The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins

You may know I’m a big fan of classic retellings, and of Jane Eyre and Rebecca. The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins is the ultimate retelling of both Jane Eyre and Rebecca, with modern feminist sensibilities.

Jane is the new dog walker in Thornfield Estates and resents the casual privilege her extremely wealthy clients display, while she’s struggling to make ends meet and living with a creepy church musician for a roommate. It seems a huge stroke of luck when she hits it off with reclusive widower Eddie Rochester and embarks on a whirlwind romance. But her sense that something isn’t right only grows as they start to talk about marriage, since the spectre of Eddie’s late wife Bea is never far away, in the neighborhood, in Eddie, and in the house. To make matters worse, then the police start asking Eddie more questions about the night Bea went missing and her best friend Blance died, and Blanche’s husband has plenty of unpleasant insinuations to make. Not to mention Jane’s own past is threatening to rear its ugly head…

I love that this book uses all the Jane Eyre names, but makes the original characters make sense in the modern world – John Rivers for example is perfectly drawn as an unsettling religious figure who wants Jane for himself and treats her badly. The plot is also optimized for modern readers as strategic flashbacks, confessions, and slow reveals avoid the boggy parts of Jane Eyre by mixing past with present. Gone Girl, The Girl on the Train, and other unreliable-narrator thrillers are clear influences, and The Wife Upstairs easily joins their canon of feminist thrillers where realistic women earn their victories the hard way.

Rock Paper Scissors by Alice Feeney

“If every story had a happy ending, then we’d have no reason to start again. Life is all about choices, and learning how to put ourselves back together when we fall apart. Which we all do. Even the people who pretend they don’t.”
– Alice Feeney, Rock Paper Scissors

Rock Paper Scissors  is Alice Feeney’s latest twisty psychological thriller that centers around how well you really know the people you are in a relationship with. Everyone has little secrets tucked away, things they don’t necessarily see as lies, but they keep them hidden nonetheless.

Married couple Mr and Mrs Wright are on a holiday away. Amelia won a weekend away to a refurbished chapel in Scotland, thinking that this trip will be just what the couple needs to get their marriage back on track. Her husband Adam isn’t quite as sure. He is a screenwriter who suffers from face blindness whose work consumes him.  Adam can’t recognize anyone, so he has to rely on other body clues to try to place who they are. This trip to a chapel in the middle of nowhere during a snowstorm is not how he wants to spend his time. He has so much work to do.

The couple has a unique tradition for each of their anniversaries: they exchange traditional gifts for each year (gifts that fall as paper, cotton, pottery, tin, etc). Each year Adam’s wife also has her own tradition: she writes Adam a letter talking about how their marriage progressed during the last year. She has never let Adam read those letters until this trip. Each person has their own reasons for wanting to take this trip, but they also both know that this weekend away will result in either their marriage surviving or resulting in a break-up. The longer they stay at the chapel, the more it becomes obvious that one of them is lying and may even be actively sabotaging the other.

How well do you know your partner?

“Enjoy the stories of other people’s lives, but don’t forget to live your own.” – ― Alice Feeney, Rock Paper Scissors

This book is also available in the following formats:

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty

Liane Moriarty is known currently for her book, Nine Perfect Strangers, which was made into a limited Hulu series. She has nine adult novels that have been translated into forty languages and have sold more than 20 million copies all over the world. Moriarty has also written three books for children. Her latest adult novel had me on my toes until the very end.

Once you’ve hit a ball there’s no point watching to see where it’s going. You can’t change its flight path now. You have to think about your next move. Not what you should have done. What you do now. – Liane Moriarty, Apples Never Fall

Apples Never Fall is her newest novel, published in 2021. The above quote stuck with me throughout the book as it served as a metaphor both for tennis, which features predominantly in this book, and for life. This is a novel about marriage, siblings, and family, and the confusion and betrayal we feel when those we cherish lash out and hurt us.

The Delaney siblings are at a loss. Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke are all grown and out of their parents’ home, yet they all have a strong pull back to where they grew up, especially now that their mother has gone missing, seemingly without a trace and for no good reason.

