All the Little Truths by Debra Webb

All the Little Truths by Debra Webb
Publisher: Thomas & Mercer Publishing
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Legal investigator Finley O’Sullivan has dealt with her share of shady characters, but the firm’s latest client has an even darker past than most. In fact, Nashville Metro Police seems to think he’s a murderer.

Finley isn’t so sure. Her investigation into Ray Johnson’s history focuses on the unsolved murder of a teenager who died thirteen years earlier. The case went cold, but questions remain. After the girl’s death, people close to her started disappearing—Ray’s brother first, then the girl’s mother. But why?

As Finley races to solve a decade-old murder, she uncovers new clues and long-buried secrets that could blow the case wide open. But whoever killed the girl all those years ago may still be a threat—and now the chase is on.

Secrets can be dangerous and even the smallest truths might make a difference if they are revealed.

This book had me engrossed from the first page. “All the Little Truths” follows Finley O’Sullivan with her unusual skill set for finding out the truth; it does not matter if her client’s innocence or guilt is discovered in the outcome. This is book three of the Finley O’Sullivan series and Finley is tasked with solving a high-profile cold case murder that happened thirteen years ago.

The book is part of a series however I was able to follow along and understand the events that took place in the previous book. How thoughtful of the author to give a refreshing overview of what happened in the series previously to those that read the earlier books. I am sure new readers will appreciate the recap as I did, it helped to give some insight into what happened to Finley previously. The tide bits about what happened to Finley’s husband piqued my interest, and now I want to go back to read the previous books in the series.

The author’s writing is always enjoyable to read and easy to follow. The plot is suspenseful although I did figure out early on who the killer was, finding out how all the other parts fit into the story kept me reading. The story did not lag at any point, however there were times when I felt the story was taking too long to get to its full truth. There was not a dull moment in this book, the multilayered plot made sure of that. Not only is Finley working on solving the Lucy Cagle murder, she is working to find out what happened to Ian Johnson, Finley is also mentally dealing with the aftermath of what happened to her and her husband. She discovered her neighbor Helen Roberts passed out in the backyard and takes the time to visit her in the hospital, and she makes the decision to run for District Attorney all the while a stalker is following her. See what I mean? A lot happening, but the author did not miss a beat in keeping each plot point moving with sufficient details and making sure all had closure. I could not even think of one question. Skillful writing and editing make for wonderful reading pleasure.

Finley’s drive and determination is evident, she holds true to only caring about finding out the truth even when it looks like her father may have some involvement in what happened to Lucy. Finley is juggling a lot, but she does it well. She is a character to be admired and one I want to read more about.

The novel’s end was very unexpected for me, this astonishing twist was unsettling and unusual. The author’s craft in mystery writing is intense and descriptive and it is evident that her goal is to keep the readers interested. That goal was achieved. The places and details mentioned show that she does her research into the structure of her novels. This is characteristic for a Debra Webb book, and her well-structured suspenseful plot will surely ignite enough curiosity to keep readers reading in one session. Recommended.

Christmas in the Trap by K. Larry

Christmas in the Trap by K. Larry
Publisher: Twyla T. Presents, LLC
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Born with all odds against him. No mother. No father. No siblings. Remo was destined for failure from the very beginning. In spite of, he was determined to beat the odds. Just as things begin to look up for him, an accident sends him crashing into The Plug; The man with more jewels than kings and more money than corporate America. One simple mistake puts him in a position that he never thought was possible. Will he succumb to the demands of the streets? Or will he stand in his own greatness?

Mahlia is young, hard working, beautiful, and ready for love. She has her cousin Amelia by her side and they are more like sisters so Mahlia has no problem confiding in her ride or die. When jealousy rears its ugly head, the cousins are faced with drama out of this world. Will the bond that Mahlia shares with Amelia stand in the way of love? Or will true love win? They say Christmas is the season for magic, so come take this crazy ride in The Magic City as K. Larry brings nonstop drama, love, deceit, and betrayal in this sultry African American Urban Fiction Novella.

Remo has all odds against him; will the streets win him over or will love?

This was a quick and good read that follows Remo and Maliha. Remo grew up without family as a ward of the State of Alabama then his luck seems to turn for the better once he comes in contact with Mike Larry. Will Remo choose the dangerous lifestyle of the street hustle?

