Review of THE GOOD SON by Jacquelyn Mitchard

This was a fast-paced book with non-stop revelations about the characters and the events that entangled their lives. Thea is an English professor and a mom and her husband Jep is a coach at a local college. Their son Stefan, an only and much beloved child, is arrested and imprisoned for killing his girlfriend Belinda when he was under the influence of drugs. The book begins when Stefan is released from prison and the family has to deal with society’s outrage at his actions and at his release. The book focuses mostly on Thea and her coming to terms with Stefan’s felony, with snippets into Jep’s happy-go-lucky attitude as he basically continues his life unscathed by the scandal. Stefan has to re-invent his life and come up with a new plan for his future since he is not really accepted anywhere for employment. I thought the creativity of what he decides to do was amazing and fit right into the storyline. The plot flowed seamlessly between the characters, showing the heartbreak of Thea as well as that of Jill, Belinda’s mom. There are so many layers to this story that it is hard to touch on them all without spoilers, but I will say that it is one of the best family dramas that I have ever read. The characterization is as complex as the characters and totally fleshed out. The mystery of the character of Esme is a theme throughout the book that enticed me to continue to read late into the evening. Esme seems to know a secret about Belinda’s death and teases Thea with it, but she won’t share what she knows with anyone. The ending was somewhat of a surprise, although there were plenty of clues that led me to guess part of what would happen. The twists are numerous as well and kept me engaged in the saga of a young man trying to overcome insurmountable obstacles. Fans of the author and domestic suspense will devour this new book and cheer for the characters who become like family members that I personally knew as I read.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via 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 Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

I would rate this book a hard PG-13, not because of sexual content or language, but because of content that can be definite triggers for those who have been abused physically and/or emotionally. There is a homosexual relationship referenced in the book, but there are no descriptions of the relationship itself.

Author Bio: #1 New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard has written nine previous novels for adults; six young adult novels; four children’s books; a memoir, Mother Less Child; and a collection of essays, The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, and later adapted for a feature film. Mitchard is a frequent lecturer and a professor of fiction and creative nonfiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and their nine children.
Author Website
Facebook: Jacquelyn Mitchard
Twitter: @JackieMitchard
Instagram: @jacquelynmitchard



I was picking my son up at the prison gates when I spotted the mother of the girl he had murdered.

Two independent clauses, ten words each, joined by an adverb, made up entirely of words that would once have been unimaginable to think, much less say.

She pulled in—not next to me, but four spaces over—in the half circle of fifteen-minute spots directly in front of the main building. It was not where Stefan would walk out. That would be over at the gatehouse. She got out of her car, and for a moment I thought she would come toward me. I wanted to talk to her, to offer something, to reach out and hold her, for we had not even been able to attend Belinda’s funeral. But what would I say? What would she? This was an unwonted crease in an already unaccustomed day. I slid deep into my down coat, and wished I could lock the car doors, although I feared that the sound would crack the predawn darkness like a rifle shot. All that Jill McCormack did, however, was shove her hands into the pockets of her jacket and lean against the back bumper of her car. She wore the heavy maroon leather varsity jacket that her daughter Belinda, captain of the high school cheer team in senior year, had given to her, to Stefan, and to me, with our names embroidered in gold on the back, just like hers.

I hadn’t seen Jill McCormack up close for years, though she lived literally around the corner. Once, I used to stop there to sit on her porch, but now I avoided even driving past the place.

Jill seemed smaller, diminished, the tumult of ash-blond hair I remembered cropped short and seemingly mostly white, though I knew she was young when Belinda was born, and now couldn’t be much past forty. Yet, even just to stand in the watery, slow-rising light in front of a prison, she was tossed together fashionably, in gold-colored jeans and boots, with a black turtleneck, a look I would have had to plan for days. She looked right at my car, but gave no sign that she recognized it, though she’d been in it dozens of times years ago. Once she had even changed her clothes in my car. I remember how I stood outside it holding a blanket up over the windows as she peeled off a soaking-wet, floor-length, jonquil-yellow crystal-beaded evening gown that must, at that point, have weighed about thirty pounds, then slipped into a clean football warm-up kit. After she changed, we linked arms with my husband and we all went to a ball.

But I would not think of that now.

I had spent years assiduously not thinking of any of that.

A friendship, like a crime, is not one thing, or even two people. It’s two people and their shared environs and their histories, their common memories, their words, their weaknesses and fears, their virtues and vanities, and sometimes their shame.

Jill was not my closest friend. Some craven times, I blessed myself with that—at least I was spared that. There had always been Julie, since fifth grade my heart, my sharer. But Jill was my good friend. We had been soccer moms together, and walking buddies, although Jill’s swift, balanced walk was my jog. I once kept Belinda at my house while Jill went to the bedside of her beloved father who’d suffered a stroke, just as she kept Stefan at her house with Belinda when they were seven and both had chicken pox, which somehow neither I nor my husband, Jep, ever caught. And on the hot night of that fundraising ball for the zoo, so long ago, she had saved Stefan’s life.

