Category Archives: St Martin’s Press

Review: It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell

Title: It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell
Publisher: St. Martin’s press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 337 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Kate, Aubrey, and Jenny first met as college roommates and soon became inseparable, despite being as different as three women can be. Kate was beautiful, wild, wealthy, and damaged. Aubrey, on financial aid, came from a broken home, and wanted more than anything to distance herself from her past. And Jenny was a striver—brilliant, ambitious, and determined to succeed. As an unlikely friendship formed, the three of them swore they would always be there for each other.

But twenty years later, one of them is standing at the edge of a bridge, and someone is urging her to jump.

How did it come to this?
Kate married the gorgeous party boy, Aubrey married up, and Jenny married the boy next door. But how can these three women love and hate each other? Can feelings this strong lead to murder? When one of them dies under mysterious circumstances, will everyone assume, as is often the case, that it’s always the husband?

A suspenseful, absorbing novel that examines the complexities of friendship, It’s Always the Husband will keep readers guessing right up to its shocking conclusion.

Review:

It’s Always the Husband by Michele Campbell is a twisted tale of jealousy, secrets and murder.

Twenty-two years earlier, Aubrey Miller, Jenny Vega and Kate Eastman are assigned as roommates at the prestigious Carlisle College in Belle River, NH.  The three young women come from  very disparate backgrounds yet they immediately become best friends. Over the course of several months, their friendship gradually turns toxic and a tragic event occurs near the end of their freshman year that forever changes their lives

Fast forward to the present when a change in fortune brings one of the trio back to Belle River where the other women currently reside. Jenny is very influential in town but questions swirl around her husband Tim’s construction business after he wins several lucrative contracts for projects at the college campus. Aubrey is married to a doctor whose serial cheating endangers the future of their marriage. Kate is also married and a financial scandal leaves her at the mercy of her wealthy father who does not exactly jump in to rescue her. Their reunion is uneasy and fraught with tension and when one of the women is apparently murdered, is her death a result of long events or something in the present?

Aubrey is from very humble beginnings and she is convinced that college will finally give her the sense of belonging that is missing from her life.  A scholarship student, she is uncomfortable in the wealthy college environment and she is desperate to fit in with her roommates. Jenny is a townie who is über organized and does not plan to let anything get in the way of her plans for a lucrative career far from her small town roots. Kate is a poor little rich girl who is incredibly charismatic despite her very troubled past.  Aubrey practically worships Kate and she is easily drawn into her new friend’s partying life style.  Jenny remains the responsible one in their friendship but even she cannot resist some of Kate’s more outrageous exploits. Kate might be charming and a great deal of fun but she is incredibly self-absorbed and thoughtlessly acts without taking anyone else’s feelings into account. Both she and Aubrey are in an increasingly downward spiral that culminates in a tragedy.

In the present, Aubrey, Jenny and Kate remain essentially unchanged from their college days. Their personality traits have become more exaggerated over the years and they are still plagued by the same insecurities and idiosyncrasies they experienced when they first met. However, they each have a lot to lose if the truth about the events from their freshman year is ever revealed.  What, if anything, does the past have to do with the current murder? Or can the motive be found among the events that have occurred in the present?

Despite the extremely unlikable cast of characters, It’s Always the Husband is an engrossing mystery that is full of unexpected twists and turns. Michele Campbell has penned a dark and atmospheric whodunit that will enthrall readers from beginning to end. With plenty of suspects with plenty of motives for the murder, the killer’s identity is cleverly concealed until the novel’s jaw-dropping conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, It's Always the Husband, Michele Campbell, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense

Review: You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher

Title: You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this charming and exciting women’s fiction novel, You’re the One That I Want, Giovanna Fletcher explores the complicated relationship between three friends—Maddy, her fiancé Rob, and their best friend Ben.

Maddy, dressed in white, stands at the back of the church. At the end of the aisle is Rob—the man she’s about to marry. Next to Rob is Ben—best man and the best friend anyone could ever have. And that’s the problem. Because if it wasn’t Rob waiting for her at the altar, there’s a strong chance it would be Ben. Loyal and sensitive, Ben has always kept his feelings to himself, but if he told Maddy she was making a mistake, would she listen? And would he be right?

