REVIEW: The Last Chance Matinee

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THE LAST CHANCE MATINEE

Mariah Stewart

Publication Date: March 21, 2017

Publisher: Gallery Books

$16.00 Trade Paperback Original

ISBN: 9781501144905

Fiction

Book 1 in the Hudson Sisters series

Look for Book 2 in 2018 and Book 3 in 2019!

 

**DISCLAIMER: I received a free, advance copy of The Last Chance Matinee in exchange for an honest review and participation in the author’s blog tour.**

Secret siblings who only discover each other’s existence during the reading of a will. A bit  cliché, but it does make for an enticing bit of drama in The Last Chance Matinee by Mariah Stewart. The author of the popular Chesapeake Diaries series returns with the first book in her new series about the unwitting progeny of a deceased movie agent.

When Fritz Hudson dies suddenly, his daughters Allie and Des are summoned from their homes in California and Montana, respectively, to the Philadelphia office of Fritz’s best friend and attorney, Peter Wheeler, for the reading of Fritz’s will. Much to their surprise, there is a third party waiting : Cara McCann, Fritz’s daughter by his longtime New Jersey mistress.

It seems as if Fritz had some misgivings about how he handled his dual-family situation in life, because he sought to merge both families in death: in order for his daughters to each receive their share of their considerable inheritance, they all had to work together to restore a run-down movie theater owned by Fritz’s family in his hometown of Hidden Falls, Pennsylvania. Of course, Fritz upped the stakes of the inheritance: if either of the sisters refused to take part in the project, then none of them would receive their inheritance, and it would all go to earmarked charities instead.

The reluctant trio travel to Hidden Falls, where events reiterate the “Hidden” in the town name. Allie, Des, and Cara not only learn more about each other, but also about the layers of secrets that formed the father each of them thought they knew. Of course, each woman meets a man that is well-suited for her and discovers that small-town life , and theater restoration, and their new sibling relationships, aren’t all as bad as they thought it would be.

When I first started reading The Last Chance Matinee, Stewart’s use of the trite secret love child/inheritance battle trope made me roll my eyes. However, she inserted enough plot twists  (Addictions! More secret family members! Unexplained deaths! Missing heirlooms!) to rescue the book from being a carbon copy of most romances on the market. However, the characters of Allie, Des, and Cara are a bit stereotypical in their own rights (Allie as the high-strung, perfectionist firstborn; Des as the peacemaking, bleeding-heart middle child; Cara as the free-spirited youngest child).

Stewart’s secondary, yet important, characters are what keep the book from being boilerplate. Seth, the tattooed Army veteran; Nikki, Allie’s teenage daughter; and the indomitable and enigmatic Barney Hudson (plus her car) are among those that keep the story interesting, as their personalities provide welcome relief from, and add flavor to, the storyline.

The Last Chance Matinee is a beach read: light, airy, not too taxing on the brain cells. It’s a good escape. The plot moves steadily and while the “Happily Ever After” plot points (and subsequent setups for the next two books in the series) can be seen a mile away, even that obviousness doesn’t deter too much from the story. While I enjoyed the book, I was peeved that the entire story arc is being dragged out into three (or more) books.

I’m not a big fan of serials, and I would have liked to have the entire Hudson Sisters storyline packed into one book.  While I have a general idea of how each book is going to end (thanks to the obvious clues in The Last Chance Matinee), I don’t like waiting another year or two for the series to come to fruition. Blame the “now” culture of our society, but my interest in what happens to Allie and Des will likely wane between now and then, and I may not be inclined to pick up book #2 or #3 when they are finally released.

The Last Chance Matinee is a solid, entertaining read that doesn’t expect much from the reader. Fans of Stewart’s previous works will likely enjoy it, and it is a good entry to her writing for new readers (as I was).

 

What I’m Reading: The Widow by Fiona Barton

The Widow

Fiona Barton

Berkeley Publishing Group

February 2016

DISCLAIMER: I received a free e-galley from Berkeley Publishing (via Net Galley) in exchange for a fair and honest review.

 
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I was invited to participate in a blog book tour for the February 2016 release of The Widow by Fiona Barton. Here’s my review for this stop on the tour.

