Book Review | The Extinction Agenda (Book One) by Michael Laurence

Book Description:

An FBI agent fights to stop a conspiracy to unleash a deadly virus on the world in this propulsive, exhilarating new thriller

The discovery of a deadly virus being smuggled across the border pits FBI Special Agent James Mason and his strike force against an unknown adversary hell-bent on humanity’s destruction. In a desperate effort to contain the pathogen, they launch a predawn raid, only to find that their enemy knows they’re coming…and it’s not about to be taken alive. An explosion rips through the building, killing the majority of Mason’s team, including his partner and mentor.

Tormented by guilt, Mason returns to his home division, but he can’t seem to let go of the tragedy. He remembers seeing something inside the building before it went up in flames, something that convinces him that not only is the virus still out there, it’s merely the first stage of an even more nefarious plan. Obsessed with unraveling the plot, he launches his own investigation and uncovers a shadow organization on the brink of enacting its genocidal agenda, one carried out by a sinister mass murderer who’s been photographed at the epicenter of seemingly every historical pandemic…without appearing to age. An evil man who attempts to derail Mason’s investigation by murdering his wife.

With the help of his longtime friends—Gunnar Backstrom, a corporate espionage gun-for-hire, and Ramses Donovan, a sin merchant of questionable morality—Mason’s hunt for his wife’s killer leads him from a dark union at the dawn of the twentieth century to a network of Nazi collaborators and a conspiracy against mankind more than a hundred years in the making. Fueled by anger and driven by the promise of vengeance, he must overcome a monster preparing to unleash his virulent wrath upon an unsuspecting world if he’s to have any hope of exposing a deep-state entity that’s rooted in every facet of our society, an entity known only as…The Thirteen.

This is book one in the series of “The Thirteen”. And it’s a great start to what I can tell you is a wild ride! The book starts out with Agent James Mason on a mission. He located what appeared to be a location that is housing dead or dying bodies of humans which have been used to test a virus. He encounters the person responsible for killing those immigrants and as this man with the “blue eyes” detonates a bomb, Mason loses his partner. It has lasting effects on him and a year later, he goes rogue, to determine what is really going on with that situation.

Further into the book, it appears his wife may be having an affair, and though she’s been insistent on meeting with him to talk about some things important to his case, she ends up being killed before being able to share her intel with him. This only angers Mason further, and pushes him to keep using the limited resources he has, to track and interrogate this man with the “blue eyes.”

Through a few extra characters that have access to satellites and intel, and a woman who has had first-person contact with this target, Mason is able to make some progress and learn some crucial points to this global threat, and it hits a little closer to home that he previously realized. And even with the biggest threat taken out, he begins to realize just how much more is at stake.

The suspense and writing is very easy to follow. And I cannot stress the significance of Laurence’s quotes throughout the book.

We are living currently through a pandemic of COVID-19 which according to conspiracy theorists has many proofs rooted in time and through leadership of certain countries. They insist this pandemic was planned and has much to do with those in power who have the money and resources to accomplish global shutdowns and governmental control. This book truly hits home for some of us as well!

Here is one quote that is written at the beginning of chapter 70, when the story really starts to unravel and the gloves comes of:

“Exactly. Fear. If they’re [people are] suitably afraid, people will line up for you to inject anything you want into their bloodstreams. They’ll relinquish any freedoms.”

Very scary to read, as America has raced to get the COVID-19 vaccines into the arms of its residents, as well as other countries. Much fear has had so many rushing to “get better” and “think of others”, but do we even know what are in these vaccines and what their outcomes will be?

I’ll leave you with a chilling quote from someone who always comes through speculation during times like these:

“Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that is the charge, I stand guilty and am proud of it.” – David Rockefeller, Memoirs 2002.