Best friends since childhood, Maddy, Ben, and Rob thought their bond was unbreakable. But love changes everything. Maddy has a choice to make, but will she choose wisely? Her heart, and the hearts of the two best men she knows, depend on it… Romantic, suspenseful, and a whole lot of fun, You’re the One That I Want is a great read about friendship, love, and the decisions that we make.

Review:

You’re the One that I Want by Giovanna Fletcher is an endearing novel of friendship.

Thick as thieves from the day they met, Maddy Hurst, Rob Miles and Ben Gilbert have been friends since childhood.  Despite their classmates’ speculation that Maddy might harbor feelings for one or both of the boys, their friendship remains platonic until their mid-teens.  An unexpected romance springs up between Maddy and one of her friends but the three still remain close although one of the young men ends up suffering from unrequited love.  The brokenhearted young man laments his lost opportunity and he never reveals his feelings for Maddy until a pivotal moment in university.  On her wedding day a few years later, Maddy cannot help but wonder if she is marrying the right man.

Opening with the Maddy walking down the aisle, the novel then flashes back to the first day Maddy, Rob and Ben met.  The chapters alternate between two of the character’s perspective and take readers through the years of their friendship.  These chapters are interspersed with brief snippets from the remaining character’s point of view in the present. Maddy, Rob and Ben’s friendship is quite heartwarming and even after she pairs up with one of the boys, the three remain inseparable.

While their childhood exploits are quite entertaining, the novel’s pacing slows down after Maddy, Rob and Ben go off to university. Maddy’s romance takes a bit of a turn and once she is aware of her other friend’s long standing love of her, she is somewhat indecisive about which of the two young men she loves.  Even after she seemingly makes her decision, she is still uncertain she made the right choice and this dithering continues to plague her even as she is walking down the aisle. While there is not actually a full blown love triangle between the three, Maddy’s vacillation becomes irritating as does the unrequited lover’s continued feelings for her.

You’re the One that I Want is a light-hearted story of friendship and love.  The storyline is entertaining  and the cast of characters are appealing.  For a good portion of the novel, Giovanna Fletcher keeps readers guessing who Maddy is going to marry but there are enough hints dropped along the way that it is fairly easy to predict whom she chooses in the end. The epilogue is sweet and offers a nice peek into their lives several years after the wedding.  A pleasurable, mostly conflict free read that fans of contemporary women’s fiction will enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Giovanna Fletcher, Rated C+, Review, St Martin's Press, Women's Fiction, You're the One that I Want

Review: No Easy Target by Iris Johansen

Title: No Easy Target by Iris Johansen
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Romantic Suspense
Length: 349 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Iris Johansen returns with another thriller, No Easy Target

Margaret Douglas has worked hard to put her painful past behind her. Raised off the grid in an abusive home, her only escape was the nearby forest where she sought refuge whenever she could. There, in the peaceful woods, she discovered a strange gift: the ability to understand animals and to communicate with them. And so those creatures became her only friends, her only joy during a desolate childhood. Now Margaret wants nothing more than to live a quiet life, close to the animals and under the radar. But her abilities have not gone unnoticed and there are those who would use them for their own purposes. Determined not to be a pawn in anyone’s game, every time someone gets too close, Margaret uproots her life and outruns them.

When John Lassiter breaks into Margaret’s apartment, she vanishes again, but Lassiter has good reason to be persistent. As a CIA operative, he owes his life to his men, one of whom is being held captive by an unrelenting enemy—an enemy who has set his sights on Margaret. Which means that Lassiter must control her to use her as bait.

With danger in hot pursuit, Margaret finds herself matching wits with a man who refuses to stop or be stopped. Turning from the hunted to the hunter, Margaret must use everything she has ever learned to not only survive, but to defeat a great evil. And to prove once and for all that she’s no easy target.

Review:

No Easy Target by Iris Johansen is a suspense-laden mystery  with a romantic element.