Since Jill was a widow when we first met, recently arrived in the Midwest from her native North Carolina, I was always talking her into coming to events with Jep and me, introducing her to single guys who immediately turned out to be hopeless. That hot evening, along with the babysitter, the two kids raced toward the new pool, wildly decorated with flashing green lights, vines and temporary waterfalls for a “night jungle swim.” Suddenly, the sitter screamed. When Jill was growing up, she had been state champion in the 200-meter backstroke before her devout parents implored her to switch to the more modest sport of golf, and Belinda, at five, was already a proficient swimmer. My Stefan, on the other hand, sank to the bottom like a rock and never came up. Jill didn’t stop to ask questions. Kicking off her gold sandals, in she went, an elegant flat race dive that barely creased the surface; seconds later she hauled up a gasping Stefan. Stefan owed his life to her as surely as Belinda owed her death to Stefan.

In seconds, life reverses.

Jill and I once talked every week. It even seemed we once might have been machatunim, as they say in Yiddish, parents joined by the marriage of their son and daughter. Now, the circumstances under which we might ever exchange a single word seemed as distant as the bony hood of moon above us in the melting darkness.

What did she want here now? Would she leave once Stefan came through the gates? In fact, she left before that. She got back into her car, and, looking straight ahead, drove off.

I watched until her car was out of sight.

Just after dawn, a guard walked Stefan to the edge of the enclosure. I looked up at the razor wire. Then, opening the window slightly, I heard the guard say, “Do good, kid. I hope I never see you again.” Stefan stepped out, and then put his palm up to a sky that had just begun to spit snow. He was twenty, and he had served two years, nine months and three days of a five-year sentence, one year of which the judge had suspended, noting Stefan’s unblemished record. Still, it seemed like a week; it seemed like my entire life; it seemed like a length of time too paltry for the monstrous thing he had done. I could not help but reckon it this way: For each of the sixty or seventy years Belinda would have had left to live, Stefan spent only a week behind bars, not even a season. No matter how much he despaired, he could always see the end. Was I grateful? Was I ashamed? I was both. Yet relief rippled through me like the sweet breeze that stirs the curtains on a summer night.

I got out and walked over to my son. I reached up and put my hand on his head. I said, “My kid.”

Stefan placed his huge warm palm on the top of my head. “My mom,” he said. It was an old ritual, a thing I would not have dared to do in the prison visiting room. My eyes stung with curated tears. Then I glanced around me, furtively. Was I still permitted such tender old deeds? This new universe was not showing its hand. “I can stand here as long as I want,” he said, shivering in wonderment. Then he said, “Where’s Dad?”

“He told you about it. He had to see that kid in Louisville one more time,” I told him reluctantly. “The running back with the very protective grandmother. He couldn’t get out of it. But he cut it short and he’ll be home when we get back, if he beats the weather out of Kentucky this morning, that is.” Jep was in only his second season as football coach at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, a Division II team with significant chops and national esteem. We didn’t really think he would get the job, given our troubles, but the athletic director had watched Jep’s career and believed deeply in his integrity. Now he was never at rest: His postseason recruiting trips webbed the country. Yet it was also true that while Stefan’s father longed equally for his son to be free, if Jep had been able to summon the words to tell the people who mattered that he wanted to skip this trip altogether, he would have. But he couldn’t quite bring himself to say it’s a big day, our son’s getting out of prison.

Now, it seemed important to hurry Stefan to the car, to get out of there before this new universe recanted. We had a long drive back from Black Creek, where the ironically named Belle Colline Correctional Facility squatted not far from the campus of the University of Wisconsin–Black Creek. Stefan’s terrible journey had taken him from college to prison, a distance of just two miles as the crow flies. I felt like the guard: I never wanted to see the place again. I had no time to think about Jill or anything else except the weather. We’d hoped that the early-daylight release would keep protestors away from the prison gates, and that seemed to have worked: Prisoners usually didn’t walk out until just before midday. There was not a single reporter here, which surprised me as Jill was tireless in keeping her daughter Belinda’s death a national story, a symbol for young women in abusive relationships. Many of the half dozen or so stalwarts who still picketed in front of our house nearly every day were local college and high-school girls, passionate about Jill’s work. As Stefan’s release grew near, their numbers rose, even as the outdoor temperatures fell. A few news organizations put in appearances again lately as well. I knew they would be on alert today and was hoping we could beat some of the attention by getting back home early. In the meantime, a snowstorm was in the forecast: I never minded driving in snow, but the air smelled of water running over iron ore—a smell that always portended worse weather.

Excerpted from The Good Son by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Copyright © 2022 by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A.

Available on January 18, 2022. Purchase Links:


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This was a book that was hard to put down because of all of the emotions involved in the story of a mom with a son who is a felon. It hooked me from the beginning and kept me reading to find out what would happen to each of the characters whose lives were destroyed by the death of one young girl.

