Georgia, 1968 – Margaret Rose McCutcheon has just buried her husband and must now name a beneficiary for their estate in case of her demise. She is hard-pressed to do so because there is no one. No children. No family. At least none to speak of. At one time, she had two sisters and six brothers, but the lot of them were scattered to the four winds, with no one knowing where the others went. In the hope of finding at least one of her siblings, Margaret hires a detective and sets off on a journey to uncover the truth of why the family broke apart as it did.

West Virginia, 1901 – When Eliza Hobbs gives birth to her sixth child, her husband is not there to welcome his daughter into the world. No surprise, because Martin is seldom there. He works in Charleston and returns to Coal Creek only when he has a mind to. Yes, he sends money on occasion, but seldom enough to make ends meet. Although Eliza believes each new child a blessing, he sees them as yet another responsibility on his already overloaded shoulders. When he discovers another child is on the way, he demands she get rid of it. he stops returning home and there is no more money.

Left with the children, a mountainside patch of land, and a house in sorry need of repair, Eliza seeks help and turns to someone powerful enough to hold sway over Martin and force him into providing for his family. Pushed to the brink, Martin does something unforgivable and the family is forever torn apart.

Now, after all these years, will Margaret be the one to find the pieces of her broken family?
an interior journey thoughts

When I Last Saw You begins with Margaret dealing with the loss of her husband, which includes going through paperwork and discovering interesting details of what her husband had tried to do for her. Curious about why he didn’t pursue the investigation he had started, she reaches out to the last investigator, Tom Bateman. He wasn’t that interested in pursuing the case, but when they met up, she was able to persuade him to try.

From that point on, we follow Margaret and Tom as they pursue the trail of clues leading them to possibilities they had never imagined. Would Margaret find her family? Would the connection that has developed between her and Tom turn into something more than the working relationship?

The story had sad and heartfelt moments, and I laughed, cried, and held my breath as I waited to see what would finally happen.

I loved this book, so of course it earned 5 stars.



Sisters Kate and Lauren meet for Sunday lunch every week without fail, especially after the loss of their father.


But a knock at the door is about to change everything. A young woman by the name of Jess holds a note with the results of a DNA test, claiming to be their half sister.


As the fallout starts, it’s clear that they are all hiding secrets, and perhaps this family isn’t as perfect as it appears.

As The Half Sister opens on a family event, we watch as a presumably happy family will unravel into a series of doubts, suspicion, and the unveiling of the family myths. We follow the story through alternating narratives and learn Kate’s side of things, Lauren’s perspective, and how each of them has misunderstood the family in which they were raised.

Will the secrets, lies, and mistrust change the lives they now live? Will Lauren find the courage to face the truth and change her own current family situation? Will Kate come to accept her relationship with Lauren and the possibility of the new “sister” Jess claims to be?

Twists and turns kept me glued to the pages, and I couldn’t wait to accept my own version of events. 4.5 stars.



resized office

Tensions arise between Martha and her assistant after Zach comes back into the picture.  Excerpted from Interior Designs.



When I returned from lunch, Caroline was in her little office working away.  She didn’t even look up when I peeked in; almost as if she were avoiding me.  

    “Hi, Caroline.  Anything happening I should know about?”

    When she glanced up at me, her cheeks turned red.  As if she were hiding something.  But I decided not to put her on the spot, and just waited for whatever updates she’d provide.

    Standing up, she moved toward me with a stack of pink message slips, which she just handed to me.  Usually she gave me some kind of overview, in order of priorities, but she had nothing to say.  

    I felt curious, but simply said:  “Okay.  I’ll see you later.”

    Back at my desk, I soon forgot her reaction and busied myself with some new sketches.  Then I checked e-mails, and that’s when I saw Zach’s.  I felt my face heat up as I read the message:  Hi, gorgeous, looking forward to more between us….I quickly exited the message, and as an afterthought, decided to delete it.  Not that anyone would be checking my e-mails, but I didn’t want to even consider the possibility that others (meaning Caroline) might stumble upon it.

    Nor did I reply to it right then.  Something inside my battered heart told me to keep him waiting.

    Even though I had vowed to avoid game-playing—where had games gotten me in my marriage battles?—but I also had to protect my heart.  And sometimes games were the only methods that would do just that.
    Caroline couldn’t wait to escape the office that day.