Margaret Douglas has left her troubles behind her, but one phone call changes everything for her. Discovering that a total stranger, John Lassister, has pulled out all the stops in order to locate her, she is afraid that Stan Nicos, a notorious, sadistic criminal, has found her. However, John and his friend and associate Neal Cambry are one step ahead of her and before Margaret can go on the run again, he kidnaps her.  Will Margaret convince John to set her free? Or will he follow through with his plan and put in her in extreme danger in the process?

Margaret has a unique ability to communicate with animals which also makes it easy to read strong emotions in humans as well.  Now volunteering at a local zoo, she is content with her life when John finds her.  Margaret wants absolutely nothing to do with John and his plan which will put her smack dab in the Nicos’ crosshairs.  However, in John’s mind, his needs supersede Margaret’s objections and he will go to any lengths to follow through with his plan.

While Margaret is a likable and sympathetic character, the same cannot be said for John. His information about Margaret and her ties to Nicos is superficial and he has a lot of assumptions but very few facts. While he has a good reason for going up against Nicos, his plan to use Margaret to accomplish his goal is unconscionable.

Margaret’s quick about face is unrealistic given her history with Nicos and her subsequent romantic relationship with John falls flat. Despite the suspense element, the novel is extremely slow paced and gets bogged down in endless dialogue.  The conversations and inner thoughts of the characters are initially interesting but they quickly become repetitive.   The overall plot feels just feels tired and overdone.

No Easy Target has an interesting premise and Margaret is a gutsy heroine. Readers will be left wondering whether or not this is the first installment in a new series from Iris Johansen.

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Filed under Contemporary, Iris Johansen, Mystery, No Easy Target, Rated C, Review, Romantic Suspense, St Martin's Press

Review: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline

Title: One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

On paper, Chris Brennan looks perfect. He’s applying for a job as a high school government teacher, he’s ready to step in as an assistant baseball coach, and his references are impeccable.

But everything about Chris Brennan is a lie.

Susan Sematov is proud of her son Raz, a high school pitcher so athletically talented that he’s being recruited for a full-ride scholarship to a Division I college, with a future in major-league baseball. But Raz’s father died only a few months ago, leaving her son in a vulnerable place where any new father figure might influence him for good, or evil.

Heather Larkin is a struggling single mother who lives for her son Justin’s baseball games. But Justin is shy, and Heather fears he is being lured down a dark path by one of his teammates, a young man from an affluent family whose fun-loving manner might possibly conceal his violent plans.

Mindy Kostis succumbs to the pressure of being a surgeon’s wife by filling her days with social events and too many gin and tonics. But she doesn’t know that her husband and her son, Evan, are keeping secrets from her – secrets that might destroy all of them.

At the center of all of them is Chris Brennan. Why is he there? What does he want? And what is he willing to do to get it?

Enthralling and suspenseful, One Perfect Lie is an emotional thriller and a suburban crime story that will have readers riveted up to the shocking end, with killer twists and characters you won’t soon forget.

Review:

One Perfect Lie by Lisa Scottoline is a suspenseful, adrenaline laced thriller that is fast-paced and compelling.

Chris Brennan is a newly hired teacher and assistant baseball coach at Central Valley High School. The staff eagerly welcomes him with open arms and he is a big hit with his student. What no one knows is Chris Brennan is not his real name and he has a nefarious agenda that includes befriending one of his students.  After careful consideration, Chris has narrowed his list down to three possible teenagers and he wastes no time trying to gain the boys’ trust. Chris is cold and calculating as he begins putting in motion what appears to be a very ominous plan.

Raz Sematov is one of the boys on Chris’s list to befriend. He, along with his mother Susan and older brother Ryan, are still mourning the sudden death of his father months earlier.  With the family dynamic completely changed, Susan has failed to step up and take control of the family and she is hard to like considering her self-absorbed attitude.  With the small family floundering, Raz is incredibly vulnerable to Chris’s manipulation, but is the grief-stricken teenager the right person for his plan?