The Delaneys are well known in their community. Stan and Joy, the parents, are tennis stars who set up their own tennis academy. They have been married for fifty years and people constantly talk about what a good match they are both on and off the court. Now they have sold the tennis academy and aren’t quite sure what to do with the rest of their lives. Their four children were all tennis stars, in their own right, of course, but Stan never truly believed any of them had the ability to truly make it. It’s okay though because they are all, mostly, settled into their adult lives and seem to have a handle on the future. At least on the surface they are, but even the happiest surfaces can be hiding secrets underneath.

Everything starts to bubble up when a strange young woman named Savannah shows up on Stan and Joy’s doorstep begging for help, bleeding after a domestic violence incident with her boyfriend. Stan and Joy take her in with almost no questions asked, much to their children’s chagrin.

Flash forward: Joy goes missing and Savannah is also nowhere to be found. All the children and Stan have been questioned. The police immediately hone in on Stan because he seems to be hiding something. Their children are also not being fully honest with the police and with each other. It doesn’t help that two of them think their father is innocent while the other two think that he may have hurt their mother. The more questions that are asked, the more each family member is forced to closely reexamine what they believe to be their family truths and core memories.

I particularly enjoyed this novel because it flashes back and forth between past and present. Each major characters’ point of view is also presented, including some peripheral random characters to add some color to the story. I listened to the audiobook version and really enjoyed the Australian narrator Caroline Lee.

This book is available in the following formats:

The Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones

“There’s only one defining juncture that, depending on which path you take, will determine the rest of your life.” – Sandie Jones, The Guilt Trip

The Guilt Trip is the story of friends and the secrets kept between them. Rachel and Noah met at university and have been friends ever since. Twenty years later, they are now married to other people. While the two once thought they may have ended up together, life proved differently. Rachel is now married to Jack and the two have a son. Noah is married to Paige and those two have a daughter. Jack’s brother Will is engaged to marry Ali, a younger impulsive, gorgeous woman. They are to be married in Portugal. All six friends are heading to Portugal for the two’s impending destination wedding weekend.

As each couple arrives in Portugal, they bring secrets. They may be staying at a gorgeous villa atop a cliff, but darkness has settled into their relationships. Rachel wants to get to know her future sister-in-law Ali better, but Ali seems to only want to get to know Jack better. She is constantly seeking his attention and trying to have alone time with him. The longer they are together, the more Ali begins to grate on everyone’s nerves. Paige, Rachel’s best friend, thinks Ali is becoming increasingly childish and attention-seeking. Jack is also not fond of Ali. He tenses up whenever she is around. Jack is also consistently finding more to argue with Noah, Paige’s husband and Rachel’s friend, about.

Everything tilts wrong when Rachel finds out a shocking secret about Ali. The longer the wedding weekend progresses, the more secrets begin to leak from each of them. Each secret has the power to weaken and possibly destroy a different relationship. What started out as a joyous happy weekend could prove to be deadly for those involved instead.

This book is also available in the following formats:

Careful What You Wish For by Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron is known for writing mystery and suspense novels. Her newest novel Careful What You Wish For is her latest offering.

Emily Harlow is a professional organizer. She loves to help people declutter their lives which is a bit ironic because Emily’s own life is a complete mess. Her husband is a hoarder. He has filled their basement, attic, and garage with all of the treasures that he has found at different yard and estate sales. Emily and her husband have an understanding though that she will not touch his finds. This marriage compromise is slowly making Emily’s life more stressful as his belongings spread throughout more of the house.

Desperate to get back to some sort of normalcy, Emily is relieved when she has two new clients sign up. One is an elderly widow finally ready to clear out her house of any reminder of her husband. Said husband also left behind a storage unit that the wife had no idea existed. Emily’s other new client is a young wife who wants to get rid of all of her belongings that have been sitting in the garage ever since she moved in with her husband. You see, her husband didn’t allow any of her belongings into the house. At all.