    As much as she told herself that Martha had first dibs on Zach, she also remembered that she and Zach had a date for this very weekend.  Was he playing some kind of game, or had Martha misinterpreted the lunch she had with him?  But there was no way she could have missed Martha’s slightly disheveled look when she’d returned.  She had that “just been kissed” badge stamped on her face like a tattoo, which puzzled Caroline.  The Martha she’d always known would have polished up her visage, erasing all traces of whatever had transpired between her and Zach.  So was she hoping Caroline would notice?  Did she suspect that something might be happening between her and Zach?

    But how could she?  Zach certainly wouldn’t have told her.  No, it was her guilty conscience.  Which made her recall, once again, that she had done nothing wrong.

    Driving home, she felt like the “other woman,” even though she knew she shouldn’t.  Nothing had actually happened between her and Zach.  They’d run into each other in a restaurant, had an impromptu meal, and agreed to go to the movies on Saturday.  Did that sound like the beginning of something?  It did to her, but then again, she hadn’t actually started anything with him…yet.  So time would tell what would actually develop.

    How on earth did she turn into this person who questioned her every action?

    She knew that Martha had been through a horrendous experience with her ex-husband; before he’d been an ex, he’d put her through the wringer.  Her boss had confided some of it to her, but only after it was actually over.  It was like she’d hung in there, fighting like a trooper, and finally had to give up.  That kind of experience really stomped on a person’s ego, especially someone like Martha who had believed she had the perfect life.

    When that happened, you had to question everything you’d ever believed about life, love, and marriage.

    Caroline had her own rules for relationships.  Never put a man ahead of your friendships with other women; never sit by the phone waiting for that call; and never, ever poach another woman’s man.

    But what determined “ownership,” anyway?  

    As she pulled into her garage, she pondered this idea for a few moments, while the garage door slid shut behind her.  She quickly opened the back door and entered her space, glancing around, as if to assess any damage done to her abode while she was gone.  This habit had developed when she was living with her last boyfriend.  Or when he was actually mostly living here.  

    As much as she’d enjoyed his company—at least in the beginning!—she’d come to resent how he treated her space.  As if her beautiful surroundings were his personal dumping ground.  The coffee table had always been littered with books, magazines, and an overflowing ashtray.  Beer cans dotted almost every available surface, while whatever clothes he’d worn that day managed to layer the floors, like some kind of statement.  Of what, she wasn’t sure.  Maybe his statement was that he couldn’t be bothered to pick up after himself; that she was his personal servant; or even worse, that he didn’t even notice what he was doing.

    That’s when she’d realized that their relationship would end…and soon.  Was it because she was a frustrated interior designer, working around beautiful environments by day?  Or did she imagine her space as something that “spoke” to those who entered, and therefore conveyed some kind of personal message?

    At first, she’d felt mean and even a little disturbed by what these feelings said about her.  But soon she’d realized that she had every right to feel the way she did.  She’d tried to nudge Derek into some kind of neatness, but he’d only studied her with a weird expression, as if she had dropped into his view from another planet.

    They’d finally had some big fight about something she couldn’t even remember now, but she knew that it was only the last straw.  The one that broke the camel’s back.



Front Cover-resized again






When Cassie Danvers’ grandmother June died, she left her the huge old house, Two Oaks, in St. Jude, Ohio, built in 1895.

Cassie left New York and the loft she’d shared with her ex-boyfriend, but once she took possession of the house, she seemed to be sleeping her life away. There was much that needed to be done to the home and the surrounding gardens, but she couldn’t seem to manage it all. Nor could she find the energy to pursue her photography.

At night, Cassie dreamed of colorful people and events occurring in the house, but her days were troubled by the encroaching weeds in the garden and the mail piling up in the foyer.

Until one day when there was a knock on the door, and a young man named Nick Emmons had come to share some news. Cassie had inherited $37 million from Jack Montgomery, a Hollywood star who had just died. Apparently in the summer of 1955, he and an entourage of actors had taken up residence in St. Jude to film a movie called Erie Canal. And during that time, June and Jack might have had a romantic liaison. Cassie’s father Adelbert could have been Jack’s son.

But…in order to inherit, Cassie has to fulfill a request made by one of Jack’s daughters, Tate Montgomery, also a Hollywood celebrity, and a suspicious one at that. They must take a DNA test. Soon Tate and her assistant, along with Nick, are living with Cassie while she decides how it is going to play out. She wants more information before agreeing, so they start going through letters and interviewing townspeople who might have known something.