Review of THE SORORITY MURDER by Allison Brennan

Since I am a huge fan of this author, I expected nothing less than perfection from her for a murder mystery, and I was certainly not disappointed. The plot was complicated mixed with the simple premise that a girl from Northern Arizona University was murdered and her killer was still on the loose, a homeless man who had been seen on campus before Candace disappeared and then ended up dead. Lucas Vega, a forensics student on campus, is doing a final “Capstone” project on Candace’s disappearance and death, hoping to use crowdsourcing as a means to find out what happened to her before she was killed and why she ended up dead. The clues are forthright and easy to follow, but the mystery itself was complex as bodies continue to pile up. When Lucas seeks the help of former U.S. Marshal Regan Merritt, the action ramped up as did the danger to those seeking the truth. There were a lot of themes in the book, most importantly one of friendship and being careful whom you choose to be your friends. There were also sub-themes of compassion and closure for families suffering loss as well as grief over lost loved ones. This was a deep book that had me engrossed from beginning to end, captured by the realistic characters and their quest for justice. I particularly enjoyed the character of Regan, as she is multi-layered and trying to find where she belongs now that she has quit the Marshal service. I also liked the way the story unfolded gradually, with plenty of mystery and mayhem happening along the way. All in all, this was my favorite mystery that I have read this year and it will be hard (if not impossible) to top it!
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via 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 Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

I would rate this a hard PG-13 because of content, including violence, even though it is not graphically described. There are some triggers for sensitive people who have been abused or bullied.
ALLISON BRENNAN is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of over thirty novels. She has been nominated for Best Paperback Original Thriller by International Thriller Writers and the Daphne du Maurier Award. A former consultant in the California State Legislature, Allison lives in Arizona with her husband, five kids and assorted pets. The Sorority Murder is the first of a new mass market series,

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Three Years Ago

Friday, April 10

 Candace Swain forced a smile as she walked out of her dorm room.

    Smiling was the last thing she wanted to do, but Candace had an image to uphold.

    She was going to be late for the Sigma Rho Spring Fling—the last big party before the end-of-year crunch. Studying for finals, capstones and senior projects, stress and more stress, and—for some of them—graduation.

    The mild April weather was perfect for an outdoor gathering. Candace had led the sorority’s social-events committee with setup, and they’d included heat lamps along the perimeter. The Mountain View dorm—which housed all campus sororities, each with their own wing—was on the northeast corner of campus, adjacent to the football field. The Spring Fling was held on the large lawn that framed the north entrance, where they had the most room. It was open to all students for a five-dollar admission, and was one of the biggest moneymakers for the sorority, more than charities. Candace had fought for—and won—giving the profits to a rescue mission that helped people get back on their feet. She volunteered weekly for Sunrise Center, and it had changed how she viewed herself and her future. She now planned to be a nurse in the inner city, working for a clinic or public hospital, where people deserved quality health care, even if they were struggling. She even considered specializing in drug and alcohol issues, which were unfortunately prevalent among the homeless community.

    She used to think of her volunteerism as penance for her failings. She wasn’t religious but had had enough preaching from her devout grandmother to have absorbed things like guilt, penance, sacrifice. Now, she looked forward to Tuesdays when she gave six hours of her time to those who were far worse off than she. It reminded her to be grateful for what she had, that things could be worse.

    Candace exited through the north doors and stood at the top of the short flight of stairs that led to the main lawn. Though still early in the evening, the party was already hopping. Music played from all corners of the yard, the din of voices and laughter mingling with a popular song. In the dusk, the towering mountains to the north were etched in fading light. She breathed deeply. She loved everything about Flagstaff. The green mountains filled with pine and juniper. The crisp, fresh air. The sense of community and belonging felt so natural here, something she’d never had growing up in Colorado Springs. With graduation on the horizon, she had been feeling a sense of loss, knowing she was going to miss this special place.

    She wasn’t close to her parents, who divorced right before she started high school and still fought as much as they did when they were married. She desperately missed her younger sister, Chrissy, a freshman at the University of South Carolina. She’d wanted Chrissy to come here for college, but Chrissy was a champion swimmer and had received a full scholarship to study practically a world away. Candace had no plans to return to Colorado Springs, but she didn’t know if she wanted to follow her sister to the East Coast or head down to Phoenix where they had some of the best job opportunities for what she wanted to do.

    Vicky Ryan, a first year student who had aspirations of leadership, ran up to her.

    “That weirdo is back,” Vicky said quietly. “Near the west steps. Just loitering there, freaking people out. Should I call campus police?”

    Candace frowned. The man Vicky was referring to was Joseph, and he wasn’t really a weirdo. He was an alcoholic, and mostly homeless, who sometimes wandered onto campus and wouldn’t accept the help he had been repeatedly offered. He wasn’t violent, just confused, and sometimes got lost in his own head, largely from how alcohol had messed with his mind and body. But his problems understandably made her sorority sisters uncomfortable. He’d twice been caught urinating against the wall outside their dorm; both times, he’d been cited by campus police. He wasn’t supposed to be on campus at all anymore, and Candace knew they’d arrest him if he was caught.