After the initial meetings, Emily discovers that both of her new clients are hiding something. The mess Emily finds herself in has the power to destroy her life. She must get creative in order to find her way out or she may lose her marriage, her job, or even her life.

This book is also available in the following formats:

My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing

Have you ever wondered about the secret lives of serial killers? Samantha Downing’s debut novel My Lovely Wife examines what would happen if a married couple decided to start killing.

Tobias and Millicent are a normal couple. They met, fell in love, had kids, and moved to the suburbs. They have everything a family could ever want. Only it wasn’t enough. They got bored.

Millicent and Tobias look like a normal couple. They are active in their communities, have goals for themselves, and do all the normal things that families and couples do. They even have secrets to help them keep their marriage alive. The only hiccup: their secrets are, shall we say, different than others. They get away with murder.

It’s exciting. The whole process. Finding a target, following them, figure out how they want to murder. It’s definitely spiced up their marriage. Everything is perfect until the moment when it all comes crashing down and they realize that what brought them together as a couple has the potential to tear their family apart forever.

This book is also available in the following formats:

The Roads to Rebecca

Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca is a classic novel for very good reason — the suspenseful tone, the clever writing style, and compelling characters all make it a story for the ages. The original novel was published in 1938, and was turned into first a play in 1939, a film in 1940, and most recently a Netflix film released this year. If you’re not already aware (and let’s be honest, obsessed) with this story, here are some details about it and some different ways to experience it.

First, the basics: a young woman falls in love with an older man, Maxim De Winter, while working as a companion to a rich American woman in Monte Carlo. After a whirlwind romance, they marry and return to his estate, Manderley. Once they arrive, the young woman discovers the house is a monument to her husband’s deceased first wife, the Rebecca from the title. The house’s habits, decoration, and staff all bear her stamp, including a sinister housekeeper who undermines our insecure narrator at every turn, bullying her with stories of the glamorous Rebecca. In mounting distress, the narrator struggles both to escape Rebecca’s shadow and to uncover the dark secrets her husband is keeping from her about his past. Eventually, he confides in her, but that may only cause them more problems…

What I love about this book is how the writing style underscores the plot — the narrator is given no name other than Mrs. De Winter, while her predecessor Rebecca is not only named but is the book’s title. The narrator’s identity is literally erased, insignificant compared to Rebecca. Also, the story is told as a flashback, giving the reader enigmatic hints of the book’s ending long before it arrives – much as the narrator learns about Rebecca in mysterious bits and pieces.

Intrigued? Check out the book or the film version (or any one of the several available) from the library. But wait, there’s more!

Also released this year was a YA novel which retells the Rebecca story in a modern setting, to chilling effect. I Killed Zoe Spanos by Kit Frick echoes Du Maurier’s twisty plot full of drama, chills, and unexpected revelations. In this case, the story is about Anna, who comes to the Hamptons to spend the summer working as a nanny. She’s hoping for a fresh start but finds herself instead overshadowed by Zoe Spanos, a local girl who recently went missing, and who looks a LOT like Anna… Slowly, the mystery of Zoe Spanos takes over Anna’s life until she’s sure they’re linked by a dark connection. But did Anna really kill her? And how can she find the truth?

This is far from the only retelling of or companion to this iconic story, of course. There’s also Rebecca’s Tale, The Winters, Mrs. De Winter, In Her Shadow, and more. If you like atmospheric mysteries, thrillers, or marriage stories, check out any of these titles from the Rebeccaverse.

Virtual Book Club – July 8

On Wednesday July 8th at 2pm, the Virtual Book Club will be discussing The Perfect Wife by JP Delaney. Information about how to join the book club is listed below! We are using GoTo Meeting which will allow patrons to video chat with the librarian about the book.

Want to know what The Perfect Wife is about before you read the book? Check out the following description provided by the publisher:

A missing woman receives a second chance at life, thanks to her billionaire husband–but the consequences are deadly in this gripping psychological thriller from the New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Before. Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s an icon of the tech world, the founder of a lucrative robotics company. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago, and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss. She is a miracle of science. But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago? 