How might June and Jack have connected? What was the significance of the friendship between June and her next-door neighbor Lindie in 1950s Ohio? How would several betrayals and secrets thwart the lives of the characters back then? And what tragic event would change the trajectory of all their lives? In the present, does Cassie finally find answers and a kind of peace?

June was a richly layered family saga that swept back and forth through time, showing us the characters who populated the town and Two Oaks back in 1955…and then fast forwarded to the present. As the story finally unfolded, and as more and more secrets were revealed, I could not stop wondering what would happen next. The story had many beautiful as well as some sad moments, but in the end, a rich tapestry of characters, from the present and from the past, encircled Cassie and wrapped themselves around her and kept her company in her beautiful old mansion. 5 stars.


bookish moments in childhood

Looking back on childhood moments, Margaret (Meg) Graham recalls some clues to what happens to her later in life.  Excerpted from Web of Tyranny.



Later in her life, Margaret would remember the summer of 1956 as that time when she’d still had illusions about what life could be.


Even with the backbreaking, seemingly endless chores, there was still that camaraderie amongst the workers.  Even Lucy helped keep things light, chattering away about her plans for the evening.  Margaret listened and pretended she had Lucy’s life with Lucy’s parents.  Uncle Joe and Aunt Noreen laughed a lot.  They even had a television set and when Margaret had the good fortune to visit at their house, hanging out with Lucy’s younger sister Nanette, the whole family sat around on the couch eating their dinner on TV trays and laughing along with the I Love Lucy show.  Sometimes Margaret thought that Aunt Noreen, who was Father’s sister, must have grown up in a different family.  They were total opposites.  Father was all stern and uptight, while Aunt Noreen laughed and joked and seemed to enjoy being with her kids.  Just like Father’s other sister Molly, who had all those stories to tell.  Even Uncle Victor and Aunt Janice seemed so different from Father.


Margaret couldn’t figure any of it out back then.  Later she would come to believe that it all had something to do with Father being the eldest child in his family.  The one who had to drop out of school to work the farm.  The one who had to give up his own fun and lightheartedness to help bring in the crops.


But in her tenth year of life, Margaret Elaine Graham only knew that the father who had once loved her had turned on her.  And her life had somehow shaped itself into Before and After.  First there had been love and acceptance.  Then there was coldness and disapproval.   And fleeting moments of secret fun and freedom meted out in small portions, to be grasped and cherished.  As rare and unexpected as a stash of jewels.  And just as precious.
*     *     *
The summer before Margaret turned twelve, she decided she would become Meg.  Her parents still called her Margaret, but her school chums and even her cousins went along with her new nickname.  She’d decided on the name after reading Little Women, even though she knew she was nothing like the character Meg in the book.  Actually, she saw herself more as the Jo character.  But her cousin Elizabeth, who was actually a first-cousin-once-removed, insisted that Meg fit the eldest of the March sisters to a tee.  And Elizabeth decided that she would be Jo.  Secretly, Margaret-who-now-was-Meg believed that she would someday grow up to be a writer, and that meant she had to be Jo.


She was spending a lot of time with Elizabeth during that summer of 1958, because Father was building a house for Elizabeth’s family.  For some reason, the adults had decided that Meg could tag along and hang out with Elizabeth, who now called herself Liz.

Normally, Liz stayed alone during the days while her mother worked as a housekeeper.  Liz’s father Alvin had died when Liz was only four, leaving her mother Elsie to somehow manage on her own.  Every month Elsie received a small payment from Social Security…The adults called it her “widow’s pension”…But she had to work outside the home, too, in order to make ends meet, something not too many women did in those days.


Elsie, her daughter Liz, and her son, Alvin, Jr., had been moving around from one grim rental to another until the church decided to donate time and materials to build a small house for the family.  The church congregation, made up primarily of near and distant relatives, had done the charitable thing and pulled together to help the young widow and her family.  Because Vincent Graham had built many houses over the years, he had been called into service.

This kind and charitable side of Vincent Graham was one that felt strange and unfamiliar to Meg.  Not one to question her unexpected good fortune, though, she was happy to spend time with Liz, and because of the arduous labor involved in building the house, Father was too distracted to notice Meg.


Liz directed their activities that summer.  When they weren’t reading and talking about the books they were reading, they hung out in town, peering into shop windows and catching the glances of cute guys.


To Meg, the sudden, unexpected freedom felt like a reprieve.  She couldn’t figure out how sometimes she came under close scrutiny from her parents, while other times she had moments of relative peace.