This is a fiction book, but seems to be prophetic or at least speculating in the right direction…

I’ve chosen to postpone my other book reviews at this time to continue with Book Two: The Annihilation Protocol, so stay tuned for that. And then immediately following, I will continue with Book Three: The Elimination Threat, which will be available August 2021!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Man of the Year by Caroline Louise Walker

Book Description:

Dr. Robert Hart, Sag Harbor’s just-named Man of the Year, is the envy of his friends and neighbors. His medical practice is thriving. He has a beautiful old house and a beautiful new wife and a beautiful boat docked in the village marina. Even his wayward son, Jonah, is back on track, doing well at school, finally worthy of his father’s attentions. So when Jonah’s troubled college roommate, Nick, needs a place to stay for the summer, Hart and his wife generously offer him their guest house. A win-win: Jonah will have someone to hang with, and his father can bask in the warm glow of his own generosity.

But when he begins to notice his new houseguest getting a little too close to his wife, the good doctor’s veneer begins to crack. All the little lies Robert tells—harmless falsehoods meant to protect everything he holds dear—begin to mount. Before long, he’s embroiled in a desperate downward spiral, destroying the lives that stand in his way. It’s only the women in his life—his devoted office manager, his friends, his wife—who can clearly see the truth.

Biting and timely, Man of the Year races along at an electric pace, with a wicked twist that you won’t see coming.

I cannot explain the spiraling this book does. It starts out with a very proud man, seemingly humbled by an award for his accomplishments and contributions in Sag Harbor, which would give us all the impression he is loved and a friend to all. But is that really who Robert is?

Within the pages of this book, readers get a glimpse of the real Robert: he is somewhat paranoid and judgmental of those around him. He also comes across very insecure and accusatory. His relationship with his wife is very complicated and her behavior doesn’t help us to narrow down her faithfulness. There are a few scenarios that definitely lead us to believe that his wife may in fact be having an affair, however the accusation includes Nick who is currently living with them.

The bizarre events that happen about 25% into the book really reveal the depth of these characters: Robert, his wife Elizabeth, son Jonah, roommate Nick, and even Robert’s office assistant. Who do you trust? Who should you trust? Is anyone even trustworthy? Your mind spins with each new development and it appears the web gets more and more tangled the more we read.

This book was delicious to read, very fast-paced, kept me speculating and intrigued, and definitely did not see the major conflict coming, nor the outcomes! If you like suspense and bizarre twists, this book is definitely for you. I also commend Caroline’s writing. She is very easy to read, but her characters have moral depth (or lack of) that draw you in and make you wish the story went longer.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through Gallery Books and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own and I appreciate the opportunity to receive an advanced reader copy to do so. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Escape Room by Megan Goldin

Book Description:

“One of my favorite books of the year.” —Lee Child

“Cancel all your plans and call in sick; once you start reading, you’ll be caught in your own escape room—the only key to freedom is turning the last page!” Kirkus Reviews (starred)

“A sleek, well-crafted ride.” —The New York Times

In Megan Goldin’s unforgettable debut, The Escape Room, four young Wall Street rising stars discover the price of ambition when an escape room challenge turns into a lethal game of revenge.

Welcome to the escape room. Your goal is simple. Get out alive.

In the lucrative world of finance, Vincent, Jules, Sylvie, and Sam are at the top of their game. They’ve mastered the art of the deal and celebrate their success in style—but a life of extreme luxury always comes at a cost.

Invited to participate in an escape room challenge as a team-building exercise, the ferociously competitive co-workers crowd into the elevator of a high-rise building, eager to prove themselves. But when the lights go off and the doors stay shut, it quickly becomes clear that this is no ordinary competition: they’re caught in a dangerous game of survival.

Trapped in the dark, the colleagues must put aside their bitter rivalries and work together to solve cryptic clues to break free. But as the game begins to reveal the team’s darkest secrets, they realize there’s a price to be paid for the terrible deeds they committed in their ruthless climb up the corporate ladder. As tempers fray, and the clues turn deadly, they must solve one final chilling puzzle: which one of them will kill in order to survive?

This book took me five days to read (and that’s only because I have a marriage, a job and other commitments). It was so hard to close this book at the end of the night!! What an incredible story!

