Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Interview with Rebecca Drake, Author of Just Between Us + Giveaway (US/Can)

I'd like to welcome Rebecca Drake to the blog today to celebrate the exciting release of Just Between Us from St. Martin's Press, a MacMillan imprint!

Welcome to Books à la Mode, Rebecca! Let's get this interview started.

Will you please share a brief introduction with us?

Rebecca Drake is the author of the novels Don't Be Afraid, The Next Killing, The Dead Place, which was an IMBA bestseller, and Only Ever You, as well as the short story "Loaded," which was featured in Pittsburgh Noir. Just Between Us is her latest novel.

A former journalist and native New Yorker, Rebecca currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with her husband and two children.


It's amazing to get to feature you today! Readers, here's a bit about the book, which just hit shelves last month:

Four suburban mothers conspire to cover up a deadly crime in Just Between Us, a heart-stopping novel of suspense by Rebecca Drake.

Alison, Julie, Sarah, Heather. Four friends living the suburban ideal. Their jobs are steady, their kids are healthy. They’re as beautiful as their houses. But each of them has a dirty little secret, and hidden behind the veneer of their perfect lives is a crime and a mystery that will consume them all.

Everything starts to unravel when Alison spots a nasty bruise on Heather’s wrist. She shares her suspicions with Julie and Sarah, compelling all three to investigate what looks like an increasingly violent marriage. As mysterious injuries and erratic behavior mount, Heather can no longer deny the abuse, but she refuses to leave her husband. Desperate to save her, Alison and the others dread the phone call telling them that she’s been killed. But when that call finally comes, it’s not Heather who’s dead. In a moment they’ll come to regret, the women must decide what lengths they’ll go to in order to help a friend.

Just Between Us is a thrilling glimpse into the underbelly of suburbia, where not all neighbors can be trusted, and even the closest friends keep dangerous secrets. You never really know what goes on in another person’s mind, or in their marriage.

As a huge fan of first lines, I’d love to hear the first line of Just Between Us. Could you give us a brief commentary on it?

I love first lines, too! Here’s the opening line of Just Between Us:
Funerals for murder victims are distinguished from other services by the curiosity seekers.
I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that as a society we’re drawn to immerse ourselves in public tragedies. People seem to feel a need to find a connection, however tenuous, with crimes or other calamitous events, and I’ve always found that somewhat macabre and fascinating.

Tell us about your road to publication, such as how you first queried, unexpected challenges, and things you picked up along the way.

My road to publication was long and varied, but I think that’s true for lots of writers. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a novelist, but it took me many years to realize that dream. I started writing fiction seriously when my children were small and I had a couple of manuscripts in the drawer before having the good fortune to meet and be mentored by author Nancy Martin. She critiqued my then latest effort—it was a hard critique, but very valuable. It took me six months to rewrite that novel and I got my first agent after that.

Of course, like most writers, I had dreams of instant success, but that novel didn’t sell and it wasn’t until three proposals later that I landed a contract with an editor who liked my writing. I published three novels, and then I had a slow period, where I was living between the United States and Qatar, in the Persian Gulf, and there were numerous health crises with family members and friends. I kept writing, albeit more slowly, and ultimately I finished another book and found a new agent, who sold it to St. Martin’s Press. That book was Only Ever You, a standalone psychological thriller that came out in 2016. Just Between Us is my latest psychological thriller.

I’ve learned that it’s important to be persistent, to be brave, to advocate for yourself, and to learn as much as you can about the business, while staying focused on craft. Ultimately, the only thing writers can control is their craft.


Are the characters from your book based off anyone you know in real life? How much else of your actual life gets written into your fiction?

Yes and no. Writers pull from their lives all the time, but usually not the way that non-writers imagine. When I was writing my very first crime novel (which ended up in a drawer), I based a character on a really mean boss I’d had, killing him off in different ways through multiple revisions until I finally realized that I kept rewriting the scene because it was cathartic, not because it was important for the novel.

Since then, I’ve never based a character on a specific person. However, I’m often inspired by my real life and will incorporate the personality traits of people I know, or their ways of acting or speaking, in my work. For instance, Just Between Us explores friendship and loyalty, and I drew on my own friendships, particularly the way my female friends talk with and about each other, when creating the characters and their bond with one another.


Out of all the fantastic books out there, what makes Just Between Us stand out from the rest?

I don’t like to toot my own horn, but since you’re asking me to, I’ll repeat what early readers and reviewers have said, which is that Just Between Us is a fast-paced story with lots of plot twists and great characters that asks some really compelling questions: How far would you go to help a friend? And, how much can we ever know about another person’s marriage?

Blog babes, click "Read more" to find out Rebecca's best personal and professional advice. We're also hosting a giveaway for a finished copy of Just Between Us, so you don't want to miss that either!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Dangerous Crossing by Rachel Rhys Giveaway (US/Can)

Dangerous Crossing
Rachel Rhys
Atria Books // Simon & Schuster

Servants and socialites sip cocktails side by side on their way to new lives in this “thrilling, seductive, and utterly absorbing” (Paula Hawkins, #1 New York Times bestselling author) historical suspense novel in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s Death on the Nile and Ken Follett’s Night Over Water.

The ship has been like a world within itself, a vast floating city outside of normal rules. But the longer the journey continues, the more confined it is starting to feel, deck upon deck, passenger upon passenger, all of them churning around each other without anywhere to go...

1939: Europe is on the brink of war when young Lily Shepherd boards an ocean liner in Essex, bound for Australia. She is ready to start anew, leaving behind the shadows in her past. The passage proves magical, complete with live music, cocktails, and fancy dress balls. With stops at exotic locations along the way—Naples, Cairo, Ceylon—the voyage shows Lily places she’d only ever dreamed of and enables her to make friends with those above her social station, people who would ordinarily never give her the time of day. She even allows herself to hope that a man she couldn’t possibly have a future with outside the cocoon of the ship might return her feelings.

But Lily soon realizes that she’s not the only one hiding secrets. Her newfound friends—the toxic wealthy couple Eliza and Max; Cambridge graduate Edward; Jewish refugee Maria; fascist George—are also running away from their pasts. As the glamour of the voyage fades, the stage is set for something sinister to occur. By the time the ship docks, two passengers are dead, war has been declared, and Lily’s life will be changed irrevocably.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Top 10 Behind-the-Scenes Peeks at The Chalk Man by C.J. Tudor + Giveaway (US only)

The Chalk Man
C.J. Tudor
from Crown Publishing (Penguin Random House)

A riveting and relentlessly compelling psychological suspense debut that weaves a mystery about a childhood game gone dangerously awry, and will keep readers guessing right up to the shocking ending

In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.

In 2016, Eddie is fully grown, and thinks he’s put his past behind him. But then he gets a letter in the mail, containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank... until one of them turns up dead.

That’s when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Expertly alternating between flashbacks and the present day, The Chalk Man is the very best kind of suspense novel, one where every character is wonderfully fleshed out and compelling, where every mystery has a satisfying payoff, and where the twists will shock even the savviest reader.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Top 10 Real-Life Inspirations for The Lost Season of Love and Snow by Jennifer Laam + Giveaway (US/Canada)

The Lost Season of Love and Snow
Jennifer Laam
from St. Martin's Griffin (MacMillan)

The unforgettable story of Alexander Pushkin’s beautiful wife, Natalya, a woman much admired at Court, and how she became reviled as the villain of St. Petersburg.