But that summer, Meg had two whole months with nothing to do but hang out with Liz, read books, and dream about the life she would have some day.  Of course, she knew that by August, she would be up to her elbows in peach fuzz again.  But for now, she and Liz could hang out in town or in Liz’s room at their current rental.  Even though Liz and her family lived in one-half of an old house that had been converted into apartments, the place felt wonderfully exciting to Meg.  For one thing, Liz had free rein in the house while her mother worked.


One day Meg and Liz baked cookies.  They kept mixing the ingredients, plopping the dough on the cookie sheets, and shoving the finished product into the oven, and before they knew it, every counter in the tiny kitchen was filled with cookies.  Then, looking at what they had created, they burst into hysterical laughter.  They sank down on the floor, still chortling over the mess they had made while tears coursed through the dough, splattering on their faces.


And Meg thought she’d never been happier, not in her whole life.


They’d cleaned the kitchen up then, grabbing a handful of cookies.  Plopping down on the old sofa, they felt content.  But just when they had started playing Monopoly, Father appeared and it was time to go home again.  In the doorway Vincent Graham loomed like a storm cloud, chasing away the feelings of freedom and lightness.


Meg compliantly followed her father to the car and rode silently beside him out to their farm.


She played this little game with herself whenever she wanted to escape notice, like now.  Closing her eyes tightly, she pretended that her whole body could curl up into a tiny ball.  And if she were really quiet, she would become invisible.  She would escape the searing eyes of Father.


She always feared that somehow Father would know that she and Liz had wandered around town, flirting with boys.  Someone from church might have seen them and tattled, and Father would have to punish her.  Because flirting with boys was a really big sin, according to Father.  He made scathing remarks about boy crazy girls, who would surely grow up to shame their families.


Sitting on the upholstered seat of their car, hardly daring to breathe, Meg caught a glimpse of his face as he drove.  He seemed lost in a world of his own, and she began to exhale slowly.  They were almost home now, and her mind flew ahead to her room, imagining how she would rush there as soon as the car stopped.  She had almost convinced herself that she had once again escaped the wrath of Vincent Graham, when he suddenly turned, his eyes hard and cold, and flatly spoke:  “Tomorrow, you’ll be staying home.  Your mother needs you to watch your little brother.”  Just like that.  And she didn’t even know if she’d done something wrong, or if her father, unpredictable and arbitrary, had just decided that she’d had way too much freedom.


Of course, it could have been worse.  At least she’d be with Mother, who, while often distant and moody, was at least not cruel and punitive.  And babysitting her two-year-old brother Gordon wasn’t the worst thing that could happen.


But that’s how Father was in those years.   Harsh and cold.  Or hot-tempered, like a flash of fire that could sear right through her skin.  For any infraction, she could earn the blistering heat of the peach limbs across her legs.  She could almost feel the sting of her father’s favorite weapon as she slid out of the car, making her escape.


When little Gordon had been born in the fall, two years before, Meg had suffered still another in what felt like a series of betrayals.  It was bad enough that most of the time she couldn’t figure out what was expected of her.  But at least she’d thought she knew her place in the family.  Youngest child, for one thing.   But Gordon’s birth had changed all that, and because it was such a total surprise, Meg felt completely stupid, as if someone had played a prank that everyone else understood except her.  She had noticed the bulge in Mother’s belly months before the birth, but when she’d asked about it, Mother had dismissed her with a short little remark that she was just gaining weight.  And like the fool, Meg had bought it.  So when Father came home that October day, handing out ice cream bars, like some kind of celebration, and made the announcement that they had a new baby brother, she had glanced in shock over at Vernon, who had just stood there, avoiding her eyes.  She was obviously the last to know, and now Father was acting like she should be happy about it.


And the worst of it was that he’d been born just days after Meg’s own birthday.


When they’d first brought the wrinkled little guy home from the hospital, Meg’s eyes had fastened on that tiny little head and the way Mother was cuddling him so lovingly and felt the piercing pang of jealousy.  She’d mumbled something like “he’s cute”, while secretly thinking he looked like a spider monkey.  Mother had retorted:  “Of course, he’s cute!”


Everything had changed then.  Meg had more responsibilities, watching after her baby brother as he got older.  Sometimes she watched him all day while her mother and father worked out in the fields.  But she didn’t even mind watching him as much as she hated that the little bit of love and warmth she’d once gotten from Mother now belonged to Gordon.