    “I’ll take care of it,” Candace said and made her way around the edge of the party.

    She found Joseph on the narrow grassy knoll that separated the football field from the dorms. A small group of students approached her, but one in their group turned toward the grass, likely to confront Joseph.

    Candace walked faster, caught up with the student, and smiled brightly. “I got this.”

    “It’s okay,” he said. “I’ll handle him.”

    “I said I will take care of this. I know him. But thank you anyway.”

    Mr. Macho didn’t want to walk away, yet Candace stood firm. She didn’t want anyone to harass Joseph, and she knew he would listen to her. While he wasn’t violent, he could be belligerent, and being confronted by a jerk wanting to impress his girlfriend was a surefire way to trigger Joseph and have him dig in his heels. It would only lead to an arrest, and that wasn’t going to help him in the long run.

    The group walked off, grumbling; Candace ignored them. She approached Joseph cautiously, so as not to startle him. “Joseph, it’s Candace,” she said. “Remember me? From Sunrise Center?”

    He turned slowly at the sound of her voice. A tall man, nearly six foot four, he could intimidate people. But he was also skinny and hunched over from years of walking the streets and looking down, rummaging through garbage, with his hangdog face, ragged salt-and-pepper beard, and watery blue eyes. He was the kind of guy her grandmother would have called a bum—dressed in multiple layers of dirty, mismatched clothes, and smelling of dirt and stale beer. He looked about sixty, but she knew that he was only in his early forties. She’d heard he’d been living along Route 66 for the better part of ten years. The people who ran Sunrise Center didn’t know much about his personal life, only that when he was sober (which was rare), he would talk about home being east, at the “end of the line.” But no one knew if that meant Chicago or any of the stops in between.

    Candace wanted to know more about his story, how he came to be in these circumstances, why he wouldn’t—or couldn’t—accept help. Many of the homeless who came to Sunrise for shelter or food would talk to her freely. But not Joseph. When she’d pried once, he disappeared for a while, so she stopped asking. She would rather him be safe than riding the rails, which was dangerous.

    “Candace,” he said slowly after several moments.

    “You can’t be here, Joseph. The campus police told you that. Don’t you remember?”

    He didn’t say anything or acknowledge that he understood what she said.

    “Would you like me to take you over to Sunrise Center? You can get a hot meal there, maybe a cot for the night.”

    Again, silence. He turned away from her but didn’t leave.

    She really didn’t want to call campus police, but if she didn’t do something, someone else would.

“Is there a reason you are here?” she asked.

“Leave me alone,” he said.

“I will, but you have to leave. Otherwise someone is going to call the police.” If they haven’t already.

He abruptly turned toward her, staggered on the slope of the lawn. His sudden movement startled her; she stepped back.

“No cops!” he shouted.

“You have to leave, Joseph,” she said, emphatic. Her heart pounded in her chest, not so much from fear but uncertainty. “Please go.”

Again, he turned abruptly, this time staggering down the short slope toward the stadium fence. She held her breath, watching him. He almost ran into the fence, put his arms out to stop himself, then just stood there. A minute later, he shuffled along the field perimeter, shoulders hunched, without looking back.

She breathed easier, relieved that he was heading off campus. She would talk to the director of Sunrise on Tuesday, when she went in to volunteer. Joseph couldn’t keep coming here, but she didn’t really want to call the authorities on him. He needed help, not more trouble, and definitely not incarceration.

Candace was about to return to the party when she heard someone call her name. She turned and saw one of her former tutoring students, Lucas Vega, running toward her. She didn’t want to talk to Lucas tonight. How many times did she have to tell him to leave her alone?

She stopped anyway and waited.

“Candace,” he said, catching his breath. “Thanks.”

“What do you want?” she snapped, crossing her arms over her chest.

“I’m sorry.”

“Sorry,” she said bluntly.

“I didn’t mean to upset you the other day. I am sorry about that.”

She blinked. He sounded so sincere. And truth be told, something he’d said to her a few days earlier made her think long and hard about herself, her life, and the time she’d spent as a student at Northern Arizona University.

A lie for a good reason is still a lie.

Lucas and his wide-eyed, good-natured innocence, his innocuous questions had her feeling guilty for no reason. He had picked up on that. And pushed.

No reason? Ha. Plenty of reasons. All these doubts and worries she’d been having this semester, the sleepless nights, all came from something she’d done as a freshman that she now had good reason to regret. But what could she do about it? What would come of the truth now?

Maybe there was no good reason to lie.

“All right,” she said. “Thank you.” It was easier to forgive Lucas than to hold on to this anger. None of what happened was Lucas’s fault.

“So will you tutor me again, for finals?”