The Widow, by Fiona Barton, is a pretty interesting read. Set in the United Kingdom, it follows Jean Taylor, the recent widow of accused child kidnapper (and possible murderer) Glen Taylor. The story opens as Jean is still reeling from the sudden death of her husband after being hit by a bus. Glen had never been formally charged with the kidnapping of Bella Elliott, though he’d been questioned heavily after her disappearance. The interference of the police alienated the Taylors, particularly Jean, from their neighbors and forced them to rely on each other even more for support and camaraderie. The police, as well as reporters, had always suspected that Jean knew more about Bella’s disappearance than she said. With Glen’s death, Jean was free from any obligations that she may have had to her husband while he was alive. And Jean decided to start talking.

Barton did a very good job of building suspense throughout the novel. What I especially liked was the eventual humanization of Jean’s character. At first, she came across as somewhat of an caricatured automaton, a mousy wife who was completely controlled by her psychologically abusive husband. As the book progresses, we see the layers of Jean, alluded to by the character herself as “Jean” versus “Jeanie”. These hidden facets belied a keen cleverness and mastery of subtle manipulation, and I as a reader became hooked by Jean’s character as each layer was revealed.

Barton did another good job in the character of Kate Waters, the ambitious reporter who eventually scores a coveted interview with Jean. This was another case of a cookie-cutter character who becomes more than meets the eye. No apologies are made for Kate’s ambition or methodology, and there is no moral undertone to her success in the vein of “everything has a price.” Still, the character manages to garner sympathy as she manages to outwit her competition to garner an interview with perhaps the most famous widow in recent times, and strain her relationships with those who helped her get to Jean.

Unfortunately for Barton, she did rely on clichés with her male characters, particularly Detective Inspector Bob Sparkes. Sparkes became the quintessential over-obsessed law enforcement official who pursues a case to the detriment of his personal and professional lives. Sparkes’s boss, was the superior who wanted to make the headlines, even at the cost of those who worked under him. Likewise, Glen Taylor becomes just another garden-variety pedophile and narcissist; his behavior and personality are textbook, and leave little to the imagination. Perhaps this is because Barton wanted the women in the book–Jean, Kate, and Bella’s mother Dawn Elliott–to be the focus of the story. Indeed, the entire story is very female-centric and a statement on how women are actually the complicated creatures we are often made out to be, and are usually not how we appear to be.

The ending of the book was a bit anticlimactic, which marred an otherwise gripping story. There was also an issue with changing points of view near the end of the book, especially with Detective Zara Salmond. Her POV seemed abrupt and out of place, and Barton would have been better served sticking to those of the primary characters in the story–Jean, Kate, and Sparkes–and relegating Salmond to the background with the other characters.

Others have compared The Widow to the novel The Girl On the Train, which is a bit of a disservice since I found the latter to be underwhelming and not deserving of the hype surrounding it.   The Widow is much better, and a psychological thriller worth trying.

CYBER WEEK SALE: 50% off ERRYTHANG!

AAAAAAGGGHHHHH! This was supposed to have been sent on MONDAY, but when I switched from “draft” to “publish” on the WordPress app, I guess the app/phone interface didn’t get the memo. Grrrr…

Anyway, here is the original post that SHOULD have gotten to you a few days ago. *sigh*

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Hi all,

I haven’t blogged in a long while because I was dealing with an ill family member, NaNoWriMo, Thanksgiving, and the imminent publication of my fourth book.

Well, the family member is better, I didn’t finish NaNoWriMo this year (only got to 27K words), T-Day is over, and my fourth novel, Stormbringer, is out as of today. WOOT!

Since it’s that time of the year where everyone and their grandmother is offering a sale, I figured I’d jump on the bandwagon. 🙂

Here ya go: my biggest. sale. EVER.

50% off (yeah, I said it), all titles through my website. Yes, that includes my newest book, Stormbringer.  Enter code CYBERTIFF at checkout.

You can find details in the latest email that went out to my mailing list (and if you aren’t on my mailing list, then what are you waiting for?)

http://eepurl.com/bHIIdL

This sale is going on all week through Saturday, 12/5. Free U.S. shipping on all orders of $10 & up. How cool is that?

For those of you who wanted to try my books but were frugally conscious, now’s your chance! And did I mention that I now offer the mass market versions of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic and Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott novel? The regular price for those is $8.00 each; if you buy them this week, you can get them for $4 each.  That’s two for the price of one, which is a pretty good incentive to buy both. 😀 And the larger paperbacks, which are $14.95 each, can now be had for about $7.50! At this price, you can get all the titles and stock up for your holiday reading.

Oh, what a bargain! What a bargain for you!

And did I also mention that the books come autographed? And that they make great gifts? Just saying.