That was another reason she’d felt so blissfully happy hanging out with Liz.  Like a caged bird flapping against the confines of her prison, she’d been set free, allowed to spend hours a day in Liz’s company.  Like the bird released from confinement, Meg had enjoyed the sensation of the wind under her wings as she soared magically, hoping that the feeling might go on forever, while knowing deep down that it would be short-lived.  So now she knew.  Her time with Liz had ended.


Even as her bitter thoughts lingered on all the things left undone, all the plans she and Liz had still had for their summer days, she secretly tucked the memories of what they had done away into a place in her head.  She knew that she could take out the recollections and reexamine them whenever she wanted, reliving the experiences.  She often did just that even in the midst of chores.  Her mind flitted about, selecting one memory or another, and for a few moments, she felt the magic of each experience all over again.


She would later look back on that summer as the final days of an all-too-short childhood.






more bookish things

Margaret Graham woke up dreaming of ice cream and her grandmother’s house; she loved listening to magical stories told by her relatives; and she especially enjoyed visiting the library.   A portion of Chapter One is excerpted from Web of Tyranny.  Free today from Kindle Unlimited.



For the first few seconds of every day, before reality hit, she felt her body floating in a cloudy tangle as she came up from her dreams.  Beautiful dreams of sunny days filled with music, ice cream and lots of laughter.  She could still remember a time when her days had been like that; she’d been much younger then, granted the indulgences of early childhood.  Those moments usually happened in the warm, cozy rooms at Grandma’s house, when she’d had a feeling that everything would work out somehow.



But she was not at Grandma’s today, and as she tossed aside the heavy tangle of sheets and blankets, she knew she wouldn’t be going to Grandma’s again any time soon.  Father had other plans for her.   Her summer days would be full of farm chores, beginning in the early hours of the day and ending only when the last box of fruit had been emptied and the last peach had been cut and placed on the trays.  In the shed, with its overhang that shielded from the hot summer sun, the smell of ripening fruit made her gag, but she had to stifle the urge.  Otherwise, she could end up with a far worse punishment than cutting fruit all day.



Margaret shuddered as she recalled some of those punishments.
At least when she worked in the shed, she was surrounded by the friendly faces of aunts and cousins.  Living within five miles of each other, the Graham relatives, especially the women, rallied around one another during harvest season.   As she worked, she pretended to be a fly on the wall, listening to the adult’s conversations; they hardly noticed her and when they talked in those hushed tones, her ears perked up.



That was how she learned about Aunt Noreen’s heart condition and Aunt Molly’s foster child, the one who was expecting…When Aunt Molly’s voice fell into that whispery tone, Margaret knew that secrets were being revealed.   Lola’s pregnancy and the dilemma about what would become of Lola’s baby after the birth.



Of all the aunts, Aunt Molly could tell a simple story and make it fascinating.  Every day of her life sounded like melodrama.  Even her physical ailments seemed like something out of a storybook.  No matter what else was happening with her though, Aunt Molly always had a friendly word for the younger members of the family.  She and Uncle Chester had only one child of their own; Charles was an oddly quiet boy who seemed misplaced in that family.



Before Aunt Molly had started taking in foster children, Margaret recalled summer nights when she had been allowed a sleepover at her house.  In the tiny little cottage next to the meandering canal, Aunt Molly made up a bed for Margaret in the sleeping porch.  While she lay there, Margaret would study the walls of the tiny room, her eyes following the pattern of the knotty pine; wide awake, she reflected on Aunt Molly’s warning words as she tucked her in.  She’d spoken of the evils in the world and how Margaret had to be very careful to stay away from the field workers who roamed their farms during the summer.  Because the men who worked the fields had evil intentions where young girls were concerned.



Aunt Molly’s warnings introduced fear into her life, like opening a door onto a dark netherworld.  But in the mornings, all the blackness disappeared as Aunt Molly cheerfully served breakfast in the tiny little nook that looked just like a booth in a diner.



So in the summer of her tenth year, Margaret Elaine Graham paid attention to all the melodrama swirling around her and made up stories of her own to add to the mix.