Told from different views this novella is packed with a good story of drama, jealousy and chances for change. There are a few typos, but they did not impact the flow of the storyline or my reading. Warning the language may be harsh to some readers. I enjoyed the chemistry between Remo and Maliha. Mike and Amelia made some bad choices that had me fusing as I was reading. What happened in the book was unexpected and made for a very entertaining read.

I will definitely read more books from this author.

The Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones

The Peach Seed by Anita Gail Jones
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson reunite after decades apart―and a mountain of secrets―in this debut exploring the repercussions of a single choice and how an enduring talisman challenges and holds a family together.

On a routine trip to the Piggly Wiggly in Albany, Georgia, widower Fletcher Dukes smells a familiar perfume, then sees a tall woman the color of papershell pecans with a strawberry birthmark on the nape of her neck. He knows immediately that she is his lost love, Altovise Benson. Their bond, built on county fairs, sit-ins, and marches, once seemed a sure and forever thing. But their marriage plans were disrupted when the police turned a peaceful protest violent.

Before Altovise fled the South, Fletcher gave her a peach seed monkey with diamond eyes. As we learn via harrowing flashbacks, an enslaved ancestor on the coast of South Carolina carved the first peach seed, a talisman that, ever since, each father has gifted his son on his thirteenth birthday.

Giving one to Altovise initiated a break in tradition, irrevocably shaping the lives of generations of Dukeses. Recently, Fletcher has made do on his seven acres with his daughter Florida’s check-ins, his drop biscuits, and his faithful dog. But as he begins to reckon with long-ago choices, he finds he isn’t the only one burdened with unspoken truths.

An indelible portrait of a family, The Peach Seed explores how kin pass down legacies of sorrow, joy, and strength. And it is a parable of how a glimmer of hope as small as a seed can ripple across generations.

Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson shared a youthful love nearly fifty years ago, will a secret unravel their chance for a loving life together?

This novel follows the Duke family and the dynamics of their family over a span of generations. I was excited once I read the excerpt and was looking forward to reading about the Duke family’s male tradition. What a wonderful idea to follow the first peach seed talisman and how its inheritance was passed down through generations. I enjoyed the story, however I felt that the author was doing too much and there were too many storylines and backstories that watered down such a good plot. I was left wondering what the main story was.

For example, the enslaved story of Malik Wele’ did not quite fit nor really tie into the current day family event. Malik’s story could have been a quick explanation of how the tradition started. Then there was the backstory of Fletcher Dukes and Altovise Benson along with the other parts of the novel that included Bo D’s story about his battle with drug addiction and there was Siman Miller discovering and connecting with his biological family.

The story only seemed to focus on specific family members, and not much time was spent on Georgia and Mozell. It was understood that Fletcher had remorse at not having boys to continue the family tradition, but the names were odd, Fletcher’s children called him Ourdaddy and Fletcher’s nickname for his daughters were ‘son’. Not sure what purpose was served including so much talk about the Albany Civil Rights Movement, and that the family helped with the campaign for Obama, but it was mentioned several times throughout the story. The book was told from several points of view. There were a lot of characters named which made me wonder why they were being mentioned or what was their importance in the story.

I rated the book a three star because of what I stated above, however what I took from the story was that the family is resilient, that they stick together and are able to work out their disagreements and differences. I like the idea of the peach seed being passed down as a rite of passage as custom tradition. Also, there had to be someone of skill to continue to carry the knowledge of carving the peach seeds, but it seemed to stop with Fletcher. I don’t think Bo D was taught how to carve. I enjoyed reading about Fletcher and Altovise. Their past story and their love for each other was still there after so many years had passed. Their love would have been a story all to itself and the secret that Altovise brought with her gave the story some of the climax. The author included drug and alcohol addiction which was a way to show the family’s strength and endurance to overcome their obstacles and that they are able to seek help in order to stay strong.

I enjoyed the story, the realness of the situation and events made for a pleasant read. Overall, it was a good story idea, with some structure and a better outline this could have been an even better story. The idea of telling about the rite of passage, seeing the growth and maturity in the Duke family was inspiring, I will definitely give the author another try.

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby

Razorblade Tears by S. A. Cosby
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Audible Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Audible Narrator: Adam Lazarre-White
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: Best Book
Reviewed by Ginger

A Black father. A white father. Two murdered sons. A quest for vengeance.

Ike Randolph has been out of jail for fifteen years, with not so much as a speeding ticket in all that time. But a Black man with cops at the door knows to be afraid.

