Spotlight on: Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

 

Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey

St. Martin’s Griffin;  August 21, 2018

Description:  

Emma Grace Townsend. Five years old. Gray eyes. Brown hair. Missing since June.

Emma Townsend is lonely. Living with her cruel mother and clueless father, Emma retreats into her own world of quiet and solitude.

Sarah Walker. Successful entrepreneur. Broken-hearted. Abandoned by her mother. Kidnapper.

Sarah has never seen a girl so precious as the gray-eyed child in a crowded airport terminal—and when a second-chance encounter with Emma presents itself, Sarah takes her, far away from home. But if it’s to rescue a little girl from her damaging mother, is kidnapping wrong?

Amy Townsend. Unhappy wife. Unfit mother. Unsure she wants her daughter back.

Amy’s life is a string of disappointments, but her biggest issue is her inability to connect with her daughter. And now she’s gone without a trace.

As Sarah and Emma avoid the nationwide hunt, they form an unshakeable bond. But her real mother is at home, waiting for her to return—and the longer the search for Emma continues, Amy is forced to question if she really wants her back.

Emotionally powerful and wire-taut, Not Her Daughter raises the question of what it means to be a mother—and how far someone will go to keep a child safe.


About the author:

Rea Frey is an award-winning author of four nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. NOT HER DAUGHTER is her debut novel.

Read more at:

reafrey.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/reafrey_author?lang=en

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/reafrey/

photo credit:  Alex Holguin


 

Praise for NOT HER DAUGHTER:

Not Her Daughter is a cleverly constructed novel that will have you questioning everything you believe about right or wrong. Frey skillfully tangles you up in these two women’s lives and never lets up on the tension all the way until the dramatic conclusion. A remarkable portrayal of motherhood, in all its beautiful glory and heart-wrenching despair.” —New York Times bestselling author Chevy Stevens

“In Not Her Daughter, Frey pulls off a difficult task: balancing a nail-biting plot with a thought-provoking question — is a crime committed with the best intentions still a crime? A chilling, powerful tale of love and sacrifice, of truth and perception, Not Her Daughter will make you miss your bedtime, guaranteed. A stunning debut.” —Kimberly Belle, Internationally Bestselling Author of The Marriage Lie

“NOT HER DAUGHTER is a deft and beautifully written examination of taboo maternal fantasies: Can a kidnapping ever be justified? Can motherhood be undone?  Engrossing and suspenseful, Frey writes her characters with depth and compassion, challenging readers to question their own code of ethics.”  —Zoje Stage, author of Baby Teeth

I couldn’t put Rea Frey’s NOT HER DAUGHTER down, and once finished, couldn’t let it go.  So much more than an engrossingly suspenseful novel, it’s a thoughtful exploration on the extremes to which motherhood and love and loss can drive us.  An amazing debut.” —Christina Kovac, author of The Cutaway

“Women who do not embrace motherhood or “bad mothers” are a taboo subject — in both real life and fiction — but Frey tackles it with aplomb in her taut debut, NOT HER DAUGHTER. The story begs the question: who is more mother — the one who gives birth or the one who rescues? The plot twists here are brave, the themes are both poignant and unsettling, and the resolution is deeply resonant. A page-turner with heart!” – New York Times bestselling author Kate Moretti

Harrowing and heartfeltNot Her Daughter is a gripping novel about the amazing power of mother love.” —Rebecca Drake, author of Just Between Us

A compelling mix of high wire tension and superb writing. Not Her Daughter will linger in the memory long after the final page has been turned. “—Laura Elliot, author of Guilty, Sleep Sister, and The Betrayal

“Tightly paced and impossible to put downNot Her Daughter is a cleverly written story that challenges what it means to be a mother—or not to be one. A thought-provoking and poignant debut.” —Clarissa Goenawan, author of Rainbirds

Not Her Daughter is an interesting and emotional debut about women stuck in lives they never wanted and the desperate decisions they’ll make to get out. Certain to keep readers turning pages and guessing as to who the real villain is.”—Cate Holahan, USA Today Bestselling Author of The Widower’s Wife and Lies She Told


 

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Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

  • Title:  Not That I Could Tell
  • Author:  Jessica Strawser
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  320
  • Publication date:  March 27, 2018 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher, NetGalley

Description:  An innocent night of fun takes a shocking turn in Not That I Could Tell, the next page-turner from Jessica Strawser.