The offer is only good through my website, and ends at 11:59 pm ET on Saturday, December 5. Remember to use the code CYBERTIFF at checkout. Come through and gitchu a piece.

Thanks for stopping by.

DOMINIC IS HERE! Let’s celebrate with a special sales deal!

Drum roll, please…

The second installment of The Bastille Family Chronicles is here! WOOT!

BFC Dominic cover ebook

(BTW: the title is not missing: it’s on the spine. Chuck Palahniuk used a similar setup for his novel Haunted.)

The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic is the story of Dominic Bastille, a transplant surgeon and one-half of the youngest Bastille siblings (he has a twin sister, Nicollette. Look for her story this summer). Dominic has relocated from Newark, New Jersey to Atlanta, Georgia for a unique professional opportunity. Unfortunately for him, his past has caught up with him…in the form of his ex-fiancee, Cecily Porter. Three years post-engagement and Cecily still isn’t over Dominic; to make matters worse, Dominic has hired Taryn McIntyre, a very brilliant and attractive game developer, to help him with his medical research, which tends to integrate a lot of technology with commonplace medical procedures and training. Of course, Dominic and Taryn start a personal relationship in addition to the business one. But Cecily is not done with Dominic..and she plays for keeps.

Read an excerpt from The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic

This was more fun to write than The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille, and that’s saying something!

Read an excerpt from The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille

In the original draft of BFC: Dominic, Taryn was a freelance journalist who specialized in healthcare, and met Dominic when she was assigned to interview him for a new healthcare magazine. But I didn’t want to be accused of writing about a thinly-disguised version of myself (I worked in healthcare for years, once upon a time, and I’m a writer, so there’s that), so I changed her to a game developer. I liked this version of Taryn better because I have interacted with quite a few female gamers and game developers on Twitter, and I am also a fan of Back Girls Code and Women Who Code. These ladies deserve some literary shine, and I hope I did them justice. I also wanted Dominic to have a romantic relationship with someone who isn’t necessarily like the women he usually dates. Taryn, with her shoulder-length, bi-colored dreadlocks (I use the term “locs” in the book) eyebrow ring, and sleeve of tattoos is not the type of woman Dominic usually goes for. Plus, she’s smarter and makes more money…definitely not Dominic’s usual wheelhouse. 🙂

While this is technically Dominic’s story, I explored some issues that have been going on with women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) fields in general, as well as entrepreneurs. Taryn is in the minority regarding her viewpoints on life and her priorities…read the book to find out exactly how.

Check it out: in honor of the release of The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic, I am doing a sale special: if you purchase the paperback from my website (which is autographed, BTW), you get the ebook FREE! How cool is that? Use code EBOOK at checkout to get the free ebook. This deal also applies to The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (BFC #1) and Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott novel (which I wrote under a pen name and is more of a suspenseful book. It is centered around Brooklyn-born, Trinidadian-raised, San Francisco-based DEA Special Agent Sebastian Scott, who was introduced in BFC Camille).

Read an excerpt from Blizzard: A Sebastian Scott Novel

Camille ebook cover  Blizzard_Cover_for_Kindle

In order to get this book/ebook deal, you HAVE to purchase the book from my website; the code doesn’t work on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Can’t choose? Check out the starter pack, which includes BFC Camille and Blizzard, since they are the first books in their respective series. Good bargain!

To recap: Buy paperback from website. Use code EBOOK at checkout. Get free ebook. Lather, rinse, repeat. 🙂 Ebooks are also available for separate purchase in epub (Apple, NOOK, Kobo, Google) and Kindle formats.

Please spread the word, and #SupportINDIEWriters. I hope you have as much fun reading it as I did writing it.  Feel free to drop me a line with your comments about the novel(s). Got Twitter? Speak your piece with the hashtag #BFCDominic (or #BFCCamille, or #SebastianScott ).

As always, thanks for stopping by.

I’m being interviewed! Sunday, 5/7, 7pm EDT

Hi all,

I will be interviewed in the Black Girl Nerds podcast on Sunday, May 7, 7 pm EDT. The interview will be hosted by Jamie Broadnax, founder and khaleesi of Black Girl Nerds. WOOT! Tell a friend or three!

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I will be on a panel of three self-published authors (I’m the lone female author), along with Thelonious Legend (Sins of the Father, the first in the Parker Girls YA series) and Kevin Wayne Williams (Everything I Know About Zombies, I Learned in Kindergarten). We’ll be talking about our respective works, and I will especially bring up The Bastille Family Chronicles: Dominic, which is the next installment in the Bastille Family Chronicles series (the first was The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille). It drops next week! Double WOOT!