The last thing he expects to hear is that his son Isiah has been murdered, along with Isiah’s white husband, Derek. Ike had never fully accepted his son but is devastated by his loss.

Derek’s father Buddy Lee was almost as ashamed of Derek for being gay as Derek was ashamed of his father’s criminal record. Buddy Lee still has contacts in the underworld, though, and he wants to know who killed his boy.

Ike and Buddy Lee, two ex-cons with little else in common other than a criminal past and a love for their dead sons, band together in their desperate desire for revenge. In their quest to do better for their sons in death than they did in life, hardened men Ike and Buddy Lee will confront their own prejudices about their sons and each other, as they rain down vengeance upon those who hurt their boys.

Provocative and fast-paced, S. A. Cosby’s Razorblade Tears is a story of bloody retribution, heartfelt change – and maybe even redemption.

Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee are both ex-con fathers with a lot more in common than they thought–the love of their sons and the heart to confront not only their sons’ killer but their own prejudices.

This book is filled with fast paced action, bloody violence, heartfelt change, and personal growth. There are a lot of important topics touched on, talked about, revealed, and delivered in such a masterful way that I wish I could rate this book 10 stars. There is humor, healing, brotherhood, reflection, love, and judgement. Judgement of race, sexuality, social class, criminal history and probably the worst kind, self judgement. The message I took from this novel is to give people their flowers (love, acknowledgment, acceptance) while they are presently here in the physical. Do not judge someone for who they love, for the color of their skin, their criminal record because in the end all that does not matter. They are human, and time is short and precious.

I very much enjoyed this novel. There is action, violence, and topics that may be sensitive to some but, I personally would love to see this as a movie (but only if they’d don’t change anything). This is a current day storyline that will impact readers from any lifestyle or social class. The characters are well developed, likeable and authentically true to life. I enjoyed both Ike and Buddy Lee; they were not bad men but seeing them self-reflect on things they could have done better or differently, seeing them appreciate the important things now and seeing them change for the better was at times an emotional read. There were times it felt like an invasion of their privacy as they processed their healing, and then I had to remind myself they were not real.

My favorite character is Buddy Lee. He is down to earth, keeps it real and comes with no filter. In the audio version of the book Buddy Lee needed his own narrator. The narrator did an awesome job but a character with the personality of Buddy Lee deserves his own. The writing is superb. Readers will be able to take away their own message because the author is just that award talented in covering so much that it fits a multitude. This book kept my attention and is definitely on my highly recommend memorable book list.

The Life I Owe Her by Allison Meldrum

The Life I Owe Her by Allison Meldrum
Publisher: Self-Publish
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

How far would you go to repay a debt to the friend who saved your life?

What if the thing she wants is your child?

Ava and Sylvie forged a friendship that sustained them both as teenagers. But when their high school prom night almost turns to tragedy, Sylvie saves Ava from drowning and their friendship takes on an even deeper meaning. Ava is haunted by a need to repay the debt of life she owes to her best friend.

But, years later, the opportunity comes knocking and Ava is faced with the chance to make the ultimate sacrifice for a friend whose life is torn apart by infertility. As the consequences of their actions unfold, the lives of both women are threatened by an adversary who will stop at nothing to keep control of his family.

How far would you go to repay someone for saving your life? Would your repayment be to split up your newborn twins?

This was a quick novel that made for a straightforward read. Readers are introduced to a close friendship and a life saving act that seals their bond even more. Though unusual and disturbing, the author had a good idea for a plot that piqued my interest. Although I must admit it took me some time to move past the idea of Ava giving away a child to repay Sylvie for saving her life.

It was difficult to truly connect to either of the female characters. Ava Peterson was very dramatic and strong willed. Sylvie Tellier was too soft and had low self-esteem. Sylvie’s husband Michael was the bad guy. These three were in high school together, but Michael did not seem to be the bad guy then. He was mentioned as being creepy, but I never wondered why he did not have any friends of his own because he was always with Sylvie and Ava. I don’t know if the author tried too hard to make Michael seem like a bad guy, maybe I missed something. He was an arrogant prick when Sylvie mentioned their issues with conceiving, but it wasn’t until later in the story when he was made to be the villain.