This book is also available in the following formats:
Virtual Book Club
Wed, Jul 8, 2020 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM (CDT)
 
Please join my meeting from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
 
You can also dial in using your phone.
United States: +1 (571) 317-3122
 
Access Code: 522-793-053
 
New to GoToMeeting? Get the app now and be ready when your first meeting starts:

Outfox by Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown is a well-known and prolific author of romantic suspense. She is also one of my go-to authors when I’m not sure what I want to read, but I need something that will keep my attention. Her latest kept me engaged from start to finish and had an ending that I didn’t see coming.

Outfox  by Sandra Brown tells the story of one man’s quest to capture a serial killer and another man’s desperate need to never be caught. Drex Easton has been hunting a serial killer for most of his adult life. For 30 plus years, he has been struggling to find a man that he last knew as Weston Graham. Weston is a sociopathic conman who has assumed many names and even more disguises over the past thirty years. So far, he has lured and tricked eight wealthy women out of their vast fortunes. These women then disappeared without a trace, along with Weston. Looking into the disappearances, the only commonality Drex sees is that a new man comes into each woman’s life before their disappearance. The man, who Drex believes to be Weston, then vanishes and leaves behind no trace that he even existed.

Drex is convinced that each of these women have been murdered and that Weston is the mysterious man responsible. Every time he gets close to capturing Weston though, he slips away, leaving Drex frustrated and with another dead woman left behind. Using countless tools at his disposal, Drex is now convinced that he has finally found Weston and is working hard to gain his trust.

Jasper Ford is attractive and charming. Having just married a successful businesswoman significantly younger than him named Talia Shafer, Ford ticks off many of the things that makes Drex believe that he is in fact Weston Graham. Desperate to save Talia from death, Drex moves to the town where the couple lives and begins insinuating himself into their lives. He starts surveillance on their house, posing as a neighbor researching a new book that he is writing. The closer Drex gets to the couple, the more he becomes convinces that Jasper is in fact that sociopath that he has been hunting for years.

Drex has only one chance to catch Jasper Ford and prove that he is in fact Weston Graham, but the attraction that he feels towards Talia threatens to destroy all the hard work that he has put in. Relying on help from his friends and hiding from the ire of others, Drex works diligently to prove Jasper’s guilt and Talia’s innocence.


This book is available in the following formats:

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet

What would you do if you found a child abandoned on a bus? In current times, there are procedures in place for how to handle this. Now travel back to World War II. Imagine you found a small child asleep on the backseat of an empty bus after a mass evacuation from a town miles away that had just been bombed. What would you do now? We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet tackles this topic and more as civilians in England during World War II struggle to find a new normal.

We Must Be Brave by Frances Liardet begins in December 1940. German bombs are falling on Southampton. In the midst of a massive and chaotic scene, residents are evacuating from the bombed town on buses to rural villages to escape the devastation. Helping to clear one bus in Upton village, Ellen Parr is stunned to find a young girl sleeping in the back of an empty bus, entirely by herself. Picking up the exhausted child and walking through town to search for her mother, Ellen quickly realizes that five-year-old Pamela is utterly alone. Left with no other options, Ellen and her husband take the child and some other refuges home with them.

While the other refuges leave their house in the morning, young Pamela stays. Newly-married Ellen and her husband never thought that they would have children. In fact, they knew that they could never have any biological children of their own, something that Ellen always thought that she was fine with. The addition of Pamela to their home, as well as some other children that the Parrs have taken in, begins to change Ellen’s mind. The longer Pamela stays, the more attached Ellen becomes (Pamela gets attached as well). Ellen starts to think that after the war, Pamela will stay with them and their family will be complete. Once the fighting settles down however, circumstances occur that will once again shatter the quiet idyllic life that the Parrs have created with Pamela. They realize that Pamela was never truly theirs to keep.

Frances Liardet has written a masterful story about the many different forms family and friends can take. As we go through life, Liardet spins a tale of the many different ways we can reach out and change the lives of others. Both the smallest gestures and largest acts can forever alter the lives of others.


This book is also available in the following formats: