Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Nanny Needed by Georgina Cross @GCrossAuthor #psychological fiction #domesticthriller

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

It’s no surprise I have another psychological suspense novel to share. I tend to gobble these up like candy. A tip of the hat to Kim of By Hook or By Book for steering me toward this perfect beach read with her own review. Break out the popcorn for this one!

BOOK BLURB:

A young woman takes a job as a nanny for an impossibly wealthy family, thinking she’s found her entrée into a better life—only to discover instead she’s walked into a world of deception and dark secrets.

Nanny needed. Discretion is of the utmost importance. Special conditions apply.

When Sarah Larsen finds the notice, posted on creamy card stock in her building’s lobby, one glance at the exclusive address tells her she’s found her ticket out of a dead-end job—and life.

At the interview, the job seems like a dream come true: a glamorous penthouse apartment on the Upper West Side of NYC; a salary that adds several zeroes to her current income; the beautiful, worldly mother of her charge, who feels more like a friend than a potential boss. She’s overjoyed when they offer her the position and signs the NDA without a second thought.

In retrospect, the notice in her lobby was less an engraved invitation than a waving red flag. For there is something very strange about the Bird family. Why does the beautiful Mrs. Bird never leave the apartment alone? And what happened to the nanny before her? It soon becomes clear that the Birds’ odd behaviors are more than the eccentricities of the wealthy.

But by then it’s too late for Sarah to seek help. After all, discretion is of the utmost importance.

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group/ Ballantine / Bantam for my ARC of Nanny Needed.

What a twisty, clever domestic thriller! Sarah and her fiancé, Jonathan, are struggling to make ends meet when she happens upon a flyer advertising for a nanny. Although she has no experience, the position is too good to ignore—a fat, unbelievable salary and a swank luxury penthouse address as the place she’d be working, watching over Patty, a four-year-old girl. Once she applies, she hits it off with Patty’s mother Colette Bird, and soon finds herself hired.

What happens after that is a topsy-turvy roller coaster of events until the end. Many books promise “unbelievable twists” or “jaw-dropping conclusions” but this one delivers. The ending blew me away and left me rereading passages to soak in the enormity of it all. Some suspension of belief is required, but with this kind of book, you sit back, break out the popcorn, and enjoy.

The story plays out like a glossy soap-opera or a Lifetime movie. I liked that the chapters were short, constantly propelling the reader to flip pages. The writing is wonderfully descriptive yet not bogged down in excess prose. I loved the gilded extravagance that surrounds the Bird family and how Colette is portrayed. I want to say so much more about her, but it’s difficult without giving away spoilers.

If you enjoy domestic thrillers, psychological suspense, and flawed characters, Nanny Needed checks all the right boxes and then some. This is a story I could see myself reading over again for sheer enjoyment. It makes a great beach read or poolside escape!

RELEASE DATE IS 10/05/21 | PRE-ORDER FROM AMAZON

Fiction Book Reviews by Mae Clair: Her First Mistake by Carey Baldwin @CareyBaldwin, The End of Her by Shari Lapena @sharilapena #psychologicalfiction #domesticsuspense

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white blanket

Today’s reviews include a new-to-me author (and wow, did she nail it!) and an auto-buy author. If you’re a fan of psychological fiction, you’re going to love these. Extra good news—both are are available now, so no waiting to read them!

BOOK BLURB:

I never meant to hurt anyone. All I want is a normal life with friends to call my own. People rarely notice me. Like a ghost, I’m sometimes tempted to rattle a window to get their attention. But tonight isn’t one of those occasions.

Seated alone in an exclusive restaurant I stick out like a bruise on the tender white throat of a lily. And I cannot believe it when, on my way out, I bump into my colleagues having a great time without me. At the center of it all is Celeste Cooper with her shimmering auburn hair and her billion-watt smile. She’s everything that I am not: fearless, pretty, popular.

When she drops her keys, I can’t stop myself. I scoop them up on impulse and hide them in my purse… and now Celeste is missing.

If only I’d called out to her, returned her keys, as I should have.

Wracked with guilt, I join the search, determined to make up for my mistake. But I feel I’m being watched. Is the secret past I have so desperately tried to hide catching up with me?

I know I have to save Celeste, no matter the cost. But if I keep digging, do I risk being dragged back into the dark forever?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I was immediately sucked into this book from page one and couldn’t put it down until I finished it. I devoured it in a single day while reading poolside. If you enjoy psychological fiction this is a winner. 