It starts out with a security guard opening the elevator to find people inside and from there, we go back to the beginning of the story to find out what happened…

Told from two perspectives: The Elevator and Sara Hall, the story shifts between them to explain the past and real time. Sara Hall is down on her luck, has parents who need assistance paying medical bills and happens to have an interaction with Vincent, a man from upper management, in an elevator when she’s leaving a poor interview. Given his card, she schedules an interview with him and lands a job at one of the most prestigious investment firms.

Learning the ropes and the games played by the employees at Stanhope & Sons, she learns quickly the culture of “dog eat dog” and no sleep. She works under Vincent and most of his team: Jules, Sam and Sylvie. Sara is an outsider, but soon makes her way to become valuable as an employee.

One night the employees are brought to a team-building exercise in an elevator and have to solve clues to get out. But this isn’t your typical escape room. And the way in which the story is told, is so suspenseful that you don’t want to put it down. Vascillating between the events in the elevator and Sara’s perspectives, the entire story is told and we finally find out at the end what leads to the escape room.

Fantastic read, would love to see it become a movie, and told the way that it was in the story. Everything was perfect and the ending MAGNIFICENT!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

Book Description:

The perfect life. The perfect love. The perfect lie.

From the bestselling author of The Girl Before comes a gripping psychological thriller. . . .

“Mind-bending . . . Delaney takes domestic suspense beyond its comfort zone.”—The New York Times Book Review

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE NEW YORK PUBLIC LIBRARY • A COSMOPOLITAN NEW MUST-READ

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science. 

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins to question her husband’s motives—and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to her, half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . .

THE PERFECT WIFE.

This was a new concept in reading!! The story is told through two perspectives between two people (and I use the term people lightly). One is an AI bot named Angie and the other is an employee at Tim (Angie’s husband)’s company. Their actual identity isn’t revealed until the end of the book.

The first perspective is a first-person account of a bot waking up and realizing that she had died somewhere in the past, but thankfully her smart husband who works on robots and sentience was able to create for her, a replica of her form and likeness so she could go on.

The second perspective is a third-person account from a fellow employee who witnesses and shares the perspective from those witnessing Tim’s insane obsession with Angie and her likeness.

From these two perspectives, we learn much. Angie and Tim have a son who is autistic. It presents to be a struggle for Angie at times, even with a school involved and a nanny who assists with him.

Angie has bits and pieces of her life that make sense, and then others that don’t. So when she finds a tablet with some sketchy information on it, she takes it to a professional to find out if it’s about her or Tim. She also learns there is a lot about her past that conflicts with what Tim tells her.

She comes to find out that she died and that her husband was tried for her murder, but wasn’t found guilty. And it’s left a lot of tension between him and her family. Her sister Lisa accuses her of having “Pangloss Syndrome” because Tim created such a great life for the two of them, but deep down, Lisa knew their life wasn’t that perfect.

And later in the story, when Megan Meyer, the matchmaker who came to Tim’s office to set him up with people (early on before he met Angie) explains that Tim had “Galatea Syndrome”, and she describes it as, “The men who start tech companies…they tend to be a particular type. First, they have impossibly high standards. Second, they have a vision. Which is to say, a view of the world. Often they like nothing better than to impart that view to some receptive, impressionable young person…” [until it fades…and the syndrome is] “from an ancient Greek myth. About a sculptor called Pygmalion, who rejected all the women of Cyprus as frivilous and wanton. Until one day, he carved a statue of a woman so beautiful and pure, he couldn’t help falling in love with it. At which point, the statue came to life and loved him right back.”

The relationship between Tim and Angie comes through her discovery of who she is (who Angie was) and the suspense is really well thought out. Little by little, people reveal things to her that helps her add up what is really going on. And if you love suspense, I suggest taking a ride on this book. I can see this book becoming a movie. And I’ve read “The Girl Before” by J. P. Delaney (pseudonum for Anthony Capella) and his suspense skills are on point.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Random House Publishing Group – Ballantine Books and NetGalley. I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Two quotes were included in the back of the book after finishing:

“Methods and systems for robot and user interaction are provided to generate a personality for the robot. The robot may be programmed to take on the personality of real-world people (e.g…a deceased loved one or celebrity)…”

US Patent No. 8996429, Methods and Systems for Robot Personality Development, granted to Google in 2015

“I want a life,” the computer said, “I want to get out there and garden and hold hands with Martine. I want to watch the sunset and eat at a nice restaurant or even a home-cooked meal. I am so sad sometimes, because I’m just stuffed with these memories, these sort of half-formed memories, and they aren’t enough. I just want to cry.”