The story is told from both Ava and Sylvie’s points of view. This helps explain a lot of the story and what kept the plot moving and kept me turning pages. The time span goes from 1996 when 17-year-old Sylvie moved to Edinburgh through 2011.  The book is described as a psychological thriller, but I would not define it as such. I would label it as more suspense/mystery since there were two small surprises that were thrown in, but it just didn’t seem like a true psychological thriller to me.

However, the writing was brisk and smooth, and the dialogue was insightful. By the end of the story Ava’s debt is paid for Sylvie saving her life and the author gives the story a happy ending. It is an interesting story and a unique premise; the author did a good job of structuring the plot and I saw no editing issues. The story was not bad, and I’m not sorry I read it, but it just did not meet my expectations.

Little White Lies by Margaret Fenton

Little White Lies by Margaret Fenton
Publisher: Aakenbaaken & Kent
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Voted BoM by LASR Readers 2013 copy

Claire Conover is drawn into another mystery when the office of black mayoral candidate Dr. Marcus Freedman is bombed. Marcus is found safe, but his campaign manager Jason O’Dell is found dead in the rubble. Claire’s office gets a call about Jason’s daughter who was left at her daycare, and she becomes Claire’s latest charge. Further investigation reveals that Jason was living under an assumed name, and is really Jason Alsbrook, son of prominent local mine owner James Alsbrook. James holds many records in Alabama, including the most accidents and deaths in his mines. Any number of people would wish harm to he or his family. Claire works to keep little Maddie safe as she faces new challenges in her relationship with computer programmer Grant Summerville. She investigates Jason’s death with the help of her friend and reporter Kirk Mahoney, and they become closer, The addition of a foster child further complicates everything as she must make some decisions about her future with Grant.

There is one fatality after a Birmingham, Alabama mayoral candidate’s office was bombed. Social worker Claire Conover soon gets a call that 8-month-old Madeline O’Dell’s father did not pick her up from daycare. Claire is quickly drawn into the investigation by her reporter friend Kirk Mahoney. Will the two be able to find out who is responsible for the bombing? Was the black mayoral candidate the target?

This is book three of the social worker Claire Conover Mystery series. This is the first book I’ve read in the series, however, before I finished reading book three, I placed my order for books one and two. The story started off with a different writing style that I am not used to, but I quickly adjusted. I like to have a visual of the characters while I am reading about them. I did not get a visual of the characters and it could be that I am just starting with book three and the character opening descriptions were already told in the previous books.

The story is told from Claire’s point of view which worked well as it provided a full story. I don’t know much about Claire in the visual sense but after reading this book I feel I know her pretty well. I think I see a little bit of every woman in Claire. Her kindness, her need to help others, family oriented, focused on her job and the tendency to lose focus on having some down time for oneself. Claire is a busy woman. Claire has good intentions but does not seem like the settling down kind or it could be that she may not be settled down with the right person. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but I felt sorry for Grant Summerville. He is a good guy, but it seems he takes a backseat to all that Claire has going on.

I am not judging Claire because I probably would have done the same thing. Claire mentioned early on that she has been worried and concerned about 13-year-old LaReesa so when she got the call in the middle of the night, she picked LaReese up and took her into her home, the home where Claire’s boyfriend Grant also lives. Like I said I am not judging but this makes Claire seem impulsive since there are guidelines and rules in place about social workers fostering children, not to mention she is spending a lot of time investigating baby Madeline’s case. But as I analyzed it some more, I wonder was this a subliminal way of ending a commitment Claire previously made? I also couldn’t help but wonder, is Claire’s life stable enough to foster a child? Claire is not perfect, and I think that’s why I enjoyed reading her story so much. Even though she has some faults, her intentions for LaReesa are good. She tries to give LaReesa what she needs, a home and a quality education by enrolling her in a good school system. I like that Claire listens to LaReesa and that she allows LaReesa limited freedom and explains why limitations and boundaries are necessary.

Kirk Mahoney and Claire did find out the details behind the bombing. I was confused about whether the police or FBI completed their investigation and if there will be any charges against the guilty person. The author gave enough detail and information to keep the story progressing. I liked that she included the different towns and locations in and around Birmingham so effortlessly throughout the story. My takeaway from the book is there were several forms of neglect in the book. Neglect for the lives of children, and others, neglect of business obligations, and the neglect of relationships.