When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.  (publisher)

My take:  It’s a mystery to her neighbors what exactly happened to Kristin and her young twins. The night before all the neighbor women were enjoying a rare night “out” around a backyard fire-pit and the next day Kristin and her kids had disappeared. Each woman will examine her own version of what transpired as they, along with the local PD, try to solve the mystery.

The background of each neighbor is examined. This sometimes had me hoping the pace would step up a bit but the author held it steady as the plot unfolded. There were times, interactions at the local school – to name one, when I laughed. Relatable kernels of real life I guess. It really seemed like more of a character study for most of the novel until things revved up near the end. I’m ok with that and smiled as I turned the last page. I enjoyed Jessica Strawser’s style of telling her story and look forward to her next novel.


 

Bel, Book and Scandal by Maggie McConnon

  • Title:  Bel, Book and Scandal
  • Series: Belfast McGrath Mystery #3
  • Author:  Maggie McConnon
  • Genre:  Cozy Mystery
  • Pages:  320
  • Published:  December 2017 – St. Martin’s Paperbacks
  • Source:  Publisher; NetGalley

Description:  Maggie McConnon rings in Christmas in Bel, Book, and Scandal, the third adventure for everybody’s favorite Irish-American culinary artist turned amateur sleuth.

Bel McGrath tries her best to keep herself on the straight and narrow but she just has a taste for trouble. This time danger arrives in the form of a newspaper left behind by visitors to Shamrock Manor—and a photograph that jolts Bel out of the present and back into a dark chapter from her past. The person in the photo is Bel’s best friend Amy Mitchell, long gone from Foster’s Landing, at a commune in upstate New York shortly after her disappearance. The picture, and Bel’s burning desire to find out what happened to Amy—and whether she may still be alive—is the catalyst for a story in which old secrets are revealed, little by little…and certain characters are shown to not be as genuine as Bel once thought. (publisher)

My take:  Belfast McGrath is a chef who left her last gig in disgrace and returned home to work for her parents at Shamrock Manor, cooking for weddings and other events. Being back in the place where she grew up is a challenge rife with memories both good and bad. After a meeting with a prospective client Bel finds a newspaper the client left behind that has a startling photo – Bel’s best friend who was thought to have died now appears to be very much alive. This starts amateur sleuth Bel on a search for her friend.

Maggie McConnon’s mystery was entertaining but not in a laugh out loud way (although I did occasionally). I loved her characters – Bel’s parents and brothers were funny in the same way we may see our own family members as funny, quirky, odd.  In addition to her family were assorted towns-people, old boyfriends, new friends. They all added to my enjoyment and any of them could have been a red herring. I didn’t figure out whodunit until close to the end – and then I wasn’t sure!

Bel, Book and Scandal is the third book in the Belfast McGrath series. I haven’t read the first two but didn’t feel lost because McConnon did a good job of bringing me up to speed in the opening chapters. Recommended to fans of the series and the cozy mystery genre.


About the author:

MAGGIE MCCONNON grew up in New York immersed in Irish culture and tradition. A former Irish stepdancer, she was surrounded by a family of Irish musicians who still play at family gatherings. She credits her Irish grandparents with providing the stories of their homeland and their extended families as the basis for the stories she tells in her Belfast McGrath novels, beginning with Wedding Bel Blues.

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A Season to Lie by Emily Littlejohn

  • Title:  A Season To Lie
  • Author:  Emily LIttlejohn
  • Series:  Detective Gemma Monroe #2
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  336
  • Published:  November 2017 – Minotaur Books
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  On a cold dark night in February, as a blizzard shrieks through Cedar Valley, police officer and new mother Gemma Monroe responds to an anonymous report of a prowler at the local private high school, The Valley Academy. In her idyllic Colorado small town, Gemma expects the call was just a prank by a bored teenager.

But there in the snow lies the savaged body of a man whose presence in town was meant to be a secret. And a disturbing message left by his killer promises more death to come.