Mia is a fade-into-the-background type of person who makes a bad judgement call when she childishly steals a pair of discarded keys. Celeste, the owner of the keys is a popular, attractive, social butterfly who hails from a wealthy family. When she doesn’t turn up the next day and is reported missing, Mia realizes she could be at fault for something dreadful happening to Celeste. If only she hadn’t taken her keys, Celeste wouldn’t have needed to walk home, making her a target for potential harm.

To atone for her mistake, Mia throws herself into the search for Celeste. In the process, she digs herself into a hole rife with trouble—including a suspicious detective, a potential stalker, an over-protective aunt, nosy reporters, and an odd and unexpected friendship with members of Celeste’s family. 

As with stories of this kind, there are plenty of twists to keep the reader guessing about what is really going on and who is responsible for the string of circumstances that build like dominoes. As conflicted as Mia is, I enjoyed her character, especially seeing her growth over the course of the book. She discovers steel she didn’t know she had, digging into her own psyche as much as struggling to discover what really happened to Celeste. The unraveling of that final plot thread brings shocking revelations and a satisfying conclusion. 

This is an easy read with quick chapters and a writing style that makes it easy to lose yourself in the pages. This is my first book by Carey Baldwin, but it definitely won’t be my last. A solid 5-stars from me.

BOOK BLURB:

A long-ago accident–and a visitor from out of the blue. . .

Stephanie and Patrick are adjusting to life with their colicky twin girls. The babies are a handful, but even as Stephanie struggles with the disorientation of sleep deprivation, there’s one thing she’s sure of: she has all she ever wanted.

Then Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past, appears and makes a disturbing accusation. Patrick had always said his first wife’s death was an accident, but now Erica claims it was murder.

Patrick insists he’s innocent, that this is nothing but a blackmail attempt. Still, Erica knows things about Patrick–things that make Stephanie begin to question her husband. Stephanie isn’t sure what, or who, to believe. As Stephanie’s trust in Patrick begins to falter, Patrick stands to lose everything. Is Patrick telling the truth–is Erica the persuasive liar Patrick says she is? Or has Stephanie made a terrible mistake?

How will it end?


MY REVIEW:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Stephanie and Patrick are parents of two young colicky babies, a situation that has exhausted them both. Even so, they’re managing, and their marriage is secure—at least until Erica, a woman from Patrick’s past shows up with disturbing allegations regarding the death of Patrick’s first wife.

Shari Lapena is one of my auto-buy authors. I especially loved her novels, An Uninvited Guest and The Couple Next Door. I found this book slow to get off the ground, but the deeper Erica forced her way into Stephanie and Patrick’s lives, the stronger the story became. The second half is especially good.

Throughout, it was easy to sympathize with Stephanie and feel her confusion on whether to put her faith in her husband or a stranger with entirely selfish motivations. As the story develops the reader gets a clearer grasp of Erica’s character and her past. The disruption she causes between Stephanie and Patrick takes multiple twists and turns. Lapena keeps the main mystery wrapped tightly until the final stages of the book which brought an ending I didn’t expect. So…slower at the start than I would expect from Lapena, but worth sticking with.

Book Reviews by Mae Clair: The Night She Disappeared by Kevin O’Brien #psychologicalthriller @KensingtonBooks

Striped kitten lying on open book, eyeglasses resting on pages. Book and kitten on white  blanket

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know I am a dyed-in-the-wool devoted fan of Kevin O’Brien. Time after time, he delivers page-turning releases. The Night She Disappeared is yet another unputdownable book from a master of domestic suspense and psychological thrillers.

BOOK BLURB:

For fans of Gone Girl and of Harlan Coben and Linwood Barclay’s domestic suspense—a gripping novel by New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kevin O’Brien, in which “the other woman” becomes the prime suspect when the wife goes missing.

Some nightmares you can’t forget

From the depths of sleep, Seattle TV reporter Anna Malone awakens to her phone ringing. She rarely drinks, and this hangover is brutal. Why can’t she shake the feeling that something terrible happened last night? And why can’t she recall any of it?
 
But even worse
What Anna does remember: an awkward restaurant meal with her married lover, Russ Knoll, and his unsuspecting wife, Courtney. Russ’s phone call reveals that Courtney is missing, and as days go by with no trace, he comes under police scrutiny. Anna’s in the spotlight too, thanks to a TV rival with a grudge. Anna’s not proud of her affair, but she and Russ aren’t bad people. They’re certainly not the killing kind.
 