She imagined that Cousin Lucy, who had turned fifteen that year, must have more excitement in her life than she could handle.  Eldest daughter of Aunt Noreen and Uncle Joe, she sashayed into the shed every morning dressed like she was going out on a date.  Today she had on tight Capri pants and a little white shirt with a Peter Pan collar; it seemed just a little too snug for the occasion, so Margaret knew that she must have a secret lover.  She probably met him during lunch break.  They would rendezvous down by the barn, behind the bales of hay; or maybe, they would meet down the hot country road at the next farm, behind the rows of grapes.  Down where the packing boxes could be pressed into service as couches or chairs.  He was probably one of the fruit pickers’ kids.  Maybe that boy with the mysterious and brooding expression, the one whose jeans were too tight.  Or maybe he was an outsider, a city boy working on a farm for the summer.



Margaret sometimes wandered down behind the grapevines, hiding in the foliage, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lucy kissing her boyfriend.  But no matter how hard she tried, Margaret never caught her in the act.  She sometimes wondered if Lucy’s boyfriend was something that she’d made up in her head.  But then she remembered hearing Vernon and Lucy whispering their secrets and laughing.  No, she wasn’t imagining things.



Sitting on the empty packing boxes one day, Margaret flashed back to a time when she and Vernon, three years older, had made trains out of them.  Lining them all in a row, turning them right side up, they could sit inside the boxes, pretending they were train cars.



Now Vernon was too old to hang out with the likes of a ten-year-old.  He followed Lucy, or even Charles, and they would disappear behind the barn.  Probably smoking cigarettes.



Left to her own devices, Margaret listened, spun fantasies in her head, and tried not to be noticed.   Sometimes, if she was really lucky, she could sneak off during lunch break and read a couple of chapters in her library book.  She had to be very careful, because Father wouldn’t tolerate her reading those books.  They were just adventure books, or sometimes love stories.  But Father thought the books were frivolous and ungodly.  If he saw them, he would toss them out in the incinerator.  Margaret knew this because it had happened just last year.



She still shuddered at the memory of her father’s face as he’d shouted condemnation and lit the match to the blaze that had engulfed the trash, consuming her precious book.  She had a hard time putting this new version of her father together with the daddy he had been, because once upon a time, Vincent Graham had been her hero.  Sometimes Margaret could almost see traces of that daddy in his face; in the evenings, when he sat there reading his newspaper, all the sharp lines in his face disappeared.  Or when he sat back in his big chair, falling asleep after dinner, she recalled how she had once trailed along after him when he took the milk cans out to the road.  He would lift her up and put her on the cart; she could feel the breeze in her hair, smell the heavenly aroma of the countryside, and feel safe.  Back then she’d still called him Daddy.



When had it all changed?  Her memories blurred.  One minute she was childlike and carefree, with Daddy tossing her in the air; then he was this stern Father with the gruff exterior and the harsh tones to his voice.



In the background were the blurry images of her mother Mary.   The mother who did nothing to soften Father’s tone, but who did allow Margaret to tag along to town on shopping day, and even let her go to the library to check out books.  Books she warned Margaret to keep out of sight.



Margaret loved the smell of the library.  In the little village, the library shared quarters with the post office.  From the main door, the post office portion veered off to the left.  But to the right, the wonderful library beckoned with its shelves and shelves of unread books.    Margaret felt immediately drawn to the shelves containing her favorites.  Sometimes she just wandered up and down the aisles, taking books down and examining them.  Feeling the spines of the books and inhaling the scent of the ancient pages.
And then she would sigh with the sheer ecstasy of being a part of something so magical.








As Martha ponders her affair with Zach, she is reminded, once again, of the last days of her marriage…and what she had done to try to salvage it.  Excerpted from Interior Designs.



Later that day, after most of our tasks had been checked off the list, I leaned back in my chair, closing my eyes and mulling over the thoughts that had been tumbling around in my head for most of the day.  Ever since Zach’s call I’d been a bit off my game.  I couldn’t concentrate:  I kept remembering the last time we’d seen each other, and how everything had ended between us.  It had just fizzled out.  Nothing major had happened:  no fights, no disagreements, and no drama.   Just “the end.”

Had there been any hints in our last encounter, or had he just stopped calling with no warning?

Now that I recalled that part of it, I began to feel like I’d been unceremoniously dumped.  I didn’t want to go there again, so why had I agreed to the lunch?  Had I hoped that we would begin again?  Or that he might somehow explain what had happened—or not happened—between us?

It had been several months ago, so my mind skipped back there, searching for clues.

Not really discovering anything that would explain it all, I thought that maybe I should call him and offer some excuse for why we couldn’t meet.  Yes, that’s what I should do.  I couldn’t even imagine opening myself up to him again, even though our “relationship” back then had always been understood as a “no strings” affair.

