Blog Tour: You Will Remember Me By Hannah Mary McKinnon

Thank you to Mira Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also kindly provided all info and graphics.

YOU WILL REMEMBER ME

Author: Hannah Mary McKinnon

ISBN: 9780778331810

Publication Date: May 25, 2021

Publisher: MIRA Books

Book Summary:

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland, wearing only swim trunks and a gash on his head. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth raises more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Review

This brilliantly told story starts off slow and builds to an unbelievable ending. I was utterly captivated by our three narrators and astounded by this insidious story that McKinnon created. When the book first started I thought this was going to be a familiar domestic mystery tale filled with deceit and unreliable narrators. Which this book does have but it does it in such a devious and unexpected way that I was hooked pretty early on. Jack’s amnesia really propels this story forward as we try to figure out who exactly he is since he doesn’t even know the kind of person he is. Maya and Lily both have a stake in Jack recovering his memories and as things are slowly revealed the story becomes so much more than it appears. Any lover of domestic mysteries or mysteries will appreciate McKinnon’s spin on the familiar tropes.

Author Bio: 

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors, Her Secret Son, and Sister Dear. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

Social Links:

Author Website

Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon

Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon

Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon

Goodreads

Excerpt

Chapter 1—The Man from the Beach 

Cold. Cold was the first word that came to mind. The first thing I noticed when I woke up. Not a slight, uncomfortable chill to give me the shivers, but a cramp-inducing, iced-to-the-bone kind of frozen. I lay flat on my stomach, my left ear and cheek pressed into the rough, grainy wet ground beneath me, my entire body shaking. As my thoughts attempted to assemble themselves into some form of understandable order, a wave of icy water nipped at my bare toes and ankles, my instincts pulling my feet out of reach. 

I had a sudden urge to get up, a primal need to take in my surroundings and assess the danger—was I in danger?—but the throbbing pain deep in my head made the slightest effort to shift anything seem impossible. Lifting a finger would be too much effort, and I acquiesced, allowing myself to lie still for another few freezing seconds as the frigid water crept over the balls of my feet again. When I blinked my eyes open, I was met by a thick, fuzzy darkness enveloping me like a cloak. Where the hell was I? And wherever it was, what was I doing here? 

When I lifted my head a fraction of an inch, I could barely make out anything in front of me. There was hardly a noise either, nothing but a gentle, steady rumble in the background, and the cry of a bird somewhere in the distance. I made my brain work its way backward—bird, rumble, sand, water—and the quartet formed the vaguely cohesive image of a beach. 

Searching for confirmation, I inhaled the salty, humid air deep into my lungs as another slosh of water took aim at my calves. This time the discomfort was enough to push me to my feet, and I wrapped my arms around my naked torso, my sopping board shorts clinging to my goose-bump-covered thighs. An explosion of pain in my head threatened to send me back to my knees, and I swayed gently, wishing I had something to steady myself with, willing my body to stay upright. As I pressed a hand to the side of my skull, I let out a quiet yelp, and felt along a two-inch gash in my scalp. My eyes had adjusted somewhat to the lack of light, and my fingertips were covered in something dark that smelled of rust. Blood. How had I…? 

Another low rumble made me turn around, shuffling slowly in a semicircle. The behemoth effort was rewarded by the sight of a thousand glistening waves dancing under the moonlight like diamonds, the water stretching out and disappearing into the darkness beyond. As my ears tuned in to the rhythmic whoosh of the waves, my mind worked hard to process each scrap of information it took in. 

I’m definitely on a beach. It’s nighttime. I’m alone. What am I doing here? 

Before I could answer the single question, a thousand others crowded my brain, an incessant string of chatter I couldn’t stop or get away from. 

Where is everyone? Never mind them, where am I? Have I been here long? How did I get here? Where was I before? Where are my clothes? What day is it? 

My legs buckled. Not because of the unfamiliar surroundings, the cold burrowing its way deeper into my core, or the pain in my head, which had increased tenfold. No. My knees hit the sand with a dull crunch when I realized I couldn’t answer any of the questions because I couldn’t recall anything. Nothing. Not the tiniest of details.

Including my name.

Chapter 2—Lily 

A frown settled over my face as I put my phone on the table, pushed the bowl of unfinished berry oatmeal away and stretched out my legs. It was Saturday morning, and I’d been up for ages, too eager—too hopeful—to spend a day at the beach with Jack, but those plans had been a literal wash-out. The start to the summer felt capricious, with this second storm in the last week of June poised to be much worse than the first. I’d convinced myself the weatherwoman had exaggerated or got her forecast completely wrong, but clouds had rolled in overnight anyway. As a result, I’d been unceremoniously woken up at two thirty by a trio of bright lightning, deafening thunderclaps and heavy raindrops pelting against my bedroom window. 

At first, I’d pulled my pillow over my head to deafen the noise, and when that didn’t work, I rolled over and stretched out an arm. The spot next to me was empty and cold, and I groaned. Jack hadn’t come over to my place as I’d hoped he would, slipping into bed and pressing his naked body against mine. I’d buried my face back into my pillow and tried to ignore the tinge of disappointment. We hadn’t seen much of each other this past week, both of us too busy with our jobs to spend more than a night together, and I missed him. Jack had called the day before to tell me he’d be working late, finishing the stain on the cabinets he’d labored on for weeks before his boss had to let him go. Apparently expensive custom kitchens weren’t in as high demand in Brookmount, Maryland as originally thought. 

“But you got laid off,” I’d said. “It’s your last day. Why do you care?” 

“Because I made a commitment. Besides, it’ll help when I need a reference.” 

Typical Jack, always keeping his word. He’d bought a lottery ticket once, and the clerk had jokingly asked if he’d give him half of any winnings. Jack had laughed and shaken the man’s hand, and when he won ten bucks on the ticket, had promptly returned to the store, and paid over the share as promised. His loyalty was one of the many things I loved about Jack, although part of me wished he weren’t quite as dedicated to his soon-to-be ex-boss. 

“You could come over to my place when you’re done,” I said, smiling slowly. “I’ll leave the key under the umbrella stand. I don’t mind you waking me up gently in the middle of the night…or not so gently.” 

Jack laughed softly. The sound was something I’d fallen in love with eighteen months ago after our eyes had met across a crowded bar, the mother of all uninspired first-encounter clichés, except in this case I’d been forced to admit clichés weren’t always a bad thing. 

“It’ll be really late, Lily,” he said, his voice deep. His English accent was something of a rarity in our small coastal town, and still capable of making my legs wobble in anticipation of his next words. “I’ll go for a quick swim now, then finish up work. How about I come over in the morning? Around nine? I’ll bring you breakfast in bed.” 

“Blueberry pancakes from Patti’s? With extra maple syrup?” 

“This time I’ll order three stacks to make sure I get some.” 

“Pancakes or sex?” I said, before telling him how much I loved him, and whispering exactly how I’d thank him for waking me with sweet weekend treats. I’d hoped it might change his mind and he’d come over earlier, except it was ten now, and he still hadn’t showed. It was odd. Jack detested being late as much as he loved being early. He often joked they set Greenwich Mean Time by his father’s old watch, which Jack had worn since his dad passed a little over a decade before we’d met, when Jack was only twenty.

I checked my phone again. Jack hadn’t answered either of my calls, another anomaly, but I tried to talk myself into believing he’d worked late into the night to make the final good impression he wanted, and overslept. Maybe there was a line at Patti’s—the restaurant was slammed every weekend—and perhaps his phone was set to silent. 

I picked up my bowl and wandered to the kitchen. My place was the smallest of six apartments, a tiny but well-maintained one-bedroom in a building a few miles from the beach, farther than I’d planned, but the closest I could afford. I’d lived there for almost five years, had furnished it with an eclectic assortment of third-hand furniture, my favorite piece a royal blue microfiber sofa I’d bought for fifty bucks, and which Jack swore was the most comfortable thing he’d ever sat on. Whenever he sank down into it and pulled me on top of him with a contented sigh, I’d tease him about what made him happier; the squishy, well-worn cushions, or me. 

The image made my frown deepen. Where was he?

Excerpted from You Will Remember Me by Hannah Mary McKinnon, Copyright © 2021 by Hannah McKinnon. Published by MIRA Books

~Cassie

His & Hers By Alice Feeney

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Publication Date: July 28, 2020

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 320

Genre: Thriller, Domestic thriller, Mystery

Rating: 4/5

His & Hers is a twisty tale filled with unreliable narrators with lots of secrets and an explosive ending. A woman is found murdered in the woods and we follow one of the detectives, Jack, and news reporter, Anna, as they are sucked into the investigation. As the story unfolds we also get flashbacks to when the characters were teenagers and we learn how the events from their past are related to what is happening currently.

We follow three narrators, Anna, Jack, and the killer which makes for a very interesting and enthralling read. There are constant reveals as the story is being told which makes it hard to put down. I had no clue as I was reading what was going to happen next. I did guess who the killer about half way through but that didn’t hamper my enjoyment at all. The beauty of this story is the way everything is slowly unraveled. I loved the back and forth way of telling the story primarily through Jack and Anna.

None of the characters are particularly likable which I think works because everyone that we meet in the story is suspicious. It does have the tired trope of an alcoholic British woman but I think Anna’s character is done in a way that it makes sense. This whole story takes place in two days which helps keep the pace of the book at a steady pace. I wasn’t a fan of how the flashbacks would happen seemingly out of nowhere. I would have preferred them to get their own chapter to help keep the format of the story consistent. However, the flashbacks not only (eventually) gave us the whole picture but they also served as a sort of foreshadowing of what was to come in the present storyline. There are a few trigger warnings though for things like sexual assault, rape, and the torture and mutilation of cats so please be aware of that.

Alice Feeney is the queen of the unreliable narrator and this book is no exception. This book does require some suspension of belief at certain points but overall Feeney does a great job of entertaining the reader. If you love domestic thrillers then this is one that I think you will really enjoy. It is getting to be that time of year where we are spending a lot of time outdoors and His & Hers would be a great one to throw into your bag and get lost into the world of Jack and Anna while you are at the pool/beach.

~Cassie

Tell No Lies By Allison Brennan

Thank you to MIRA for providing me with an ARC for this book in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher: MIRA

Publication Date: March 30, 2021

Pages: 432

Genre: Mystery, Crime

Rating: 4/5

Tell No Lies is Brennan’s second book in her Quinn and Costa series and where the first book in the series followed a serial killer, this book tackles a far more complex case involving environmental issues, drug and human trafficking among other legal issues. This book is very detailed and thorough which can make the story dense but I really enjoyed it because it felt like I was solving an authentic case with Matt Costa and his team.

Speaking of Costa and his team, I think this second book did a great job of incorporating more of the team and letting the reader get to know them better. Since the series is named after Kate Quinn and Matt Costa we know that they are going to be our primary focus but this book actually did a great job of spreading the story around to all the different team members. Both Detective Quinn and Agent Harris are working undercover for this case and that element was another brilliant choice by Brennan because we could authentically “see” what was happening from all aspects of the case.

Tell No Lies is like watching a movie or tv show come to life before your eyes which is a real testament to Brennan’s impeccable writing. Her attention to all the minute details is truly impressive and I admire her dedication to getting it all right. This book deals with some relevant and tough topics and some of it can be difficult to read, especially when it comes to the human trafficking aspect.

If you love crime procedurals then you will absolutely love this book. If you enjoy true crime then I also think this would be a great book to pick up because of how authentic it feels. You do have to put some time into watching the case slowly unfold which I don’t think every reader is going to want to do but I will link my blog tour post here for this book so you can check out the prologue of the story to see if you are interested in reading more.

~Cassie

Click here for my review of the first book in this series, Third to Die.

Changeling (Six Stories #3) By Matt Wesolowski

*This review contains minor spoilers.

Publication Date: November 15, 2018

Publisher: Orenda Books

Pages: 320

Genre: Mystery

Rating: 5/5

This is the third installment (or episode) of my favorite podcast mystery series. Changeling is an emotional and gripping read about a child who went missing 30 years ago. The six stories series follows the format of having six podcast episodes (or chapters) where the listener/reader gets to hear from a different person who has a different insight or perspective on the mystery each book is trying to solve. Changeling tackles the difficult topic of gaslighting and abuse of all kinds while trying to figure what exactly happened to 7 year old Alfie on Christmas Eve in 1988.

In between each podcast “episode” we also follow along with our podcast host, Scott King, as he is doing some further investigation into the disappearance of Alfie. I really enjoyed the importance and the weight his private investigating had on the case and the story as a whole. Wesolowski does such an incredible job writing these podcast stories that I am immediately gripped from the first couple of pages so much that I don’t want to put them down. The further we got into the disappearance of Alfie the more emotional and horrific the story ended up being that I actually shed a few tears. This book is not an easy read and Wesolowski doesn’t shy away at all from showing the reality of what an abuser can do. While the story is difficult at times to read it is also incredibly important for people to see how insidious abuse can be.

I know this is a relatively vague review but I really think it is best just to go into this book expecting a hard hitting mystery about a missing child so you can see the story unfold before you. I don’t necessarily think you need to read the first two books in the series to read this one. They are both great reads that I recommend but if Changeling sounds like something that you are interested in then you can definitely read this one and then go back and read the first two. I own the next two book in this series and I will for sure be reading at least the next book in April because I am blown away by how talented Wesolowski is and I can’t wait to see what he does next time.

~Cassie

March Mystery Madness TBR

I wasn’t planning on adding another readathon to my March tbr but I love mystery books so much and I really want to add some more to my TBR. I’m lucky too because a lot of my books that I had already put on my TBR will fit this readathon and I used some ARC’s to fill out most of the other prompts. I know I just talked about The Bookish Knitter yesterday because she was one of the original creators of the Clue Game tag and she also happens to be a cohost for this readathon. There are a lot of cohosts for this readathon but since is the one that I learned about it from I will link her video here. All the prompts for this readathon relate to the TITLE (hence Title-rific Twenty Twenty One) of the mystery/thriller book which made this a fun TBR to put together.

Single

I have read and absolutely loved the first two books in this series and I’m so excited to finally be getting to this one.

On Christmas Eve in 1988, seven-year-old Alfie Marsden vanished in the Wentshire Forest Pass, when a burst tyre forced his father, Sorrel, to stop the car. Leaving the car to summon the emergency services, Sorrel returned to find his son gone. No trace of the child, nor his remains, have ever been found. Alfie Marsden was declared officially dead in 1995.
Elusive online journalist, Scott King, whose ‘Six Stories’ podcasts have become an internet sensation, investigates the disappearance, interviewing six witnesses, including Sorrel, his son and his ex-partner, to try to find out what really happened that fateful night. He takes a journey through the trees of the Wentshire Forest – a place synonymous with strange sightings, and tales of hidden folk who dwell there. He talks to a company that tried and failed to build a development in the forest, and a psychic who claims to know where Alfie is…
Intensely dark, deeply chilling and searingly thought provoking, Changeling is an up-to-the-minute, startling thriller, taking you to places you will never, ever forget.

Number

This comes out August 21, 2021

Molly Pink and the Tarzana Hookers must unwind a fiendish skein in national bestselling author Betty Hechtman’s fourteenth Crochet mystery. 

These are the dog days of August, but you won’t catch the Tarzana Hookers crochet club napping. While Molly Pink knits together an idea for a new project, Miami Wilson busily converts a house she inherited into a rental property. But Miami is left shorthanded when Sloan Renner, the woman helping her clean out the house ends up dead under a pile of smelly seafood.
A large drone had flown over the property discarding mollusk shells all over the backyard. Was it an accident? An ill-fated prank by neighbors up in arms about a rental house in their cul-de-sac? Witnesses clam up when Molly’s ex, homicide detective Barry Greenberg, tries to get information, but he thinks Molly may be able to get them to open up to her.
When Molly learns about Sloan’s seafood allergy, she suspects that the woman’s death was no accident. Can she bait the hook to catch the culprit, or will the killer keep raising shell?

Person

This comes out March 16 in the U.S. but it is already out in the U.K. I have already started reading this and I’m 6% through and hooked!

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery… 

When body parts are found on the banks of the River Thames in Deptford, DI Angelica Henley is tasked with finding the killer. Eerie echoes of previous crimes lead Henley to question Peter Olivier, aka The Jigsaw Killer, who is currently serving a life sentence for a series of horrific murders. 

When a severed head is delivered to Henley’s home, she realises that the copycat is taking a personal interest in her and that the victims have not been chosen at random. 

To catch the killer, Henley must confront her own demons – – and when Olivier escapes from prison, she finds herself up against not one serial killer, but two.

Place

This comes out July 13, 2021

We had no warning that she’d come back.

Hollow’s Edge used to be a quiet place. A private and idyllic neighborhood where neighbors dropped in on neighbors, celebrated graduation and holiday parties together, and looked out for one another. But then came the murder of Brandon and Fiona Truett. A year and a half later, Hollow’s Edge is simmering. The residents are trapped, unable to sell their homes, confronted daily by the empty Truett house, and suffocated by their trial testimonies that implicated one of their own. Ruby Fletcher. And now, Ruby’s back.

With her conviction overturned, Ruby waltzes right back to Hollow’s Edge, and into the home she once shared with Harper Nash. Harper, five years older, has always treated Ruby like a wayward younger sister. But now she’s terrified. What possible good could come of Ruby returning to the scene of the crime? And how can she possibly turn her away, when she knows Ruby has nowhere to go?

Within days, suspicion spreads like a virus across Hollow’s Edge. It’s increasingly clear that not everyone told the truth about the night of the Truett’s murders. And when Harper begins receiving threatening notes, she realizes she has to uncover the truth before someone else becomes the killer’s next victim.

Weather

There’s snow place like homicide

B&B hostess Judith McMonigle Flynn’s ready to hang up her oven mitts, but irrepressible Cousin Renie needs help catering the telephone company’s annual winter retreat at secluded Mountain Goat Lodge. The pay’s good, the scenery’s to die for—but they never figured there’d be a killer cooking up mischief among this innocuous stew of corporate-climbing phone company ding-a-lings. Unfortuantely, Judith and Renie’s discovery of the frozen, garroted remains of the previous company caterer—missing since last year’s shindig—suggests no less, since the same cast of characters is present this time around. It’s Dial “M” for Mountain Goat Murder, and a storm’s blowing in to boot—leaving Judith and Renie stranded with ten suspects and a corpse…and with nothing better to do than to reach out and touch a killer who’d like nothing better than to put two inquisitive cousins in the Deep Freeze.

Color

This summer has been warmer than usual in Lake Eden, Minnesota, and Hannah Swensen is trying to beat the heat both in and out of her bakery kitchen. But she’s about to find out the hard way that nothing cools off a hot summer day like cold-blooded murder. . .
It’s a hot, muggy evening, and the last thing Hannah wants to do is squeeze into a pair of pantyhose for the Grand Opening of the refurbished Albion Hotel. But with Hannah’s famous Red Velvet cupcakes being served in the hotel’s new Red Velvet lounge, she can’t bring herself to back out.

The party starts off with a bang with the unexpected arrival of Doctor Bev, a Lake Eden legend who left town in shame after she two-timed her fiancé one too many times. Bev’s splashy appearance on the arm of a wealthy investor is the talk of the night. But the gossip comes to a screeching halt when a partygoer takes a mysterious dive off the hotel’s rooftop garden.

The victim is the sheriff’s secretary, Barbara Donnelly, and she is barely clinging to life. The question is, did she fall–or was she pushed? As the police investigate, the only one who isn’t preoccupied with the case is Doctor Bev. She’s too busy trying to stir things up with her old flame Norman, who’s reunited with Hannah.

Just as Hannah’s patience with Bev runs dangerously thin, her rival is found dead at the bottom of Miller’s Pond. The only clue the police have is the Red Velvet cupcake Bev ate right before she died–and the tranquilizers someone seems to have baked into it. To everyone’s shock, Hannah is now the unlikely target of a murder investigation–and she’s feeling the heat in a way she never has before. . . 

Time

The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant for Miss Brickett’s named Michelle White receives a letter warning her that a heinous act is about to occur. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Almost unwillingly, Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie—style locked-room mystery with an exciting new heroine detective at the helm.

Space

New York Times bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic

After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price. 

Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN. 

Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.” 

And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.

Bonus

A woman being held captive is willing to risk everything to save herself, her unborn child, and her captor’s latest victim in this claustrophobic thriller in the tradition of Misery and Room

On an isolated farm in the United Kingdom, a woman is trapped by the monster who kidnapped her seven years ago. When she discovers she is pregnant, she resolves to protect her child no matter the cost, and starts to meticulously plan her escape. But when another woman is brought into the fold on the farm, her plans go awry. Can she save herself, her child, and this innocent woman at the same time? Or is she doomed to spend the remainder of her life captive on this farm?

Intense, dark, and utterly gripping The Last Thing to Burn is a breathtaking thriller from an author to watch.

~Cassie

Blog Tour: These Vengeful Hearts By Katherine Laurin

Thank you to Harlequin Trade Publishing for providing me with an ARC in exchange for my honest review. They also provided all graphics and information.

These Vengeful Hearts  

Katherine Laurin

On Sale Date: September 8, 2020

9781335145871, 1335145877

Hardcover

$18.99 USD, $23.99 CAD

Young Adult Fiction / Thrillers & Suspense 

Ages 13 And Up

368 pages

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Mean Girls meets Siobhan Vivian’s The List in THESE VENGEFUL HEARTS, an utterly addictive standalone YA debut that follows 16-year-old Ember Williams as she seeks revenge against the Red Court, a secret organization of Heller High’s most elite female students that specializes in granting and requesting favors—and which is responsible for the accident that left her older sister paralyzed.