BINA48, interviewed by NYmag.com

BINA48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture), 48 exaflops per second processing speed and 48 exabytes of memory. BINA48 is a social android that uses artificial intelligence based on the memories, attitudes, beliefs and mannerisms of a human being to interact with people. She is a part of the LifeNaut Project, an experiment in Artificial Intelligence and Cyber-Consciousness.

BINA meets Rothblatt Part One {https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYshJRYCArE}
Not the AI bot from the book, but a created AI bot: https://www.hansonrobotics.com/bina48-9/

Book Review | Convergence by Ginny L. Yttrup

Book Description:

A psychologist paralyzed by fear.
 
A mother propelled by love.
 
A stalker bent on destruction.


Psychology professor Dr. Denilyn Rossi contends that the past is either a shadow that haunts us or a force that propels us. The choice is ours, she tells her students. What she doesn’t tell them is that her own past is a shadow she can’t seem to shake. Fear has immobilized her and is taking a costly toll.

Adelia Sanchez, however, has embraced Dr. Rossi’s teaching. She is ready to confront fear and render it powerless—using the trauma of her past to propel her to entrap the man who stalked and brutally attacked her.

As Denilyn’s past and Adelia’s present converge at the Kaweah River, a dangerous man bent on destruction threatens them both. Will he uncover the secret Deni and Adelia have fought so hard to protect?

This book started with a tandem jump from an airplane. And a sinister man watching as she jumped from the plane. As she began the freefall with her partner, one chute opened. But the next one didn’t…

And so begins a journey into the story of two women. One who has a lot of fear which has justified roots. And the other who wants to change the past.

This story is told in two perspectives and the title is fitting as you move into the twists and turns of the storyline. I really can’t say more than that, because each character’s journey will make sense once you reach the midway point. Wanting to know more, I couldn’t put the book down and the ending was better than expected! I highly recommend for those readers who love character buildup and loose ends up tied up nicely.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Barbour Publishing and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Promise by Teresa Driscoll

Book Description:

It was their darkest secret. Three schoolgirls made a promise – to take the horrible truth of what they did to the grave.

Thirty years later, Beth and Sally have tried to put the trauma behind them. Though Carol has distanced herself from her former friends, the three are adamant that the truth must never come to light, even if the memory still haunts them.

But when some shocking news threatens to unearth their dark secret, Beth enlists the help of private investigator Matthew Hill to help her and Sally reconnect with estranged Carol ­– before the terrible act they committed as teenagers is revealed.

Beth wishes she could take back the vow they made. But somebody is watching and will stop at nothing to ensure the secret stays buried. Now, with her beloved family in peril, can Beth still keep the promise?

This book was very well-written and left me feeling many emotions at the end. With much suspense and time travelling with the character perspective shifts, we learn about three young ladies who were in boarding school together. A notice that the school will be demolished and an urgent need to contact Carol, their estranged friend, Beth and Sally seek out to find her and get closure after some traumatic events they shared as teenagers.

Matthew Hill is a private detective with his own history and begins to date Sally while they search for Carol. The story begins with Beth and introduces us to her family and boring little life. But as the story unfolds, we travel back to 30 years earlier and see what life was like for young Beth, Sally and Carol. Many painful memories surface as they consider returning to the school before it is torn down, and their deadly sin begs to be found out. The guilt and the pain of that time affects each of them differently. One retreats from all of them, one seems to be in denial and one seems to be depressed and want to make things right so they can all move on.

I felt the story flowed rather well, I had questions throughout the read that were eventually answered in the last part of the book, and the big reveal of what the promise really is, is revealed within the first half of the book, so it’s not an entirely long time to find out what happened. How they respond becomes the focus of the book and also how they navigate some harassment issues when it appears someone knows what they’ve done and wants to bring it to light.