Perhaps that wasn’t possible for me, though.  Maybe I was old-fashioned and always had this feeling that something more would develop, despite whatever label we’d placed on what was between us.

How had I turned into such an insecure creature?  All through my marriage, at least until the very end, I’d believed that I could hold onto anyone I wanted.  Despite all the evidence of Hal’s betrayals and continuing involvement with Amber, I’d kept coming up for air and striking out.  Nobody was going to intimidate me or crush my world into smithereens.

Sometimes I felt awash with rage, while other times the guilt overwhelmed me.  Looking back, I couldn’t believe that I’d used blackmail and all kinds of dirty tricks to keep my man.  I’d been watching too many old movies, or maybe even reading too many love stories.  The ones in which “love wins out in the end.”

Who believes that crap anymore?  Not I, that’s for sure.

How far had I been willing to go to keep Hal in my life?  And when Miranda was no longer useful—when she had turned on me, too, what had I done next?

A few months after my first meeting with Miranda, I’d called her again.  From a pay phone, as usual, so there wouldn’t be any trace on any of my phone lines.  Yes, she’d delivered the information I’d wanted, but it hadn’t been enough.  Hal kept going to the beach house, while claiming to be on business trips; he hadn’t even been that careful in covering his tracks.  Carl, the man who was in charge of the maintenance there, had succumbed to my charms when I asked him to keep track for me.

When Miranda answered the phone, I spoke quickly.  “I need more dirt.  You’ve told me about the underworld business clients, and you’ve told me Amber’s sordid history; none of that is working.  You’ve got to give me more.  Did Amber and Hal use drugs?  Were they dealing?”

I listened as she confirmed my suspicions about the drug use; I reminded her that I needed hard evidence.

We agreed to meet downtown again.  Miranda didn’t seem all that worried about being able to produce what I needed.  So why did I feel so anxious?

A few days later, she appeared at our meeting with a file.  She handed it over as soon as I came through the door.  Then she turned on me and snarled:  “That’s it.  That’s all I have, and I’m done.”

Startled by her reaction, I just stared.  I asked:  “What’s wrong?  Has something happened?”

She shook her head fiercely, but added:  “Some of the drug dealers have been giving me a hard time.  It’s like they are suspicious of me now.  What have you said or done to make that happen?”

I denied stirring up notice from the dealers, of course, but I realized that my questions, and even some of the calls I’d made, could have elicited some kind of action on their part.

When I left that day, I kept glancing over my shoulder, wondering who was watching me.



Front Cover-resized again



masculine work space-resized

Their early years were idyllic, but then Martha enters Hal’s office one day and makes a stunning discovery.  Excerpted from Interior Designs.



Sometimes I think about those first six years of Meadow’s life as idyllic.  I loved mothering, just as I adored keeping up our house.  It all fit nicely into my interior design talents, I thought.  We had bought our own lovely home, with my parents’ help again, when Meadow was three.  I still loved the house, remembering how my own creative inspiration had filled the rooms.

Soon we were entertaining, luxuriating in newly developing friendships, and enjoying weekends at the cabin.

During the months before I discovered Hal’s affair, I had thought we were finally reaping all the fruits of our labor.

That’s why the news of his infidelity turned my world upside down and moved me in a desperate direction.

I’d been trying to get pregnant again for awhile, even after I’d learned of Hal’s affair.  I was pretty good at pretending, and ignoring the obvious.

So imagine my surprise and horror to discover still another of Hal’s deceptions.

Maybe I was just looking for something, just in case.  Something I could use for leverage.  Going through Hal’s files had seemed like the obvious place to find those clues.

Behind a tab marked “personal” and in a file with “medical” written across it, I hit pay dirt.

The invoices looked innocent enough, but several were marked with various codes, with explanations on the back.  Nothing very exciting here. They all looked like a series of routine exams until I saw the word “surgery.”  What?  Hal had never had surgery.  I studied it more closely, only to finally ferret out the kind of surgery Hal had had.  A vasectomy!

I felt the blood draining from my face, leaving me faint.  Little beads of perspiration broke out on my forehead.  Then I heard a sound downstairs and quickly returned all the papers to the file.  I locked the cabinet.

In the bathroom, I threw water on my face and carefully restored my makeup and brushed my hair.

“Hi, dear,” I’d called out cheerfully, almost skipping down the stairs.  I was the Happy Homemaker extraordinaire, and there was no way that I would tip my hand.