A thrilling novel about a secret society and the dangers that lie in wait for anyone brave enough to join—perfect for fans of Karen M. McManus, Kara Thomas, and Maureen Johnson.

Whenever something scandalous happens at Heller High, the Red Court is the name on everyone’s lips. Its members deal out social ruin and favors in equal measure, their true identities known only by their leader: the Queen of Hearts.

Ember Williams has seen firsthand the damage the Red Court can do. Now, she’s determined to hold the organization accountable by taking it down from the inside. But will the cost of revenge be more than she’s willing to sacrifice?

Review

This is a really fun, perfectly paced, YA thriller that is centered around the taking down of a secret society. Ember is the typical straight A, perfectionist, student except for the fact that she has a vendetta against the Red Court and has infiltrated them to take the Red Queen out. I really appreciated the agony and inner conflict that Ember dealt with has she carried out her Red Court orders. The favors and jobs that the Red Court takes on all felt devious but also very realistic to a high school experience so Laurin did an incredible job toeing that fine line. Of course, being a YA, there is some romance involved but it was the competing for the top spot at school trope and we have feelings for each other trope so it was everything my angsty loving heart enjoys. The Red Court was such a well thought out organization and I loved slowly understanding all the moving parts and how it all worked. I really liked how the story unfolded and I wouldn’t mind reading more from this world in the future. I recommend this book to anyone who is a fan of the Truly Devious serious because Ember has a few Stevie vibes and I could see them being friends. This book reminds me a lot of One of Us is Lying but if you love YA thrillers you should definitely check this out.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Katherine Laurin lives in Colorado with her husband, two sons, and tiny dog. When she’s not writing, Katherine enjoys reading, traveling, hiking, and listening to true crime podcasts. These Vengeful Hearts is her first young adult novel.

Excerpt


chapter one

Of the ways I’d want to start a Monday, finding a car covered in blood was not one of them. The murmurs began just after first period, and fragments of muted conversation led me out to the Heller High parking lot. I was curious to see the spectacle drawing so much attention.

The crush of students flowing out of the school buoyed me along in a tide of bodies. Between gaps in the crowd, I caught glimpses of the word smeared across the car’s windshield in blood red relief.

LIAR 

Gray clouds hung low, casting the macabre tableau in watery light. The chill that slithered up my spine had nothing to do with the brisk October morning. I skirted a group of girls in front of me, recognizing familiar faces from my geometry class, and found myself staring down at the thick crimson streaks. The letters looked nearly dry, and I couldn’t fight the morbid impulse to touch them. A distinct tackiness remained. Was it corn syrup or actual blood? I didn’t care to investigate further. 

There was no proof that the infamous secret organization made up of Heller High’s elite even existed, but this exhibition had all the makings of a Red Court takedown. Whispers from the ring of students surrounding the car reached me and I stepped backward, edging away from notice until I was part of the throng gathered to witness the scene. It didn’t seem like anyone was paying attention to plain old jeans-and-a-tee-every-day Ember Williams. Good. 

Other words, some so ugly I couldn’t look at them for more than a moment, marred the rest of the car’s windowed surfaces. My eyes skipped to the girl huddled beside a tree next to the parking lot. Tears stained with mascara ran in inky rivulets down her cheeks. Two of her friends rallied around her, whispering softly. 

No amount of consolation was going to wash away the stain from this one. More than a few heads from the crowd were turned in her direction. I didn’t know her name, but I had a feeling she’d be remembered as that girl, the one whose car was vandalized with blood. She’d been marked by the words we’d all seen: liar, cheater, tramp. 

Why did the Red Court target her? Who wanted this girl humiliated—to be brought so low in front of the whole school? Or had she been reckless enough to throw in with them and ask for a favor she couldn’t repay? No. The vulnerability in her expression was too raw to fake. This girl was a pawn in the Red Court’s game. The pull to learn more about the group known for dealing out ruin and favors in equal measure went beyond cursory interest. I needed to know more. 