At the very end of the book, I became emotional, for the reveal of why Carol had pulled away and the truth of so many things that tend to end friendships, it was sad to read and also made complete sense to me. I felt all of it was believable and the characters well established. I appreciate Teresa’s writing and would read something else by her anytime.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas & Mercer and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The White City by Grace Hitchcock

Book Description:

Mysterious Disappearances Taint the Chicago World’s Fair
Step into True Colors — a new series of Historical Stories of Romance and American Crime

While attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Winnifred Wylde believes she witnessed a woman being kidnapped. She tries to convince her father, an inspector with the Chicago police, to look into reports of mysterious disappearances around the White City. Inspector Wylde tries to dismiss her claims as exaggeration of an overactive imagination, but he eventually concedes to letting her go undercover as secretary to the man in question—if she takes her pistol for protection and Jude Thorpe, a policeman, for bodyguard.

Will she be able to expose H. H. Holmes’s illicit activity, or will Winnifred become his next victim? 

This was my first historical fiction based on real life novel and I LOVED IT!

Henry Howard Holmes (among other aliases) was an actual serial killer believed to be running around the Chicago’s World Fair, establishing relationships with women and then murdering them in his “Murder Castle”. I ended up doing a little bit of research online before jumping into the book, which made it that much more interesting.

This book starts out with 19-year old Winnie Wylde witnessing a tall man holding a revolver to a woman’s side and rushing her through the crowd at the fair. Because she is the daughter of an investigator, she is intrigued and begins to follow this man to a building nearby. Against her father’s wishes, she gets his permission to investigate, but only as long as she will take an escort for protection. She is assigned a new detective, Jude Thorpe, who recently moved to Chicago to secretly investigate the death of his brother-in-law.

Winnie’s being raised in a well-off home, by her aunt, as her mother passed away when she was younger. Her aunt is intending to help her become a bride, so she is setting up men to “call” on Winnie. She is briefly courted by Percival who happens to be the author of the romance novels she loves to “escape in” and though he is handsome and charming, she also begins to have feelings for Jude.

Winnie also establishes a relationship with H. H. Holmes and obtains an interview, as well as a job at his building, where she does odd jobs and only goes through files he allows her access. When in the building, she explores and finds certain items that lead her to believe that there is indeed some nefarious happenings in the “castle”.

The element of faith in this novel was endearing. Jude is forbidden to have a relationship with Winnie, primarily because he is her escort and protection, but also because Winnie’s dad knows the pain he caused Winnie’s mother by being gone long hours as an investigator, and doesn’t want his daughter to endure the same loneliness and heartache. Jude demonstrates his faith, as does Winnie, by offering prayers up throughout the story. Their inner desire for each other, among the focus of the investigation and the danger they ultimately enter, tries their faith and boundaries of love.

I thoroughly enjoyed this light romance novel, with faith and plot twists. It was easy to read, a great pace, humor was peppered in, and also suspense and terror. I would definitely read another book by Grace Hitchcock and enjoyed this genre debut! I’ve got a few more TRUE COLORS novels on my TBR list with reviews coming soon, so stay tuned!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Barbour Publishing and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Stratagem by Robin Caroll

Book Description:

A High-Stakes Simulation Adventure Leaves Grayson Thibodeaux the Prime Suspect. . .for Murder
 
Deep in the gritty underbelly of New Orleans, psychologist Grayson Thibodeaux loses everything when his wife leaves him to climb her company’s corporate ladder. He buries himself in his job of creating mind-bending adventure games for businesses as team-building explorations. When his ex-wife’s company hires Grayson’s to create an elaborate game, he doesn’t see how things can get worse. Until she dies during the course of the game he created…making him the prime suspect for murder.

Grayson Thibodeaux is a psychologist who created a business with his best friend, Colton York, a sociologist. They create virtual games for businesses that build trust and team build. He recently went through a divorce, and his wife Anna-Belle had unfortunately cheated on him with her boss. He tried to salvage the marriage, but she wanted out. At the onset of the book, they have a public argument in his office, and his staff witnesses her slap him when terms of their divorce agreement are discussed.