I don’t remember much about the rest of the evening, but I think I should have received an Oscar for my award-winning performances over the next few weeks.  Now I was more determined than ever to rip Amber Cushing out of my husband’s life.

That time in my life echoed the all-too familiar childhood feelings of being left out of my parents’ exclusive club.  The Club of James and Marie Scott.


Front Cover-resized again







When nineteen-year-old Julia Carroll went missing one night in March 1991, the Carroll family would be forever fractured by the loss. Sam, the father and a veterinarian, spent his remaining years writing in his journal and constantly trying to spur the detectives on in their quest. But the detectives seemed to have decided early on that Julia had simply walked away from her life. Meanwhile, Helen, the mother and a librarian, buried her troubles under alcohol, and soon she and Sam were divorced.

Now, years later, the youngest daughter, Claire, is married and living a posh life with her architect husband, Paul Scott, in suburban Atlanta.

Lydia Delgado, the older sister and single mother to teenaged Dee, is a recovering addict, but her relationship with Claire ended years before when Claire did not believe an allegation Lydia had made against Paul.

One dark night in an alley, Paul and Claire are walking back toward their car, but take a detour for some lovemaking. Paul loves taking risks.

Paul is murdered, and in the aftermath, Claire begins to uncover her husband’s dark secrets, some of which are so horrific that she doesn’t know what to believe. Multiple narrators tell the story, and interspersed between them are excerpts from Sam Carroll’s journals, a homage to his daughter Julia.

But finding the secrets opens up the door between Claire and Lydia…so they, together, try to find answers.

Who can they trust? Are the cops and FBI agents, as well as powerful politicians, also part of what Paul has been hiding? Will the secrets continue to unfold to reveal greater depths of evil until neither of them will live to tell about them?

Twists and turns kept me guessing, even as around every corner, more stunning revelations would come. The more I thought I knew about the intricacies of the plot, the more I was startled to find additional layers. What had really happened to Julia? Who was the mastermind behind the brutal slayings of pretty young girls? And why did it seem as though Paul was still pulling the strings?

Pretty Girls: A Novel was an intense plot-driven novel with graphic violence, its dark underbelly hidden behind the façade of wealth and privilege. Not a book for the faint of heart, but definitely a compelling and twisted mystery. 4.5 stars.





Heidi and Chris Wood have a marriage that seems to work for them. Longevity, a twelve-year-old daughter Zoe, and a lovely condo near Chicago.

Yes, Chris travels too much, in his career as an investment banker, but for the most part, this works for Heidi, too, as she has her own career teaching literacy classes. She loves helping the underprivileged, and even before we see what happens next, we are ready. Ready for her to do the unthinkable.

So one day, when Heidi spots a young woman with a baby near the train station, looking cold…and possibly homeless, she is drawn to them. She begins seeing them over and over until the night that she decides to do something about it.

What Heidi does next seems completely out of the box, and seemingly without a second thought, she takes the plunge anyway. Does she realize that she could be threatening everything she has and all the people she knows? What dark moments in Heidi’s past have contributed to the empty space inside that is suddenly filled by the presence of Willow and baby Ruby, in her life and in her home?

Narrated alternately by Heidi, by Chris, and then by Willow, Pretty Baby is a mesmerizing tale that takes the reader to the dark side.

Especially in Willow’s narrative, when we learn much more about her past, what events informed her life, and what contributed to the train wreck her life has become. But is she a reliable narrator? Or could she be fictionalizing events for her own purposes?

The characters were completely believable, and I found myself connecting more to Heidi than I would have imagined I could. Chris was someone whose behavior annoyed me, even as I could understand how he would resent the intrusion of Willow and the baby. But his attraction to his colleague Cassidy, who traveled with him and other co-workers, made him seem like the kind of man who reacts when his needs are not immediately met.

Even though I rooted for Heidi, I also found her behavior frightening. What would she risk to help a stranger? Even when I knew about what had happened to her in the past, it was hard for me to conceive of some of her actions. And then, as more of the story unfolds, we see her descend into a morass from which she might never escape.

Zoe, the twelve-year-old, was an annoying pre-teen, and her behavior was so stereotypical, with the scowls, the eye rolls, and the belligerence, that I pretty much dismissed her. Who can relate to someone so cardboard-like?

Despite the frustrations I felt with the characters, I could not put this book down. Completely engaging, and even though I put the pieces together before the end, I couldn’t wait to see what would happen. 5 stars.

***An e-arc of this book was provided by the publishers via NetGalley.