This was an interesting and well told story that I really enjoyed reading. In fact, I haven’t read a book this fast in a long time. I think the reporter Kirk Mahoney and Claire make a good investigative team. I think Claire will do well with LaReesa. I am glad that LaReesa trusts and feels safe with Claire, however I wish Claire would have a talk with LaReesa about her (cursing) language. I look forward to reading book 4 to see how things progress with LaRessa and Claire.

Anywhere You Run by Wanda M. Morris, Narrators: Janina Edwards, Shayna Small and Adam Lazarre-White

Anywhere You Run by Wanda M. Morris, Narrators: Janina Edwards, Shayna Small and Adam Lazarre-White
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Audio)
Genre: Historical, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

It’s the summer of 1964 and three innocent men are brutally murdered for trying to help Black Mississippians secure the right to vote. Against this backdrop, twenty-one year old Violet Richards finds herself in more trouble than she’s ever been in her life. Suffering a brutal attack of her own, she kills the man responsible. But with the color of Violet’s skin, there is no way she can escape Jim Crow justice in Jackson, Mississippi. Before anyone can find the body or finger her as the killer, she decides to run. With the help of her white beau, Violet escapes. But desperation and fear leads her to hide out in the small rural town of Chillicothe, Georgia, unaware that danger may be closer than she thinks.

Back in Jackson, Marigold, Violet’s older sister, has dreams of attending law school. Working for the Mississippi Summer Project, she has been trying to use her smarts to further the cause of the Black vote. But Marigold is in a different kind of trouble: she’s pregnant and unmarried. After news of the murder brings the police to her door, Marigold sees no choice but to flee Jackson too. She heads North seeking the promise of a better life and no more segregation. But has she made a terrible choice that threatens her life and that of her unborn child?

Two sisters on the run—one from the law, the other from social shame. What they don’t realize is that there’s a man hot on their trail. This man has his own brand of dark secrets and a disturbing motive for finding the sisters that is unknown to everyone but him . . .

The sign of a good book is when you hate to get to the end because you will have to let the characters go or you are left with an emotional tie well after you have finished reading. “Anywhere You Run” is a historical suspense with in-depth characters that I got to know very well after approximately ten hours of audio play. Readers will start off knowing whodunnit but will be propelled to keep reading to know how the events unfold.

The author effortlessly delivers an enhancing reading experience that is told through alternating points-of-view. Several events set the tone in the beginning of the book. Three Civil Rights Activist (two white, one black) are killed by locals near Jackson, Mississippi and also around that time Violet Richards is raped by Huxley Broadus. Two strong sisters, Marigold (whos is 22 years of age — she’s the smart one with dreams of going to college to become a lawyer), and Violet (a year younger — she is the pretty one that makes fast decisions and does not have any dreams). While different, they are strong and determined women each with their own problems.

The author delivers a good idea of what life was like as a black woman in the South during the 60’s. The author kept history as it was including language fitting during the Jim Crow era. Violet sees the opportunity that Dewey Leonard offers to make her escape from Jackson after she kills Huxley. After Marigold confronts the father of her child and he wants nothing to do with her she settles for the proposal from her longtime admirer Roger Bonny. Both women are on the run, but can they truly escape what they are running from?

This is a masterfully scripted well paced story, and the author adds to the intensity when Mercer Buggs takes on the job of hunting down Violet. The characters and suspense of the chase kept the plot progressing. I wanted Marigold and Violet (Vera) to win, to find happiness, to turn their tragedy to triumph, for the sisters to heal and see redemption but there were so many dangers ahead of them. I loved the relationship between Marigold and Violet, they did not judge each other for their mistakes or faults, in fact each spoke highly of the other sister.

A story of loss, heartbreak but also bonds are made stronger. In a story like this I wasn’t sure how Marigold and Violet’s stories would end; I could only hope for a happy ending. No spoilers but I will confess I did not like the ending at first, but then I thought maybe in a funny way the author gave some accountability to everyone for all the wrongs that were done.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. There is something about the author’s writing, the audio’s narration, the story in itself that I found incredibly gripping and wonderfully structured. If I could pick one word to sum up my thoughts, it would be resilience. The flower sisters, Marigold and Violet successfully withstood a difficult and challenging early life experience. I have a new favorite author and I will definitely look forward to reading more of her work. A highly recommend read for those that enjoy historical details told in a serious tone along with emotional subject matter surrounding the strength of sisters.