Since the podcast starts at 7 pm EDT, there’s plenty of time to listen before you dive into Game of Thrones, House of Lies, the second round of the NBA playoffs (#GritAndGrind, #GoSpursGo), or your preferred Sunday evening programming. If you’re on Twitter, make sure to hashtag it: #BFCDominic, #BGNPodcast

Also…keep your eyes and inboxes peeled next week, as I do my first-ever book giveaway for all three of my titles, It’s gonna be epic!

Thanks for stopping by.
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Stuck (pt. 1)

I haven’t blogged in quite some time. An emergency hospitalization of my grandmother (for whom I’m a caretaker) which required me to spend both nights there; followed by week-long bout with the flu (which I probably picked up from the hospital, but I digress) doesn’t bode well for the creative process. Even as my full recovery drew nearer, and I did my usual “write it in your head” part of my process, I faced a crisis that strikes fear in the heart of every creative:

I got stuck.

Once I was able to stop sleeping for long periods of time, and managed to stop coughing up a lung, I tried to work on the rewrite of next book in my Bastille Family Chronicle series, which is Dominic’s story. I made major changes to his love interest, which required more research (shoutout to Cynthia and Ekaterina for the gamer info!)–which required a recalibration of the plot, especially after I added some different tension points to the love interest. But the flow still wouldn’t come.

Then I pulled up the first draft of the novel I started for National Novel Writing Month 2012. This was a more serious book (the BFC series are contemporary romances), which take longer for me to write. Tinkered with that some, made some progress. But I felt guilty because I wasn’t working on the BFC book, which my readers are looking for by spring.

Then I managed to write a science/speculative fiction/fantasy (SFF) short story for submission to a magazine. The story was based on an SFF book I started back in…2006, or somewhere around there. Anyway, that was kind of fun, and made me think about revisiting that book again. And the guilt over writing another BFC book took over.

I had to ask myself why I felt so guilty. Was the thrill gone from the series already (I’ve only published the first one, and have five more to go)? If so, why? I’ve gotten positive word-of-mouth feedback from readers so far, and the excerpt seemed to work toward introducing me to a broader audience of fans. My readers are looking forward to the next five books, as well as a stand-alone spinoff. The book is selling, again via word-of-mouth. So what’s the problem?

I thought long and hard about it, and my conclusion wasn’t pretty. And I have The Ninja to thank for it.

More on this in a later post. Thanks for stopping by.

BLIZZARD: A SEBASTIAN SCOTT NOVEL IS HERE!

We interrupt the postings about NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo to bring you this important message:

 

Blizzard_Cover_for_Kindle

My new book, Blizzard, drops today! *hits my Nae Nae* Since it’s a different genre, I’ve written it under a pen name, Tee Emdee (I have an author page for that pen name on Amazon and everything!).

I’ve been working on this before and during NaNoWriMo/NaBloPoMo, and it’s finally out to the masses…just in time for some holiday reading (Veterans’ Day, Thanksgiving…it also makes a nice Christmas or Hanukkah gift! 😀 )

For those of you who’ve read The Bastille Family Chronicles: Camille (informally known as The Camille Chronicles), I introduce DEA Special Agent Sebastian Scott as a character who ends up playing  a crucial part in the resolution of the story. However, Blizzard takes place about five years prior to the events in The Camille Chronicles, when he was stationed in San Francisco.

From the blurb on the back:

MEET THE FAMILY.

Fresh on the heels of a major drug bust of the designer drug Blizzard, Special Agent Sebastian Scott of the Drug Enforcement Administration takes a long overdue trip home to Brooklyn, New York for a family reunion. What starts out as a pleasant gathering of his large, tightly knit Trinidadian family takes a dark turn as Nigel Pierre, Sebastian’s least favorite cousin, is arrested for possessing some Blizzard of his own. Out of his jurisdiction and with limited time and without his usual resources, a reluctant Sebastian must navigate family dynamics while he finds a creative way to clear his cousin’s name–without his family driving him crazy in the process.

I had a lot of fun revisiting this book. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Available in paperback, Kindle, and Nook.

Want to try Sebastian Scott with little commitment? Check out the short story Undercover: A Sebastian Scott story. Only 99 cents!

Tell a friend or three. And thanks for stopping by!

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