“No. Afraid not.” She could forgive him for prying, but she really needed first to forgive herself. And she didn’t know if she could do that with Lucas around, reminding her of her failures and mistakes. He didn’t even know what she’d done, but seeing him now was like reliving the past, and her chest tightened. “I’m sorry, but I have too much studying of my own, too many tests. And I’m not working at the writing lab anymore.”

Because of you.

Was that even fair? Was it because of Lucas…or because of her own guilt?

He was disappointed, but that wasn’t her problem.

“Okay, I understand,” he said.

“Besides, you’re smart. You’ll be fine.”

He shrugged. “Thanks.”

“Uh, you want to come to the party?” She gestured over her shoulder. They could hear the music from where they stood. “I’ll get you a pass. Won’t even cost you the five bucks.”

He shook his head. “I’m fine. I’m not really one for parties. But thanks anyway.”

He turned to leave.

“Lucas,” she said. He looked at her over his shoulder. “I’m really sorry.”

Then she left him there, waiting for something she couldn’t give him.

It took Candace several minutes before she could work up the courage to return to the party. An idea she’d been thinking about for the last few months was now fully developed, as if something inside clicked after her brief conversation with Lucas. Everything shifted into place, and she knew what she needed to do; it was the only thing she could do.

No one was going to like her decision.

When she realized she no longer cared what anyone thought, a burden lifted from her heart. She was certain then that she was doing the right thing.

Everyone at the party was asking for Candace, and Vicky had become worried when her friend and mentor hadn’t returned after thirty minutes. She sought out Taylor James, the Sigma Rho president, and told her about the homeless guy. “I don’t know where Candace is,” she said. “I should have just called campus police.”

“Candace says he’s harmless,” Taylor said, frowning. “Sometimes she’s so naive. I’ll go look for her.”

“Thanks. The party is great by the way. Everyone seems to be having fun. How does it compare to previous years?” This was the first party Vicky had helped put together for the sorority, so she was eager to know how well she’d done.

“As good or better,” Taylor said with a wide smile.

Vicky tried not to gloat as she practically floated over to her friends chatting near one of the heat lamps. It wasn’t cold, but the warmth of the heat lamp and the glow from the string lights added terrific ambience to the place.

“Oh my God, Vicky, this is a blast,” her roommate, Nicole Bergamo, said. Nicole was a half-Black, half-Italian math major who could have easily been a model she was so tall and stunning. “Everyone is talking about how great it is.”

Vicky smiled, talked for a bit, then moved around, being social, doing all the things that she’d seen Sigma Rho board members do. Hundreds of people were dancing, talking, mingling, eating, drinking, playing games. Mostly, they were having fun, which was the whole purpose. When the new Sigma Rho advisor, Rachel Wagner, told her it was the best Sigma Rho party she’d been to ever, Vicky thought she’d never come down from cloud nine.

“I agree,” said the gorgeous woman who was with Rachel. “I’m Kimberly Foster, by the way,” she introduced herself. “I’m a sorority alum, and I’m so happy I came up this weekend. You’ve done a fantastic job. Rachel said you’re part of the social-events committee. Isn’t Candace leading the committee? I haven’t seen her yet.”

“Yes, she’s around,” Vicky said. “This is all her vision. We just implemented it.”

“I love Candace. Oh! I see her over there.”

Vicky looked to where Kimberly was gesturing. Candace was talking in a small group.

“I’m going to catch up with her,” Kimberly said. “Nice to meet you, Vicky.”

The two women walked away, and Vicky continued her rounds. She was having a blast as her worries that the party might flop were replaced with pride and satisfaction over its success.

Hours later it was midnight, and per city ordinance—because their dorm bordered a public street—they had to cut off the music. That put a damper on things, but it was fine with Vicky—she was exhausted after working all day prepping and all night making sure everything was running smoothly. She was a little miffed that Candace was hardly there: Vicky had only caught a glimpse of her twice. But whatever, she’d seemed preoccupied, and that would have been a party downer.

Vicky ran into the dorm to get extra trash bags—they had to clean up tonight so wild animals wouldn’t get into the garbage and create a bigger mess in the morning. She came back out and heard voices arguing near where the DJ had been set up. He’d already packed up and left. She couldn’t hear exactly what was being said. It seemed like a quiet, intense exchange between Taylor and Candace though Rachel and her guest Kimberly were there, too. Everyone, especially Taylor, seemed angry.

About sixty people were still milling around, mostly Sigma Rho sisters helping with the cleanup. Nicole came up to Vicky and said, “What are Candace and Taylor fighting about?”

“I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”

“It’s not nothing,” Nicole said. “I heard Taylor call Candace a selfish bitch.”

“Ouch. Well, Rachel is there. She’ll mediate.”

But Rachel looked angry as well; it seemed that Candace was on one side, and the other three women were yelling at her.

“You’re wrong!” Candace screamed, and Vicky jumped. She glanced at Nicole, who looked perplexed as well. Vicky handed her a garbage bag, and they both started picking up trash. She didn’t want anyone to think she was eavesdropping.

