REVIEW: VERITY, BY COLLEEN HOOVER

 

Lowen Ashleigh is a struggling writer on the brink of financial ruin when she accepts the job offer of a lifetime. Jeremy Crawford, husband of bestselling author Verity Crawford, has hired Lowen to complete the remaining books in a successful series his injured wife is unable to finish.

Lowen arrives at the Crawford home, ready to sort through years of Verity’s notes and outlines, hoping to find enough material to get her started. What Lowen doesn’t expect to uncover in the chaotic office is an unfinished autobiography Verity never intended for anyone to read. Page after page of bone-chilling admissions, including Verity’s recollection of the night their family was forever altered.

Lowen decides to keep the manuscript hidden from Jeremy, knowing its contents would devastate the already grieving father. But as Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy begin to intensify, she recognizes all the ways she could benefit if he were to read his wife’s words. After all, no matter how devoted Jeremy is to his injured wife, a truth this horrifying would make it impossible for him to continue to love her.

My Thoughts: Verity began with a stunning accident on a Manhattan street, which Lowen witnesses and is almost caught up in. Covered with blood, she is assisted by a kind man, who helps her sort herself out, even lending her his shirt.

Cleaned up and headed to her scheduled meeting across the street, Lowen finds herself once again in the presence of the kind man, who turns out to be a part of her meeting. Thus begins a serendipitous leap into her new writing job which takes her to Vermont to stay with that same man and his family. For he is Verity’s husband.

Jeremy Crawford and his son become part of Lowen’s new world, but as she sorts through Verity’s office and tries to organize her thoughts to write the next books in the series, the manuscript Lowen finds and can’t resist reading—just to get into Verity’s head space—changes her perspective, her life, and everything afterwards.

Can we say “bumps in the night”? Is she imagining the very strange happenings in the gorgeous house, or is something very frightening going on? Just when Lowen begins to put together the pieces of her new life, she is also finding herself drawn more and more to Jeremy. At the same time, she is terrified of Verity. Narrated in Lowen’s first person perspective, we are thrust into her head and feeling the moments with her.

What disturbing secrets will be revealed? Is someone a Master Manipulator? Is the truth a flip of a coin that on one side, tells a truth, but on the other, shows a different truth? My head was spinning by the end.

A book I couldn’t put down, I finished it in one day…and then wanted to reread it. 5 brilliant stars.

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REVIEW: WINTER IN PARADISE, BY ELIN HILDERBRAND

 

Irene Steele shares her idyllic life in a beautiful Iowa City Victorian house with a husband who loves her to sky-writing, sentimental extremes. But as she rings in the new year one cold and snowy night, everything she thought she knew falls to pieces with a shocking phone call: her beloved husband, away on business, has been killed in a plane crash. Before Irene can even process the news, she must first confront the perplexing details of her husband’s death on the distant Caribbean island of St. John.

After Irene and her sons arrive at this faraway paradise, they make yet another shocking discovery: her husband had been living a secret life. As Irene untangles a web of intrigue and deceit, and as she and her sons find themselves drawn into the vibrant island culture, they have to face the truth about their family, and about their own futures.

 

My Thoughts: As the story opens with Irene enjoying her beautiful home and her job with Heartland Home & Style magazine, a feeling of foreboding tells us that everything she holds dear will soon be put to the test.

Meanwhile, her sons Baker and Cash are being challenged in their own ways: Cash is facing reversals in his business and Baker’s marriage is on the rocks.

The phone call that changes their lives takes them on a plane to the Virgin Islands, to a place they might have loved visiting under other circumstances.

How will Irene and her sons deal with the death of their husband and father? What will they discover about the secret life he was living?

In alternating narratives, we learn more about the islanders who are now part of Irene’s story: Huck, a ship captain and stepfather to Rosie, who now has become part of their lives; Ayers Wilson, Rosie’s best friend; and Maia, the twelve-year-old girl who has lost her mother.

Set against the backdrop of the island retreat, Winter in Paradise captured my heart with the sadness, the joy of the setting, the delicious foods that tease our taste buds, and the sense of betrayal dealt by Russell, who is no longer alive to explain himself.

Just below the surface is the sense of a mystery, and as Irene reminisces about her life with Russell, she tries to piece together what signs she might have missed along the way. At the very end, however, another tidbit of information from the authorities adds a startling conclusion. Since this book is number one in a new series, I look forward to more from these characters. 5 stars.

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