This is only the beginning . . .

Nothing is as it seems in Cedar Valley and stories, both fact and fiction, ensnare Gemma as her investigation moves from the halls of an elite academy to the forests that surround Cedar Valley.

Against a backdrop of bleak winter weather, stymied by those who would lie to protect what is dearest to them, Gemma hunts a ruthless killer before he strikes again in A Season to Lie.  (publisher)

My take:  Gemma Monroe, just returned from maternity leave, is very happy to be back at work at the Cedar Valley, CO police department. Her plan to ease back into a doable work schedule takes a turn when the body of a famous author is found at the town’s prestigious academy – in the middle of a blizzard. Tracking down the murderer will take up most of her time and energy. It doesn’t help that her boyfriend (and father of her child) is feeling a little stir-crazy being at home full-time. She’s feeling pressure from all sides.

I got a good sense of Gemma and her co-workers, family and other assorted characters despite jumping into the series on book 2. I enjoyed Emily Littlejohn’s style of telling a story and how she developed her characters. I liked what I read of the small Colorado, B-list ski town and want to learn more about it and the people who live there.  No shortage of red-herrings there and I thought any of them were plausible. That explains why I wasn’t shocked when Gemma discovered the murderer. There were a few loose threads involving those red herrings at the end of the novel that I hope will be carried into the next book in the series.


 

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

  • Title:  Best Day Ever
  • Author:  Kaira Rouda
  • Genre:  Mystery; Thriller
  • Pages:  384
  • Published:  September 2017 – Graydon House
  • Source:  Publisher; Wunderkind PR

Description:  Paul Strom has the perfect life: a glittering career as an advertising executive, a beautiful wife, two healthy boys and a big house in a wealthy suburb. And he’s the perfect husband: breadwinner, protector, provider. That’s why he’s planned a romantic weekend for his wife, Mia, at their lake house, just the two of them. And he’s promised today will be the best day ever.

But as Paul and Mia drive out of the city and toward the countryside, a spike of tension begins to wedge itself between them and doubts start to arise. How much do they trust each other? And how perfect is their marriage, or any marriage, really?

Forcing us to ask ourselves just how well we know those who are closest to us, Best Day Ever crackles with dark energy, spinning ever tighter toward its shocking conclusion. In the bestselling, page-turning vein of The Couple Next Door and The Dinner, Kaira Rouda weaves a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage…or a life. (publisher)

My take:  Paul is a confident and successful man. He has life figured out and knows he deserves all he has, and more. He’s planned a weekend away with his wife, Mia. She needs a nice getaway – she’s been sick lately with a mystery illness that countless doctors haven’t been able to figure out. He’s certain this vacation is exactly what she needs. It will all start with the best day ever. But what happens when Paul’s plan doesn’t go the way he intends? Kaira Rouda’s novel takes the reader inside the mind of Paul. It’s creepy and disturbing and yet I couldn’t stop reading. I had an idea where everything was heading – and I was right. It was a departure from my usual reads and I enjoyed it. I loved discovering the significance of the eye-catching cover as well. Yes, a creepy good afternoon of reading about someone’s best day ever.


 Check out my Spotlight post for more information about BEST DAY EVER


The Trust by Ronald H. Balson

  • Title:  The Trust
  • Author:  Ronald H. Balson
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  368
  • Published:  September 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  The newest novel from Ronald H. Balson, the international bestselling author of Once We Were Brothers, finds private investigator Liam Taggart returning to his childhood home for an uncle’s funeral, only to discover his death might not have been natural.

When his uncle dies, Liam Taggart reluctantly returns to his childhood home in Northern Ireland for the funeral—a home he left years ago after a bitter confrontation with his family, never to look back. But when he arrives, Liam learns that not only was his uncle shot to death, but that he’d anticipated his own murder: In an astonishing last will and testament, Uncle Fergus has left his entire estate to a secret trust, directing that no distributions be made to any person until the killer is found. Did Fergus know, but refuse to name, his killer? Was this a crime of revenge, a vendetta leftover from Northern Ireland’s bloody sectarian war? After all, the Taggarts were deeply involved in the IRA. Or is it possible that the killer is a family member seeking Fergus’s estate? Otherwise, why postpone distributions to the heirs? Most menacingly, does the killer now have his sights on other family members?