But she was. As she inched closer to the group, she heard Kimberly say, “Let’s talk about this tomorrow, okay? When everyone has had a good night’s sleep and we can all think more clearly.”

“I am thinking clearly,” Candace said. “I’m done. Just…done.”

She left, walked right past Vicky without even seeing her. There were tears in Candace’s eyes, and Vicky didn’t know if she was angry or upset, but probably both. Vicky thought about going after her to make sure she was okay, then felt a hand on her shoulder.

She jumped, then laughed nervously when she saw Rachel. Taylor and Kim had walked away in the other direction.

“Sorry. You startled me.”

“I’m sorry you had to witness that,” Rachel said.

“I didn’t, really. Just saw that Taylor and Candace were arguing about something. I didn’t want to intrude.”

“It’s going to be fine. Just a little disagreement that Candace took personally.”

“About the party?” Vicky asked, her insecurities rising that she’d messed up something.

“Oh, no, the party was perfect. Don’t worry about that.”

Relieved, she said, “Maybe I should go talk to Candace.”

“No, let her be. I’ve known her since she was a freshman and took my Intro to Bio class. She has a big heart, and sometimes you can’t help everyone.”

Now Vicky understood, or thought she did. Taylor had been the most vocal about the creepy homeless guy hanging around the dorms, and she’d been the one who’d called campus police last time, after Candace said not to.

“Let me help,” Rachel said and took a garbage bag from Vicky’s stash.

Rachel chatted with Vicky, who felt lucky to be able to spend so much one-on-one time with her sorority advisor. Rachel was so smart, an associate professor at just thirty-two, an alum of the University of Arizona Sigma Rho chapter. Plus she had such interesting stories to share. By the time they were done with the cleanup—it didn’t take long with so many people working together—Vicky had forgotten all about the argument between Candace and Taylor.

It was the last time anyone saw Candace alive.

Excerpted from The Sorority Murder by Allison Brennan, Copyright © 2021 by Allison Brennan. Published by MIRA Books.

Check out the other great books in this blog tour, too! Thanks to HTP BOOKS for including me in the tour!

Review of MY DARLING HUSBAND by Kimberly Belle

This book literally propelled my eyes through the pages since I really wanted to know who would break into a family’s home and threaten the wife and children for such a strange amount of money. Cam Lasky is a renowned chef who has secrets that he is keeping from his wife. What he doesn’t know is that he has crossed the wrong person and that man has taken his family hostage in their home, a home with alarms, cameras and up-to-date security that did nothing to keep them safe. The action is fast-paced, written like a why-dunit in a spectacularly mesmerizing style. With the narration switching between Jade and the kids who are hostages, then to Cam, trying to get the money for the bad guy, I just didn’t want to stop reading even to fulfill other obligations (like shopping for Christmas). The characterization was spot-on realistic, with the mother determined to save her children no matter the cost to herself and the father getting more and more desperate as the clock is running out on the deadline given by the hostage taker. My pulse was pounding each time the scene went to Jade since her children were priceless to her and the villain was stubbornly demanding, unwilling to even consider any kind of compromise. Surprisingly, by the end of the book, I was actually understanding the bad guy’s motives and even wanted him to get what he needed from his encounter with the Lasky family. Great characterization…could not have been better! This was a book that made me think “what if” and then my imagination went wild as I read. What a great book to escape into, with characters that I cheered for or yelled at as I read. Fans of domestic suspense will devour this book and be surprised at some of the twists that made the story move along quickly.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher via 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 Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

I would rate this book PG because of content. Some of the scenes between the family and the kidnapper are very intense and can be scary for younger, less mature readers.
About the author:Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of seven novels, including her latest, My Darling Husband (December 2021). Her third novel, The Marriage Lie, was a semifinalist in the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Mystery & Thriller, and a #1 e-book bestseller in the UK and Italy. She’s sold rights to her books in a dozen languages as well as film and television options. A graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.

Social Links:
Author website:
Facebook: @KimberlyBelleBooks
Twitter: @KimberlySBelle
Instagram: @kimberlysbelle

The digital version of the book releases TODAY! The paperback will release on March 8, 2022. Whatever version you choose to buy, don’t miss out on this book!

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I am very excited to be a part of the HTP BOOKS Mystery and Thriller Blog Tours! My favorite genre and some Best of the Year books for me!


This is a sweet and predictable romance, filled with family love and community relationships that stand the test of time. Miriam agrees to help Matthew recover from a serious accident, going to her neighbor’s house daily to assist him in his rehabilitation. Matthew is understandably bitter and angry about the accident that killed his brother and left him unable to move his legs. Miriam has her work cut out for her since she has to convince Matthew to have hope and his sister to allow her to do her job. The story moved at a quick pace and the characters were like beloved old friends, described well and giving a real heart to the story. In fact, I think that the characters made the story. The Amish traditions are included and are a welcome addition to the background of the plot. The themes are forgiveness and holding on to hope in spite of life’s lemons. I particularly enjoyed the humanity of the characters, their struggle with their daily lives and their close relationship to their family and friends. Fans of good Amish fiction will not want to miss this book. Although it is part of a series, I read it as a standalone and had no difficulty jumping right into the story.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the Harlequin via 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 Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Rated G for all audiences who love a good story with acceptable content and uplifting lessons.