My stomach gave an uncomfortable tug, as if my body was eager to put distance between me and the girl now that I’d seen the damage. A sob shuddered through her, and I tore my gaze away, shifting my feet and noticing a stickiness below my sneakers. A thick coat of red clung to the bottom of my shoes, marking me too. Ugh. I must have stepped in a pool of the blood. I told myself it was fake blood because I couldn’t stomach the alternative. I’d have to go change into my running shoes before next period. 

“Everyone back inside,” a teacher called from the main doors. His tone left no room for argument. 

The mass of students quickly dissolved, moving back into the school. The whispers rose to chatter as theories were passed around like mono on prom night. I trailed behind a couple holding hands as they maneuvered through the crowd. 

“This is the worst one so far,” the girl said. 

Her boyfriend scoffed. “Worse than the video of Brett Shultz’s keg stand? No way. He got kicked off the football team for that. Brett had Division I schools scouting him, too.” 

A rogue Facebook account cropped up just after the school year began with some incriminating footage of the varsity running back at a party in a stunning display of upper body strength and chugging technique. The video made it all the way to Principal McGovern, who reluctantly had him removed from the team, along with the school’s shot at a state title. 

“Do you really think she cheated on her boyfriend?” someone behind me asked. 

“Does it matter?” his friend responded. 

I shook my head in silent reply. It didn’t matter. That was the power of the Red Court; gossip and innuendo were all it took for a star student to fall from grace after accusations of cheating. 

As I passed a small cluster of teachers just inside the doors, I stepped nearer to catch the edges of their hushed exchange. 

“—needs to do something.” 

“The district’s policy on bullying—” 

“I know the policy, but this is beyond ‘bullying.’ It’s the third time since the school year began.” 

This may have been the third public display of destruction in the last six weeks, but it was hardly the third time the Red Court had struck. Their takedowns were legendary and highly visible to ensure maximum exposure, but they also excelled in the small things no one would notice unless they were looking for anomalies. My eyes were wide open. 

For as long as anyone could remember, there have been rumors that the mysterious Red Court was pulling the strings behind the scenes at Heller High School. Its ranks were shrouded in mystery, but its influence was undeniable. Rigged Student Council elections, changed grades, and ruined reputations were all in their repertoire. 

Half of the school treated them like the Boogeyman, the near mythical thing that was out to get you. It was easier to deny their existence than to acknowledge the specter of their presence. Takedowns like the one outside were as likely to be attributed to the Red Court as they were to be pinned on anonymous wannabes posing as the Red Court to allay suspicion. It seemed like the other half of the over two thousand students at Heller made a sport of trying to guess which members of the prom court were legitimate and which ones owed their wins to the Red Court. 

But I knew the truth.

The Red Court was real, and I needed in. 

I pushed my way through the crowded halls to get to my locker. All around me a chorus of voices carried the news of the Red Court’s latest victim, the story spreading faster than I could move. 

My phone buzzed in my pocket. It was probably my best friend. I ducked into an alcove to check my texts. 

Gideon: Did you hear? 

Me: I saw, actually 

Gideon: And? 

Me: It was probably them. Who else would mess around with that much blood? 

Gideon: Ew. Was it real blood? 

I thought of my shoes again and shuddered. 

Me: Who cares? The car looked like the prom scene from Carrie. They got their point across. 

Gideon: I saw Mrs. Martin leading the girl into her office. 

If something like that ever happened to me, I’d want to be put in the hands of the nicest—and most capable—guidance counselor, too. 

Me: Yeah, I saw her outside. 

Gideon: It’s too bad. She looked wrecked. 

We were reaching the point in the conversation at which I was supposed to condemn the monsters who did this. I wasn’t ready to go there with Gideon. Revealing the true depth of my disgust at everything the Red Court stood for was not something I could do over text. Truthfully, my feelings about the Red Court were this gnarled mass inside of me, too big to start talking about at all. 

Me: I gotta run. Lit is calling. 

Gideon: Ok, see you after. 

Before I’d made it halfway across the school, the warning bell rang. I gave up the attempt to change my shoes and turned to book it upstairs so I could suffer through American Lit with a room full of disenchanted sophomores. Oh joy. On an ordinary day, class was a chore to get through. On a day like today, with my mind busy dissecting the latest Red Court takedown, it seemed like my school would live up to its nickname after all. Welcome to Hell High. 

“Ember?” Mr. Carson called my name like a question.

Crap. I must have missed something. I couldn’t seem to concentrate on Mr. Carson’s analysis of Leaves of Grass, which was a shame. Whitman had some serious 19th century game going on. “I sing the body electric” gave me chills the first time I read it. 