Evan Kostis is rich, entitled and quite popular with his fellow students. His father, Paul, is a doctor whose busy practice keeps him away from home for long hours. Hi mom Mindy is a stay at home mother who uses alcohol to cope with the problems in her marriage and she is hardly the most observant parent. Armed with plenty of suspicions about the possible reasons for  Paul’s frequent late nights at work, she is looking for evidence to back up her theories.  With so much turmoil surrounding the family, will Chris chose Evan to aid him with whatever he is planning to do?

Jordan Larkin is the son of a hardworking single mom who is counting on a baseball scholarship so he can attend college.  His mother, Heather, works as a waitress at the local country club and she is quite proud of her kind-hearted, thoughtful son.  Despite their financial struggles and lack of a male role model, Jordan is well-adjusted and never gives Heather any reason to worry about him. Chris quickly zeros in vulnerabilities that could make Jordan very useful during his preparations for his (worrying) project.

Chris has carefully laid the ground work for whatever he is planning to do and it is rather scary how easily everyone accepts him at face value. However, his inner thoughts provide a much more menacing picture and although he has not given name to his project, it is obviously something quite horrific. The only person who might inadvertently blow his cover is teacher Abe Yomes and Chris makes every effort to stay of his way.  But Abe proves to be incredibly tenacious and he quickly becomes a thorn in Chris’s side.  How far will Chris go to ensure nothing (and no one) prevents him from carrying out his disturbing plot?

One Perfect Lie has an ingenious and very unique storyline and Lisa Scottoline brilliantly keeps readers guessing what Chris is planning to do for a good part of the novel. Chris is rather chilling as he meticulously puts the three boys at odds while he decides which teenager will be the most helpful in carrying out what appears to be a very chilling and deadly plot.  Once the truth about Chris is revealed, the riveting story hurtles at breakneck speed to an exciting, pulse-pounding conclusion.  An absolutely breathtaking rollercoaster of ride that mystery/thriller/suspense lovers are going to LOVE!

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Filed under Contemporary, Lisa Scottoline, Mystery, One Perfect Lie, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, Suspense, Thriller

Review: The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur

Title: The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction, Mystery
Length: 321 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A sisters’ secret.
A mysterious phenomenon.
A murder that ties it all together.

An emotional, suspenseful novel about the bond between sisters and the secrets we hold to keep our family safe, The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur is a thrilling mystery that hurtles towards an unexpected ending that will leave readers speechless.

The small town of Mountain Springs, Pennsylvania thrives on the snow geese migration. Each year, the birds flock to the dam, and the tourists follow, filling up Linnet’s Bed and Breakfast.

But one morning Linnet wakes up to discover hundreds of dead geese by the B&B and her life is thrown into the media frenzy when her father—a former ornithology professor—is asked to study the case. As the tourists cancel their plans and Linnet’s father’s health grows increasingly worse, the last thing she expects is to see her estranged sister, Myna, on her doorstep.

Myna has never stayed in one place for long after running from Mountain Springs. Although she and Linnet were close growing up, a family secret broke their bond, and Myna’s return has brought back memories both sisters have tried to keep buried.

When a reporter arrives in town who may have a connection to the sisters’ past, Linnet and Myna are forced to confront the event that tore them apart. But when a young professor who was assisting their father on the case turns up dead—and their father becomes the primary suspect—Linnet and Myna realize that their secret won’t stay hidden for long…

Review:

The Sisters of Blue Mountain by Karen Katchur is a compelling novel with intriguing mysteries to solve and fractured family relationships to heal.

One of the most cherished memories both current B & B owner Linnet and her estranged sister Myna have in common is the annual migration of the snow geese.  However, this year’s migration starts off with the mysterious deaths of the geese and the murder of Professor Coyle, who is investigating the inexplicable deaths of the geese.  Linnet also must contend with the unexpected arrival of younger sister Myna which coincides with a swarm of reporters descending on their small town.  Linnet is also deeply troubled when it appears her father, whose dementia is worsening, is the local police’s main suspect in the murder of Professor Coyle.  She is also less than pleased by journalist Jake Mann’s increasingly pushy attempts to interview her family. Unbeknownst to Linnet and Myna, Jake has a shocking link to a closely-guarded secret that is responsible for the rift in the sisters’ once close relationship.  Will revealing the truth finally bridge the gap between Myna and Linnet? Will the police find Professor Coyle’s killer? Will the reason for the deaths of the snow geese be discovered?

