances that will leave readers shaking their head in disbelief. Their other sister Beverly remains on the periphery of the unfolding drama. Jo is an utterly fantastic character and she never hesitates to do whatever is necessary to help her daughters.  Her sister Lou is nowhere near as personable and well, it is not easy to feel much sympathy for her even though she has endured some very painful losses.

Despite a somewhat slow start, The Summer That Made Us is an engaging novel with an interesting (but sometimes overly busy) storyline.  While not a particularly joyful read, it is easy to become swept up into the various characters’ story arcs.  Robyn Carr brings the novel to a bittersweet yet uplifting conclusion.  

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mira, Rated B, Review, Robyn Carr, The Summer That Made Us, Women's Fiction

Review: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison

Title: Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison
Publisher: MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 416 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Domestic noir at its best. Readers will devour this stunning page-turner about the disintegration of a marriage as grief, jealousy, betrayal and murder destroy the facade of the perfect literary couple. New York Times bestselling author J.T. Ellison takes her exceptional writing to a new level with this breakout novel. 

They built a life on lies 

Sutton and Ethan Montclair’s idyllic life is not as it appears. They seem made for each other, but the truth is ugly. Consumed by professional and personal betrayals and financial woes, the two both love and hate each other. As tensions mount, Sutton disappears, leaving behind a note saying not to look for her.

Ethan finds himself the target of vicious gossip as friends, family and the media speculate on what really happened to Sutton Montclair. As the police investigate, the lies the couple have been spinning for years quickly unravel. Is Ethan a killer? Is he being set up? Did Sutton hate him enough to kill the child she never wanted and then herself? The path to the answers is full of twists that will leave the reader breathless.

Review:

Lie to Me by J.T. Ellison is a twist-filled, suspense laden mystery about a missing wife whom the police eventually suspect the husband might have murdered.

Sutton and Ethan Montclair are a seemingly perfect couple.  Both are successful authors who lead a somewhat glamorous life. They live in a beautifully remodeled home in an upscale neighborhood. However, after enduring an absolutely heartbreaking loss, cracks appear in their once rock solid, happy marriage and both suffer a few upsetting career setbacks.  So when Ethan wakes up to find that Sutton has disappeared without taking any of her personal possessions, he is concerned about her in spite the note she left for him telling her not to look for her.  After Ethan reports her disappearance to the police, he becomes their prime suspect when they uncover damning information that leads them to believe he might have murdered Sutton. One of the investigators on the case, Holly Graham, is not quite convinced that Ethan is responsible for his wife’s disappearance but will she uncover the evidence she needs to clear him of wrongdoing?

The mystery surrounding Sutton’s disappearance is gripping and initially, Ethan’s version of events rings true. However, disquieting information is quickly disclosed that allows doubts to gradually creep in. His behavior is erratic and some of his reactions seem just a tad bit… off. The information the police uncover is sinister but would Ethan really be stupid enough to leave evidence if he is actually responsible for Sutton’s suspicious disappearance?

Interspersed with the unfolding events are chapters from an unidentified person’s perspective. These chilling entries paint the picture of a very disturbed individual. The addition of this unknown entity ratchets up the tension as the search for Sutton intensifies.

Lie to Me is an extremely clever mystery with a dark and twisted storyline that keeps the novel moving at a blistering pace. The characters are not likeable and as the story progresses, they become increasingly unreliable. Readers will remain glued to the pages of this diabolical thriller as they attempt to piece together the truth about whether or not Ethan has anything to do with Sutton’s disappearance.  Through a series of cunning twists and shocking turns, J.T. Ellison  brings the novel to a jaw-dropping conclusion. A masterfully written thriller that I absolutely LOVED and highly recommend to fans of the genre.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, JT Ellison, Lie to Me, Mira, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, Suspense