At the beguiling age of sixteen, Natalya Goncharova is stunningly beautiful and intellectually curious. At her first public ball during the Christmas of 1828, she attracts the romantic attention of Russia’s most lauded rebel poet: Alexander Pushkin. Finding herself deeply attracted to Alexander’s intensity and joie de vivre, Natalya is swept up in a courtship and then a marriage full of passion but also destructive jealousies. When vicious court gossip leads Alexander to defend his honor as well as Natalya’s in a duel, he tragically succumbs to his injuries. Natalya finds herself reviled for her perceived role in his death. In her striking new novel, The Lost Season of Love and Snow, Jennifer Laam helps bring Natalya’s side of the story to life with vivid imagination—the compelling tale of her inner struggle to create a fulfilling life despite the dangerous intrigues of a glamorous imperial Court and that of her greatest love.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Sisters Like Us by Susan Mallery + Giveaway (US only)

Sisters Like Us (Mischief Bay #4)
Susan Mallery
from Mira // Harlequin

The grass is always greener on your sister’s side of the fence...

Divorce left Harper Szymanski with a name no one can spell, a house she can't afford and a teenage daughter who's pulling away. With her fledgling virtual-assistant business, she's scrambling to maintain her overbearing mother’s ridiculous Susie Homemaker standards and still pay the bills, thanks to clients like Lucas, the annoying playboy cop who claims he hangs around for Harper's fresh-baked cookies.

Spending half her life in school hasn't prepared Dr. Stacey Bloom for her most daunting challenge—motherhood. She didn't inherit the nurturing gene like Harper and is in deep denial that a baby is coming. Worse, her mother will be horrified to learn that Stacey's husband plans to be a stay-at-home dad…assuming Stacey can first find the courage to tell Mom she's already six months pregnant.

Separately they may be a mess, but together Harper and Stacey can survive anything—their indomitable mother, overwhelming maternity stores and ex’s weddings. Sisters Like Us is a delightful look at sisters, mothers and daughters in today’s fast-paced world, told with Susan Mallery’s trademark warmth and humor.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Into the Night by Cynthia Eden + Giveaway (US only)

Into the Night (Killer Instinct #3)
Cynthia Eden
from HQN Books // Harlequin

Two FBI agents are caught in a merciless vigilante’s crosshairs in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden’s electric Killer Instinct series

Sheltered in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains is the suspect who’s summoned FBI agent Macey Night’s fears to the surface. Every day that the “Profiler,” a vigilante serial killer, escapes justice is another day she’s reminded of what it is to be a ruthless predator’s prey. Capturing him is a craving deeper than anything she’s felt in a long time. But Agent Bowen Murphy, equal parts sexy and volatile, seems hell-bent on changing that. Working together—needing, living and breathing each other—they’re entwined to distraction.

Bowen’s used to operating on impulse: act, don’t feel. Now Macey and the controlled terror behind her beautiful eyes have him rethinking everything, including his rule to never get close to a colleague. He’s willing to fight for a future with Macey, but the consequences of love could be deadly.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Exclusive Sneak Peek: Moonlight Over Manhattan by Sarah Morgan + Giveaway (US/Can)

Moonlight Over Manhattan (From Manhattan with Love #6)
Sarah Morgan
from HQN Books // Harlequin

Sarah Morgan is back with more love and laughter in her acclaimed series, From Manhattan With Love, which Publishers Weekly calls a “sweep-you-off-your-feet romantic experience.”

Determined to conquer a lifetime of shyness, Harriet Knight challenges herself to do one thing a day in December that scares her, including celebrating Christmas without her family. But when dog walker Harriet meets her newest client, exuberant spaniel Madi, she adds an extra challenge to her list—dealing with Madi’s temporary dog sitter, gruff doctor Ethan Black, and their very unexpected chemistry.

Ethan thought he was used to chaos, until he met Madi—how can one tiny dog cause such mayhem? To Ethan, the solution is simple—he will pay Harriet to share his New York apartment and provide twenty-four-hour care. But there’s nothing simple about how Harriet makes him feel.

Ethan’s kisses make Harriet shine brighter than the stars over moonlit Manhattan. But when his dog-sitting duties are over and Harriet returns to her own home, will she dare to take the biggest challenge of all—letting Ethan know he has her heart for life, not just for Christmas?