“It takes time to come back from lying in bed,” Miriam said, as if she knew his thoughts. “I’ve heard a therapist say a week of exercise for every day in bed.” She’d moved closer, and as he tried again, she put her hand on the middle of his back, pressing.

He could feel how much easier that made it to pull up. And he could also feel the shape of her palm and the warmth of her skin through the thin cotton of his nightshirt. He looked at her, feeling that awareness move between them.

“Here, let me help.” Betsy charged in, inserting herself between him and Miriam.

Jealous? He couldn’t be sure.

“That’s right.” Miriam, unruffled, moved Betsy’s hand slightly. “Good. Now don’t push. Just use your hand for a little extra support. We want his muscles to work but not strain.”

“Yah, I see. I can feel it.” Betsy sounded pleased, her antagonism slipping away.

With the two of them behind him, he couldn’t see either of their faces. But he didn’t like the idea of them ganging up on him.

“Betsy, do we have any lemonade?”

“I don’t think so. Do you want some? I can make it.” All her eagerness to please him rushed back.

“We could all use some after we finish here, ain’t so? Why don’t you make a pitcher?”

“Right away.” She hurried off.

“Don’t worry about it.” Miriam seemed amused. “She’s still your willing servant.”

“That wasn’t the idea,” he said stiffly, his temper flaring that she could read him so easily. “In case you haven’t noticed, it makes her happy to do things for me.”

“I noticed.” She looped the handles back up over the bar and pulled down a pair of stretchy bands. “As long as she’s helping you to get stronger, I don’t object.”

“Stronger.” He almost spat out the word. “Stronger for what? None of this is going to do any good. It’s useless. I can’t be the person I was.”

She seemed unaffected by his anger. “We’ll never know that if you don’t try, will we?”

He glared at her for a long moment as

He glared at her for a long moment as a thought formed in his mind. He turned it over, looking at it from all angles. Would it work?

“I’ll tell you what,” he said. “I’ll make a deal with you.”

“What kind of a deal?” Miriam’s expression was cautious.

“I promise to do everything you say…to try my hardest…for a month. If I’m not much better by then, you agree to quit.”

Miriam stood very still, considering before she spoke. “I can’t speak for Tim. Just for myself.”

“Yah. Just for yourself.”

“Who’s going to decide whether or not you’re much better?” she said. “You?”

His jaw hardened. She wasn’t going to make this easy.

“No,” he said abruptly. “How about… Betsy?”

Her lips twitched. “Don’t you think Betsy has her own reasons for wanting to be rid of me?”

He raised one eyebrow, a gesture that used to attract the girls. “If you’re really making progress, you’ll have won her over by then. What’s wrong? Don’t you have any confidence in your work?”

She seemed to wince at that. After a long moment, she nodded. “All right. It’s a deal.”

About the Author:

Marta Perry realized she wanted to be a writer at age eight, when she read her first Nancy Drew novel. A lifetime spent in rural Pennsylvania and her own Pennsylvania Dutch roots led Marta to the books she writes now about the Amish. When she’s not writing, Marta is active in the life of her church and enjoys traveling and spending time with her three children and six beautiful grandchildren. Visit her online at

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Available on December 28, 2021!

Overjoyed to be a part of the Harlequin Winter Believer Tour!

Scriptures for Me Today (and maybe for you, too)

Unless you die young, we all face old age. I am so thankful for scripture verses that encourage me as my body struggles to do the things that used to come easily. Our pastor last week said that because of sin, death entered the world and that means the aging process (arthritis, diseases, aches, pains, etc.) began when Adam and Eve chose to disobey God. It is only through Christ that we overcome death. The final victory was His and He made it ours, too when He arose from that tomb!