Fatal Hunt by Michelle Godard-Richer

Fatal Hunt by Michelle Godard-Richer
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press, Inc
Genre: Contemporary, Action/Adventure, Paranormal, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

After being widowed and surviving the wrath of a serial killer, Jessica believes her misfortunes are over. She’s reunited with her first love, Jon, and together, with her son Bryce, and a baby on the way, they’re living their happily ever after on their ranch in Montana. That is until secrets, lies, and a formidable foe from Jon’s past emerge to shake the foundation of their relationship, forcing them to flee for their lives.

A decade earlier, Jon worked undercover for the FBI. He infiltrated Hugh Jones’ Kansas City Mob, and almost destroyed his empire. Unaware of the breach in his own defenses, Hugh, obsessed with revenge, unleashes every weapon in his arsenal, targeting those Jon loves the most.

All seems to finally be going well for Jessica and Jon Kent until the head of the Kansas City Mob is set on seeking revenge for Jon’s betrayal. Will the Kent family survive this fatal hunt?

Fatal Hunt has an interesting and suspenseful plot. The characters are tender and likable, yet ferocious. Jon Kent has retired from working as an FBI agent and is very familiar to violence but yet he is a loving father, husband and farm owner. Head of the Kansas City Mob, Hugh Jones holds his title very well as he has a violent reputation but soon finds a soft spot. I like that the author showed the men’s strength, but readers also get to see their gentle side. The author definitely planted an emotional hook that remains throughout the chase.

The story is told from multiple points of view which I think was a great idea. This gives the reader the full story and helps the reader understand all sides of what is happening. In addition to being hunted by the mob boss this story has a lot going on. Secrets are revealed, a mysterious woman has helped Jessica on more than one occasion, there are twists and surprises that kept me reading. I thought the story had too much going on for one book and it would be better to spread out the side stories. Jessica was stalked by a serial killer, her son Bryce was previously kidnapped, her deceased husband is now a paranormal supernatural guardian, Jessica’s friend was murdered by her husband, and Jon is also a widow and now the family is on the run for their lives. There was just too much misfortune for such nice people to have in one novel. Even though the family had a lot going on, the relationship between Jessica and Jon was very endearing to read. The plot has an edge that gives something in addition to the romance, following Jessica and Jon along the states and Canada as they run from the army of killers chasing them.

I enjoyed the author’s way of telling the story. I can actually see myself witnessing the story firsthand because of the author’s skill with words. My favorite scene would be when the men had an encounter with Jessica’s aunt. Those men did not stand a chance against Aunt Debbie. She showed them what an old lady can do.

I enjoyed the story; it is well written, and I am glad I was able to finish until the surprising end. It didn’t reach my highly recommended list, but I would definitely recommend it to readers that enjoy an intriguing suspense that revolves around the protection of family.

Empty Vows by Mary Monroe

Empty Vows by Mary Monroe
The Wiggins Series, book 2
Publisher: Dafina
Genre: Historical, LGBTQ, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Forty-something widow Jessie Tucker is beloved throughout Lexington, Alabama, for her kind heart and endless generosity. But she feels it’s past time she rewarded herself—especially when upstanding Hubert Wiggins tragically loses his wife and son. Making herself indispensable, yet discouraged by Hubert’s lack of romantic interest, Jessie cooks up a deception she knows will make pious Hubert do right by her…

Hoax or not, Hubert couldn’t be happier. The passionate self he’s long hidden from everyone has a new, much-riskier secret love. And the unsuspecting second Mrs. Wiggins will help him maintain his ever-so-devout image in the community…

But when Hubert is not the ardent lover Jessie always dreamed he was, she turns her desires to handsome younger man Conway. Suddenly the “good church wife” can’t resist temptation at all. And someone is watching: Conway’s new girlfriend—and Jessie’s longtime rival—Blondeen. Now Blondeen has the perfect opportunity to harass Jessie, destroy her reputation, drive her out of town—then become the real wife Hubert should have had all along…

In one shattering night, Jessie, Blondeen, and Hubert will each go too far. And when their web of deceit threatens to drag them under for good, they will have only one chance to erase the past and claim everything they’ve ever wanted. If their secrets don’t destroy them first…

What lengths would someone go to hide their secrets?

I was excited to return back to Lexington, Alabama! Empty Vows picks up where Mrs. Wiggins left off. You’ll need to read book one to get Maggie’s story. Book two is told from Jessie and Hubert’s view. True to her writing style the author includes colorful characters, an enthralling storyline and engaging dialogue.