Although her heart is in the right place and she is well-intentioned, Linnet is rather prickly, controlling and stubborn.  She loves running the family-owned B & B but she does not handle stressful situations very well.  With room cancellations occurring an alarming rate, Linnet is already worried when Professor Coyle is murdered.  Deeply concerned about her father, she is quite protective of him as the police try to question him. Already under considerable strain, Myna’s arrival pushes her to the breaking point and the sisters cannot seem to find common ground.

Myna could not wait to leave her small town and although it took her a while to find a place to call home, she is firmly settled into her life in Florida. Although she no longer returns to visit her family, she uses the snow geese deaths as an excuse to avoid dealing with a tense situation with her longtime boyfriend.  Things between her and Linnet are strained and their disagreement over how to handle Jake threatens to destroy their tenuous bond.

The Sisters of Blue Mountain is an interesting novel with a busy but easy to follow storyline.  Events from Linnet and Myna’s childhood and teenage years are revealed through several flashbacks that provide readers with much needed insight into what lead to their eventual estrangement. The investigation into the death of Professor Coyle takes a bit of a backseat to the unfolding family drama and the identity of the killer is rather easy to guess.  The story arc dealing with the sisters’ father is quite poignant and the depiction of his dementia is realistic and sensitively portrayed. With mysteries to solve and strained family relationships to repair, this newest release from Karen Katchur is sure to appeal to a broad range of readers.

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Filed under Contemporary, Karen Katchur, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press, The Sisters of Blue Mountain, Women's Fiction

Review: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser

Title: Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach—just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

Told through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a powerful story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Review:

In Almost Missed You by Jessica Strawser, unresolved grief and guilt are the basis for an impetuous kidnapping that tests the bonds of friendship and love.

Violet and Finn Welsh, along with their three year old son Bear, are on vacation in FL when Violet returns to their hotel room and finds both her husband and son have disappeared.  She has no idea what prompted Finn’s decision to kidnap their son and as the days pass with no word about them, she discovers Finn and their close friend Caitlin Bryce-Daniels have been keeping secrets from her.  Finn uses some of those secrets from his and Caitlin’s shared past to gain her co-operation when he needs a place to hide while he figures out what to do next.  Caitlin is torn between her loyalty and her fear about what will happen to her family if she does not do what Finn asks.  Will Violet be reunited with her son? Can she forgive Finn for taking their son?

Years earlier, Violet and Finn met while they were both on vacation and despite their instant connection, they are separated before they can exchange even the most basic information.  They each return to their normal lives, but they both wonder “what might have been”.  Years later, they eventually reunite but they do not talk much about what happened in their lives between their first meeting and their reunion.  By all appearances, their marriage is happy and both Violet and Finn are devoted to their son Bear. Violet is beyond stunned when Finn kidnaps Bear and during the subsequent investigation, she learns some very shocking information about her husband. In light of these revelations, Violet looks back on their relationship and comes to some very shocking conclusions about herself, her husband and their marriage.

Almost Missed You is a very suspenseful and engrossing novel. The chapters alternate between Violet, Finn and Caitlin’s perspectives and often end on cliffhanger. One of the most gripping questions that keeps the pages turning at a blistering pace is, of course, why did Finn kidnap Bear? Equally compelling is what happened in the years between Finn and Violet’s first meeting and their reunion years later. Forgiveness, secrets, deliberate omissions and betrayal are just a few of the fascinating topics that Jessica Strawser explores in this well-written and intriguing story. The novel ends on a curious note that is vaguely unsatisfying but overall, readers will be quite pleased with this debut.

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Filed under Almost Missed You, Contemporary, Jessica Strawser, Mystery, Rated B, Review, St Martin's Press