Review of THE CHRISTMAS ESCAPE by Sarah Morgan

This is a sweet Christmas story set in the exotic wilderness of Lapland in Northern Sweden. Christy has planned a perfect holiday getaway with her family and her best friend Alix. But when marital problems derail her plans, Christy sends Alix along with Holly, Christy’s daughter, to Lapland to get the festivities started. There are two romances being worked out at the same time in this multi-layered book. One is that of Christy and her husband, both of whom sincerely love each other but who have encountered more than a few bumps in their relationship. The second is between Alix and Zac, a man that Alix is attracted to but for whom she also feels a deep enmity because of a prior problem with him. Together, Alix and Zac have to keep Holly entertained and happy without her parents there, so they tackle the challenge in good spirits. The entire book was written with a theme of underlying happiness and unresolved problems that I just knew would work out by the end of the book. The setting was described in such luscious detail that I felt as though I could see the Northern Lights and feel the bitterly cold wind against my cheeks. The relationships between the friends and the family members was well developed and realistic, if a little mysterious at first about what caused a rift between Christy’s mom and her Aunt Robyn, the owner of the snow spa in Lapland. I totally enjoyed delving into this book and getting to know the characters who became like friends to whom I was giving advice. I especially enjoyed the precocious little girl Holly, a darling child who sees everything with wonder and helped me to open my eyes to the beauty around me. A lovely Christmas story with themes of friendship and restoring relationships is a perfect tale to read during the holidays.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Harlequin via 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 Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Sweet and clean story, rated G
Author Bio:
USA Today bestselling author Sarah Morgan writes contemporary romance and women’s fiction. Her trademark humour and warmth have gained her fans across the globe and three RITA® Awards from the Romance Writers of America. Sarah lives with her family near London, England, where the rain frequently keeps her trapped in her office
Social Links:Author Website
Facebook: @AuthorSarahMorgan
Instagram: @sarahmorganwrites
Twitter: @SarahMorgan_

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Expect the Unexpected

Have you ever looked forward to something that you have planned and really, really can’t wait for it to happen? That was me last week. I have been in MD taking care of grandchildren for about six weeks now. I miss my comforts of home, my husband and my kitty terribly. But I knew that this season of my life would be ending in about three more weeks. My husband plans to come up for Christmas together here and then we would head home.

Sometimes what we plan doesn’t happen just as we plan it, but it doesn’t mean that God was caught by surprise or that He isn’t still in control. On Monday, my son told me that they have a glitch in their plan and wanted to know if I can stay another month. I tried hard not to show how I was feeling, but inside, my heart was racing and I was asking God, “Why, God? You know I miss Harry and home and was looking forward to going back, relaxing again, all of the things I normally do? Now, another month in MD?” When I spoke to my husband, he was dismayed but not surprised and he said that we would work it out so he can visit more often and I won’t feel so lonely. I have only seen him for four days in the last six weeks, but the future plan is for him to come for Christmas and then every other week until I can go home again. So, resignation as well as hope for the future is still in my heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the time that I have with my beloved grandchildren. They are precious, but they keep me oh, so busy and so tired at times. Their energy is boundless whereas mine is waning. But God knows all of that, too. He keeps reminding me that His strength is made perfect in my weakness and that I can do all things through Christ.

With that being said, here are some Scripture verses from my devotional today.

Praise God for the hope He puts into His Word!
This is a hard one, to be still when plans fall apart. But I’m learning.
This is one of the things that God has called me to do in this household. What a privilege it is to let HIS light shine through me to the members of this household, especially the children!
My prayer for each of you.

This is a season for me in which not much time is my own. Early in the morning, I do my devotions and I go downstairs for bed about 8 every night so that I can read and relax before falling asleep. Whatever minutes that are mine, I cherish because that is the time to re-boot, to re-charge and to wait on God to show me His truth and His will for me during these days of separation from what is familiar.

May God richly bless you during this holiday season and may each of us, separately and together, form a strong bond that reaches hands across the earth and binds us to each other and to the Lord.

Review of FIRST KISS AT CHRISTMAS by Lee Tobin McClain

This is part of a series and reading it made me want to go back and find the other books I have missed. Kayla Harris is a preschool teacher who has never been kissed. No, not kidding! Twenty five and never been kissed! She encounters Tony DiNunzio when he enrolls his nephew in her class. The little boy is precocious and suffering from being recently orphaned and in some ways is a center of the story. Kayla and Toni become allies in helping his nephew succeed and overcome fears and then they become friends and then…well, it’s predictable, but so much fun getting there. The story was entertaining and well-written, with just a hint of mystery and a lot of clean romance. My favorite scenes were at the holiday dance when Kayla reminded me of Cinderella, complete with an evil stepsister (actually just a former classmate) who has set her sights on Tony. The dialogue between Kayla and Tony is realistic, setting a tone of humor as well as a deep need to be understood and accepted. The themes of acceptance, forgiving others and yourself and looking forward to a brighter future are all uplifting and just what is needed for the upcoming holiday.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary copy of this book Harlequin via 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 Testimonials and Endorsements in Advertising.”

Clean Fiction, rated PG because of the death of a character’s sister

Author Bio:

Lee Tobin McClain is the bestselling author of more than thirty emotional, small-town romances described by Publishers Weekly as enthralling, intense, and heartfelt. A dog lover and proud mom, she often includes kids and animals in her books. When she’s not writing, she enjoys hiking with her goofy goldendoodle, chatting online with her writer friends, and admiring her daughter’s mastery of the latest TikTok dances.

Social Links:

Author Website

Facebook: @leetobinmcclain

Twitter: @LeeTobinMcClain


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Thanks to Harlequin Trade Paperbacks for including me in this Holiday Romance Blog Tour!