Grief stricken Hubert Wiggins has lost his wife and son and soon finds himself an available widow in the small town of Lexington, Alabama. Jessie, Maggie’s best friend wasn’t interested in Hubert until her meddling sister Minnie put the thought in her head. In book two we get a different version of Jessie. In book one she was dominated by her now deceased husband and appeared helpless. Now readers see a calculating scheming side of Jessie.

If you’ve read book one you know Hubert has no interest in any of the women that are throwing themselves at him. He is only needing to find someone to cover suspicions of his secret lifestyle. With that premise I was drawn into the deceit and lies. But who is fooling who? As the saying goes be careful what you wish for and who you listen to. The characters make vows that were completely empty and based on selfish gain. Will the marriage turn out as they envisioned? This is the 1930’s and to cover a story with so many themes such as LGBTQ lifestyle, a strict religious family, segregation and the mention of a serial killer on the loose I couldn’t read fast enough. The author did an awesome job in pulling all this together to create an absolutely riveting drama.

I enjoyed the first book better, however this is a very entertaining read. In my opinion Jessie and Hubert are not on Maggie’s level. Maggie took action to help others and to defend herself while Jessie and Hubert are taking action for their own selfish reasons. Maggie’s upbringing wasn’t the best so that led me to have compassion for her and it made her actions more acceptable. For Jessie and Hubert, I don’t feel the same compassion.

I enjoy reading about the history during this era and learning about the culture in the Black community. I can picture the meddlesome neighbors and the humorous conversations. Living in the South the foods that are mentioned are staples in many households still today. I guess that’s why I enjoy the author’s stories so much, I can relate to living in a small town in the South and I can visualize people I know acting out the scenes in the book.

I am definitely looking forward to book three in this series to see how the author will conclude The Wiggins series. This is a good series that is sure to entertain many readers.

And There He Kept Her by Joshua Moehling

And There He Kept Her by Joshua Moehling
Publisher: Poisoned Pen Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense/Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

They thought he was a helpless old man. They were wrong.

When two teenagers break into a house on a remote lake in search of prescription drugs, what starts as a simple burglary turns into a nightmare for all involved. Emmett Burr has secrets he’s been keeping in his basement for more than two decades, and he’ll do anything to keep his past from being revealed. As he gets the upper hand on his tormentors, the lines blur between victim, abuser, and protector.

Personal tragedy has sent former police officer Ben Packard back to the small Minnesota town of Sandy Lake in search of a fresh start. Now a sheriff’s deputy, Packard is leading the investigation into the missing teens, motivated by a family connection. As clues dry up and time runs out to save them, Packard is forced to reveal his own secrets and dig deep to uncover the dark past of the place he now calls home.

Unrelentingly suspenseful and written with a piercing gaze into the dark depths of the human soul, And There He Kept Her is a thrilling page-turner that introduces readers to a complicated new hero and forces us to consider the true nature of evil.

I was 70% into the book and had already given it 5 stars in my mind even though I didn’t know how the book would end. I enjoyed the author’s writing style. The characters have distinct and believable personalities and I wanted to do nothing but continue on reading their story. Readers will be introduced to Ben Packard, the acting deputy sheriff of Sandy Lake. Ben has a history in Sandy Lake, but we also find out what heartbreaking events brought him back. My favorite character is Ann Crawford. She is cutthroat and funny even though I don’t think that’s how her character is meant to be. Emmett, yes he’s the bad guy but I still had a soft spot for him. How clever of the author to make me feel sympathy for the villain of the story. The author reveals the inner souls of the characters. The backstory helps the reader to see the perspective as it moves the narrative forward.

The storyline is easy to follow. Although some parts are dark and wicked, they are necessary for the intense development of a story that’s keeps the reader on edge. It’s obvious as to who is who so there’s not much suspense there, however my interest was piqued as I rushed to see how the author wrapped it all up. The twists and peaks came in appropriate intervals. I enjoyed Sheriff Packard’s determination to find the two missing teens. I enjoyed following the investigation as clues were enthrallingly revealed. The book isn’t overly violent and instead is on the tamer side, so that readers are made aware of gory actions that did take place but doesn’t necessarily observe them firsthand.

The author did not disappoint with the explosive ending that played out with superb closure. I hope to read future novels that will include such lively characters such as Ben Packard, Gary Bushwright and Cora Shaker.