He and Colton create a game for her company, per the direction of her boss. Members of her office attend a team-building game to determine who will get a promotion. All office workers have to go to a certain location and follow certain rules. Only the CEU and board members know it’s a game. While attending meetings and accomplishing tasks, Anna-Belle falls ill because she has an allergy to cherries and passes away! Grayson immediately becomes the primary suspect, being the recently divorced husband.

Two investigators get assigned to his case, who know him pretty well, and have to overcome their bias to prove his innocence. Anna-Belle’s boss, his wife, other employees and Grayson all become suspects and one-by-one they get ruled out.

The pace of the book was fantastic. It was well-written with little things happening during the investigation that made me question a few people. I also loved the faith-based aspect attributed to Grayson as he tries to prove his innocence. It makes a strong character and was a great read! The outcome wasn’t predictable until the moment it was revealed, so it ended very well. I would recommend this book for anyone looking for a fast-paced, faith-based, suspenseful novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Barbour Publishing and NetGalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | Stuck in Manistique by Dennis Cuesta

Book Description:

Near the midpoint of the Upper Peninsula, along a Lake Michigan bend of shore, is the town of Manistique, Michigan. Mark had never heard of Manistique before the death of his estranged aunt, but as sole beneficiary of Vivian’s estate, he travels there to settle her affairs. As Mark tours his aunt’s house for the first time, the doorbell rings.

Days after graduating medical school, Dr. Emily Davis drives north, struggling with her illicit rendezvous on Mackinac Island. She never makes it—on the highway near Manistique, her car collides with a deer, shattering the car’s windshield. Stranded for the night, Emily is directed to a nearby bed and breakfast.

Maybe it’s a heady reaction, the revelation that his aunt, an international aid doctor, ran a bed and breakfast in retirement. Or perhaps he plainly feels pity for the young, helpless doctor. Regardless, Mark decides to play host for one night, telling Emily that he’s merely stepping in temporarily while his aunt is away.

As a one-night stay turns into another and more guests arrive, the ersatz innkeeper steadily loses control of his story. And though Emily opens up to Mark, she has trouble explaining the middle-aged man who unexpectedly arrives at the doorstep looking for her.

Will these two strangers, holding on to unraveling secrets, remain in town long enough to discover the connection between them?

This was a pretty easy-to-read book. It started out with the perspective coming from Mark, the main character. He goes to Manistique (a place he’s never been) because he gets word that his aunt has died and when he gets there, he learns she has left him her inn. He didn’t have the best relationship with her, so he immediately feels guilty about staying and wants to meet with the lawyer to get things going to sell. Then all of a sudden, people start showing up, with previous bookings, unaware that Vivian has passed. He jumps into action and accommodates them, but doesn’t want to own a bed and breakfast.

Emily is someone who wouldn’t have even crossed paths with Mark unless she hit a deer, on her way to meet her doctor boyfriend on Mackinac Island. She tries to get out of seeing Dr. Bulcher, as she realizes that the relationship isn’t progressing as it should, and then ends up at the bed and breakfast. She hits it off with Mark, and after some exploring in the basement, she finds a book for Doctors without Borders, and begins reading.

Throughout the book, there are few characters. Most are townspeople trying to assist those who have come to Manistique and are stranded. Then, there are the ones staying at Mark’s bed and breakfast. He wants to get rid of the place and responsibility, but realizes that there might be a connection between him and Emily.

One thing I will have to admit, was that I was very appreciative of how he treated Emily throughout the book. He could’ve taken advantage of her, or been inappropriate at times, but he always held her in high regard, even when she would push his buttons, or when she would leave the inn because he was impossible to be around. I thought that was a highlight of the book. I enjoyed their personality conflicts, and how they grew to understand each other as they learned things about each other.