“Yes, Mr. Carson?” 

He sighed impatiently. Or perhaps disappointedly. “Do you have any thoughts on the final section?” 

I glanced at my notes from the night before to read the scribbles aloud, but a mocking voice cut in. 

“Whitman’s talking about the physicality of the body and how it is part of the soul or is the soul. Like it’s just as important as the soul, which at the time was elevated above a person’s body in significance.” 

I threw a baleful look toward Chase Merriman—insufferable know-it-all—and was given a smug half-smile in return. He just loved to one-up me. Mr. Carson turned his gaze to me for more input, but my premeditated discussion points wouldn’t add anything to the dialogue. I gave my Lit teacher as unaffected a shrug as I could manage even though a sharp retort branded with Chase’s name tried to claw its way out of my throat. I pushed it down, not deigning to give Chase the satisfaction of knowing he got under my skin. 

Mr. Carson continued droning on, asking for our “thoughts” and “feelings” about the poem. Poor guy didn’t seem to understand his audience. Disengaged was our default setting. It really took some doing to rouse us. Though Whitman’s work was taboo back in the day, most of the students here had probably seen something more risqué in their Instagram feeds over breakfast this morning. 

The bell rang and Mr. Carson’s shoulders slumped. Another day of not making a difference. I almost felt bad for him, but this was his chosen career path. He had to know what he was getting into when he signed up to teach freaking poetry at a public school. 

“Could you hang back a minute, Ember?” Mr. Carson’s words caught me six inches from the door and freedom. 

I smiled tightly. The next period was my off-hour, but Gideon would be waiting. Every moment I wasted in the classroom diminished the chances of running out for my caffeine fix, which were already slim since I had to trek back across the school to change my sneakers first. I would not spend a moment longer than necessary in these shoes. 

“What’s up, Carson?” He was one of those teachers who thought using “Mr.” in his title meant he was uncool, so I dropped it whenever I needed extra brownie points. Not that my brownie point bank account was in that much need. 

“It’s unlike you to space out during an epic poetry discussion. Everything ok?” 

Mr. Carson was probably my favorite teacher, and we had a strong rapport, but I couldn’t tell if his use of “epic” was sincere. I hoped for his sake he was being cheeky. 

“Just having one of those days, you know?” Vague, Ember, be vague. “I’m sure I’ll be back to contributing the only meaningful insight tomorrow,” I added with a rueful smile, which he returned. 

“Sounds like a plan. So you know, I’m always here if you need an ear.” He shut his copy of Leaves of Grass with a snap, effectively ending our conversation. 

“Thanks!” I bolted out the door as fast as I could without seeming rude. 

Running down the steps two at a time, I nearly crashed into Gideon as he waited at the foot of the stairs near the school’s main entry. 

“What’s the rush, Em?” His words came out in a whoosh as he caught me. 

“I need to stop by my locker before we get coffee. Let’s go!” 

“Seriously? There isn’t time for a detour if we’re going to make it back before the hour is up. Let’s just hit the library instead.” 

He was right of course, but I was in desperate need of a large Americano. I wanted to argue, but once Gideon made a decision, there was no way he’d change his mind. If only there was someone as bullheaded as him on the debate team with me. 

Gideon broke down what he’d heard about the takedown this morning as we walked through the halls. I was too busy sulking to add to the commentary. I spun the combination on my locker, wondering how in the world I could explain the bloody shoes to my mom. The door swung open, and I tossed my bag to the ground. I was already toeing off my sneakers when a flash of red caught my eye. 

The Queen of Hearts sat alone on the top shelf of my locker, the coy smile on her face said she knew something I didn’t. If the rumors were to be believed, she did. A Queen of Hearts was the eponymous calling card of the Red Court’s leader, and its presence could only mean one thing: my invitation had finally come.

Excerpted from These Vengeful Hearts by Katherine Laurin, Copyright © 2020 by Katherine Laurin. Published by Inkyard Press. 

PRAISE:

“Ember draws readers into the drama of finding the members of the Red Court… Recommend this to fans of E. Lockhart’s The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and Daisy Whitney’s The Mockingbirds.” –School Library Journal

“Laurin’s novel tackles the destructive power of high school bullying through characters who are compelling in their complexity.” –Kirkus Reviews

SOCIAL LINKS:

Twitter: @writerkatherine

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Author Website: https://katherinelaurin.com/

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~Cassie