As his investigation draws Liam farther and farther into the past he has abandoned, he realizes he is forced to reopen doors long ago shut and locked. Now, accepting the appointment as sole trustee of the Fergus Taggart Trust, Liam realizes he has stepped into the center of a firestorm. (publisher)

My take:  Liam Taggart gets more than he bargained for when he returns to Northern Ireland for his beloved uncle’s funeral. He accepts the request to act as trustee for the estate, much to his relatives’ dismay. He will have to untangle a knot of family secrets, old grudges (both political and familial), and nefarious activities before he can return to life with his wife and young son in Chicago.

Ronald H. Balson’s story was interesting and grew in intensity with each chapter building to an exciting climax that was cinematic in scope. The setting and historical circumstances were intriguing as were the characters. I grew quite fond of Inspector McLaughlin and Officer Megan Dooley. I enjoyed this legal thriller and look forward to reading more of Balson’s novels.


About the author:

RONALD H. BALSON is a Chicago trial attorney, an educator and writer. His practice has taken him to several international venues. He is also the author of Karolina’s Twins, Saving Sophie and the international bestseller Once We Were Brothers.

 

 

Praise for Ronald H. Balson:

“A heart-wrenching…triumphant story.” —The Chicago Tribune on Karolina’s Twins

“Secrets, friendships, survival, and the Holocaust are woven together in Ronald H. Balson’s haunting Karolina’s Twins.”—Family Circle on Karolina’s Twins

“A new look at an old story…will stay with you long after you have finished it.” —The Huffington Post on Once We Were Brothers

“Uplifting and moving, intelligently written…an unusual insight into human character.” —Library Journal, starred review on Once We Were Brothers

 “A page-turning read filled with despair and anger but with hope, love, and humanity at its core.” —Jewish Book Council on Saving Sophie


Best Intentions by Erika Raskin plus US Giveaway

  • Title:  Best Intentions
  • Author:  Erika Raskin
  • Genre:  Mystery
  • Pages:  288
  • Published:  August 2017 – St. Martin’s Press
  • Source:  Publisher

Description:  Marti Trailor is a mother of three, a New York congressman’s daughter, and wife to a successful obstetrician. Tired of playing the dutiful stay-at-home mom, she jumps at the opportunity to return to her stalled career as a hospital social worker. The catch? The job is at the same hospital where her husband works, and the doctor is not so keen.

As Marti gets enmeshed in the world of the hospital—long hours, overworked doctors, entrenched and dangerous politics—she witnesses something that she cannot unsee. Marti takes it upon herself to do the right thing. But the right thing comes with unintended consequences, and before she even has time to plead innocence, Marti finds herself thrust under a dangerous spotlight.

Peeling back the layers of one woman’s precipitous journey from stay-at-home mom to murder trial defendant, Best Intentions is Erika Raskin’s sophomore gem, a domestic mystery set against a captivating emotional backdrop. (publisher)

My take:  Marti is the beleaguered wife of a successful doctor in Richmond. She is almost single-handedly raising their three children and is getting kind of fed up with the whole deal. When she’s offered a job in her chosen profession of social worker at the same hospital where her husband works, she grabs it. He’s less than thrilled but knows better than to try to change her decision. When something happens at the hospital to one of Marti’s clients her life is turned upside down and she finds herself facing a murder charge.

I thought this whodunit was okay but I had a few quibbles:  pacing – it didn’t take off for me until almost half-way in; Marti’s snarky (mostly) inner dialogue got old fast; there are a lot of stereotypes in this novel. Even though I had a good idea of what happened I wanted to see how Erika Raskin wrapped it all up – and I thought she did a decent job. Fans of a mysteries that involve hospital politics, social work, and the law might want to give Best Intentions a try.


About the author:

Erika Raskin’s debut novel, Close, was nominated for a Teen Choice Book of the Year award. Her work has appeared on public radio and publications including The Washington Post, Salon, and Washingtonian Magazine. She was a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and a panelist at the Virginia Festival of the Book.


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