I think this is a great vacation read, for learning about small town characters, our internal struggles with grief and loss, admitting when we need help, and growing in relationship with others.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Celestial Eyes Press and Netgalley.  I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review | The Key to Love by Betsy St. Amant

NEW RELEASE – 10/13/20!~!~!

Book Description:

The only thing Bri Duval loves more than baking petit fours is romance. So much so, she’s created her own version of the famous Parisian lovelock wall at her bakery in Story, Kansas. She never expects it to go viral–or for Trek Magazine to send travel writer Gerard Fortier to feature the bakery. He’s definitely handsome, but Bri has been holding out for a love story like the one her parents had, and that certainly will not include the love-scorned-and-therefore-love-scorning Gerard.

Just when it seems Bri’s bakery is poised for unprecedented success, a series of events threaten not just her business but the pedestal she’s kept her parents on all these years. Maybe Gerard is right about romance. Or maybe Bri’s recipe just needs to be tweaked.

Novelist Betsy St. Amant invites you to experience this sweet story of how love doesn’t always look the way we expect–and maybe that’s a good thing. 

Alright y’all, I love Hallmark movies – maybe because they’re safe, wholesome and predictable. Yes, they can be nauseating, or they can tell sweet stories of love found in the craziest places. Typically, I love the establishment of the characters, their revealed flaws, a conflict and the resolution which usually involves a perfect kiss. I felt like this book was following that format pretty clearly until I got to the last page. It ended up being a sweet relief from the norm, and that is why I highly suggest this book! Because Betsy St. Amant is one of my favorite authors, I was honored to help in the launch of this new book! It just released October 13, 2020! Grab your copy now!

The main character Bri, is a grieving young woman who is a total romantic – she thinks very highly of her deceased parents and their relationship. She works in her mom’s bakery in a small town and loves reminiscing about her parents’ devotion and love to each other, as she works alongside the two ladies who worked with her mom: Agnes and Mabel. There is silliness and inside jokes amongst the coworkers. The “love angels”, named for their matchmaking abilities, banter and lovingly pick on Bri. The baking team loves to make petit fours, macarons and delicious delectables that draw in the locals.

On the premises of the bakery, is a replica of the “Love Lock Wall” that had previously been torn down in Paris, France. For a quick history of this wall, read here:

https://citywonders.com/blog/France/Paris/paris-love-lock-bridge-story.

So in the story, a travel writer comes to Story, Kansas to do a piece on the bakery and the love lock wall. He’s nothing like Bri would assume, but Gerard Fortier and her hit it off, develop feelings and keep running into each other in town. Of course there is a nemesis, Charles Richmond, a lawyer who wishes to purchase the bakery and Bri’s ex-boyfriend.

As Gerard and Bri collaborate on the magazine article, Charles keeps pursuing Mabel and Agnes with monetary offers to tear down the bakery and replace it with a commercial coffee place. Bri disagrees with selling, as she has such strong feelings on the bakery. It is one of the last things she has linking her to her mother.

Throughout the book, Gerard and Bri have many exchanges – some professional and some personal. Gerard seems to test everything there is in Bri, and his outlook of love is a complete polar opposite to hers. But in their exchanges, as frustrating as they can be sometimes, you notice the growth and inspiration effect that the one has on the other, and vice versa. They both learn from each other, and challenge each others’ beliefs. Where Gerard feels love is a waste of time, Bri thinks almost too highly of it, and crashes hard when some realizations about her parents shock her world. As a reader, you sense the imbalance.

What I loved most about the book, particularly when Bri finally saw things as they needed to be seen, was the faith element. There is a pastor who leaves a mark on Gerard, and the lesson that needs to be learned is clearly explained. Transformation takes place and the ending is sweet and realistic. I personally loved the conflict and tension of the story, because growth also takes place and REAL LOVE manifests.

Grab a cup of coffee (preferably a little bitter), a few macarons and a few hours of quiet and escape to Story, Kansas, where love still lives, as human as it is, and transforms even the hardest of hearts. A great read with a sense of completion at its end. I am appreciative of the opportunity to provide a non-biased review of this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Revell at the author’s request. I was not required to write a positive review.  The opinions expressed are my own.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html): “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”