Is the one you can’t remember . . .
Anna already suspected that Courtney—a successful, charming author—might have a darker side. Is she truly missing? Perhaps the sudden disturbances in Anna’s life aren’t accidental after all. But no scenario that Anna imagines can compare to the twisted game unfolding around her, one chilling piece at a time . . .

MY REVIEW:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Thank you to Kensington Books and NetGalley for my ARC. I am a long-time fan of Kevin O’Brien and think I’ve read nearly every book he’s written. When I saw The Night She Disappeared offered on NetGalley, I immediately requested it. Once again, O’Brien delivers a nail-biter, riddled with twists and turns that race to a stunning conclusion.

Anna Malone is a TV news reporter with a devoted local following. When she makes the mistake of becoming romantically involved with Dr. Russell Knoll, a married pediatrician, her life implodes.

Knoll is married to an up-and-coming author, beloved by the public. When Courtney Knoll vanishes under mysterious circumstances and Anna is unable to recall the events of the night, both she and Russ become suspects in his wife’s disappearance. Add in mysterious phone calls, a stalker, hypnotism, drug-addiction, and a rival reporter with a sensationalized “justice-style” TV program, and there are enough plot threads to spin a thoroughly riveting and complex web.

I waffled back and forth on the suspects in this book. At the end, I was right about one of them but not for the reasons I suspected. O’Brien definitely kept me second-guessing throughout, including not just who was responsible for Courtney’s disappearance, but also whether or not she was the person she presented herself to be. Another mystery–did she simply disappear or was there something more sinister involved?

I loved the use of Seattle landmarks and the “floating houses” where much of the action takes place. The lake setting made for a creepy environment, especially at night when Anna is in her house certain she is being watched. An excellent character, she is flawed in many respects, but as a reader it’s impossible not have sympathy for her despite the mistakes she makes. 

As with all of O’Brien’s stories, this is a page-turner from beginning to end. For anyone who enjoys mysteries with fully-fleshed out characters, tight plotting and suspense that hooks you into reading “just one more chapter” despite a late hour, I highly recommend The Night She Disappeared.

Release Date is July 27 | Pre-order at Amazon

The Vanished Boy by Harmony Kent @harmony_kent #mystery #suspense #bookreview

Yes, I know it’s a Monday and not my normal day for posting reviews, but I already had my Tuesday Book review post formatted and ready to go (I hope you’ll come back tomorrow to check out the selections), when I devoured The Vanished Boy in two days. Rather than waiting another week to share my review, I thought I’d post it today. This one gets an easy five stars. Congrats to my Story Empire colleague, Harmony, on delivering such an excellent novel!

BLURB:
It’s so remote out here. Anything could happen …

A missed phone call in the night is all it takes.

When Carole’s 18-year-old son goes missing, she breaks into Jayden’s laptop to try to understand his life.

All too soon, Carole discovers just how little she knew her boy.

And when one lead after another dead-ends, the distraught mother has to face the unthinkable.

Sucked into a sticky web of deceit and lies, nothing is as it seems.

When your life turns inside out and upside down, who would you trust?


MY REVIEW:
Harmony Kent delivers a powerhouse novel about a teen’s disappearance. Carole is a widow with an eighteen-year-old son. When Jayden fails to return home one evening, she discovers she missed a cryptic text he sent. Two words only: “I’m stuck.”  Those words propel her into a frantic search that begins with her delving into his life online. The police insist Jayden is an adult, and there’s not much they can do—at least not until time has passed. But Carole reacts with the anguish of a mother for her only child.  

As she begins to piece together Jayden’s life through online activity, she learns there is a side to her son she didn’t know about. A side that has led him into a dangerous situation. The more she delves, the more the tension mounts, clues unravelling a bit at a time, for a staggering revelation at the end. 

I had read this book in two days, flipping pages well into the night. The story is well-plotted with a thoroughly satisfying wrap. If you enjoy psychological fiction and domestic suspense, this is engrossing story with a plot highly relevant to current times. 

5 STARS

I’ve read several of Harmony’s books. She always delivers an exceptional tale, but she really scored a home run with this one. If you’re a non U.S. reader, you can find The Vanished Boy at this LINK.

That’s it for me today, but please come back tomorrow when I’ve got two more excellent novels to share. I’ve also got a Book Spotlight coming up on Wednesday, and a guest author on Thursday, so it is going to be a busy week on The Pen of Mae Clair. 🙂