Author: CMash

An avid reader for many years. Married for 31 years with 2 fantastic adult sons who I am so very proud of with great gfs. Am disabled. Found this wonderful community of book blogging in approximately December 2009 and have loved every minute of it. Am now a reviewer for authors, publishers, publicists, etc. And am also a partner in a Virtual PR tour company, Partners In Crime Tours for authors of novels of mystery, suspense and crime (

STATUS-6 by W. Craig Reed | #Showcase #GuestPost #Giveaway

Status-6 by W. Craig Reed Banner


by W. Craig Reed

May 1 – 31, 2021 Tour


Status-6 by W. Craig Reed

Deep beneath the Arctic Ocean, a covert team of Chinese operatives uses stolen U.S. technology to capture Russia’s newest attack submarine. Loaded with 100-megaton nuclear torpedoes, the sub is headed west. The Americans want to sink her, the Russians want her back, and the Chinese claim they’re not responsible.

NCIS agent Jon Shay is a former SEAL Team Two operator. Still shattered by the murder of his wife a year earlier, he places the barrel of a revolver against his temple, spins the cylinder, and squeezes the trigger. He hears only a click—and the chime of his phone. Activated for a mission in the Arctic, Jon pairs with British scientist Kate Barrett to battle a ticking clock, trained operatives, and top government officials. Together, they must find and stop the world’s most lethal submarine. The stakes are raised when they learn that the Russian sub is controlled by an infected AI system bent on completing its mission to create a nuclear winter.

Praise for Status-6:

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 is my vote for Thriller of the Year. The protagonist is Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan meets Lee Child’s Jack Reacher.” — Grant Blackwood, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Tom Clancy’s “Under Fire

“W. Craig Reed’s latest novel, Status-6, is the best book I’ve read this year—a ripped-from-the-headlines military technothriller that literally left me awake at night, fearful of where we’re headed as a nation and a species. What’s next after the nightmare coronavirus pandemic? Don’t miss this first book in the NCIS Special Ops series that promises to shatter the thriller genre.” — James Rollins, #1 New York Times bestselling author of “The Demon Crown (Sigma Force)”

“W. Craig Reed’s Status-6 grabs you from page one and doesn’t let you go. The global security crisis revealed in this book is all-too-real and could well be tomorrow’s headlines. The characters are well-nuanced and provide a powerful urge to root for or against them. Don’t read this thriller before going to bed—you’ll be awake all night!” — George Gladorisi, New York Times bestselling author of the Tom Clancy Op Center series

Status-6 Book Details:

Genre: Military Thriller
Published by: Post Hill Press
Publication Date: April 13th 2021
Number of Pages: 256
ISBN: 1682619354 (ISBN13: 9781682619353)
Series: Status-6 is the first book in the NCIS Special Ops Thriller series.
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads


Read an excerpt from Status-6:

With his legs sore and lungs burning from the cold, Jon arched his back and stretched when the group finally stopped marching thirty minutes later. To his right, about a quarter-mile distant, the bright blue stripes covering the mess tent signaled the location of the ICEX camp. Two holes, three feet in diameter, had been carved into the ice a few feet from where the group now stood. Jon surmised they were the spent practice torpedo holes drilled by Navy Divers. Liang and company must have parked the ASDS nearby and used the holes as infiltration points. Also, Liang must have had some inside help to deactivate the intruder detection system surrounding the holes. But who? Rinaldo? When would she have had access to that system? More unanswered questions.

Rinaldo approached and said, “Since you’re the former Navy SEAL, why don’t you help our female guest suit up?”

Jon crossed his arms. “This has gone far enough. Time for some answers, Rinaldo.”

Rinaldo pointed her M-16 at Kate’s head. “How’s this for an answer—she suits up or dies.”

Jon uncrossed his arms and fought to quell the ire-stoked coals in his chest. He turned toward Kate. “Are you a certified diver?”

Kate’s nose and cheeks were red. She shivered. “I hate water.”

“Drinking or swimming?” Jon said, hoping to diffuse Kate’s angst.

It didn’t work. Kate looked like a small child being forced to brave a dark alley. “I can’t do this.”

While donning a dry suit, Rinaldo cocked an ear. “What’s the problem?”

Kate stared at the hole in the ice. Frigid blue water lapped against the sides. She backed up and turned away.

“I think she has a water phobia,” Jon said.

“Get her over it,” Rinaldo said.

Jon bristled. The muscles in his face tightened. He grabbed Kate’s suit and brought it to her. Facing her back, he said, “Turn around.” Shaking, Kate remained facing away.

“Please, turn around.”

Kate turned.

“Good,” Jon said. “Now look at me.”

Kate’s eyes met his. Though full of fear, they were riveting, like a blue morning sky touching the edges of a Nebraska corn field. Jon felt his heart flutter. He tried to hold on to the feeling, but it refused to linger. A year had come and gone since he’d lost his wife, but the pain in his chest still held the high ground.

“I’m not setting a foot in that water,” Kate stammered. Her eyes burned with defiance.

“What about a toe?”

Kate crossed her arms and said nothing.

“Just put on the suit to keep the witch happy while I think of something,” Jon said.


“Yeah, something.”

“Like what, mate?”

Rinaldo called over from the other side of the ice hole. “Five minutes, Shay.”

Jon held up the suit. “Just put it on, please. I promise I’ll think of something.”

Kate rolled her eyes and held out her arms. “Fine, but you’d better not be lying to me.”

“Who’s your colleague?” Jon asked as he moved in close to help Kate don the dry suit.

“Bobby Ruppert. He’s a bit rough around the edges and goes into panic mode in stressful situations, but he’s a brilliant engineer.”

While Jon zipped up Kate’s dry suit, the scent of her perfume conjured a memory. He shivered.

“Now what?” Kate said. Her bottom lip quivered. Annelia had also done that when she was frightened.

Jon pulled on his suit. He stepped toward Kate and said, “Let’s just put on our SCUBA gear and then I’ll make my move.”

“Your move?” Kate shot back.

Jon said nothing as he helped Kate into a BC vest, saddled up her tank, and held a Kirby Morgan diving mask in her direction. “Put this on.”

Kate’s tone turned urgent as she grabbed the mask. “You said you’d think of something.”

“Just follow my lead.” Jon pulled on his tank and ran through a system check. The action felt like a visit from an old friend and reminded him of dozens of missions survived.

Kate shook her head in defiance as she sucked in a breath. The hiss of compressed air echoed off nearby shards of ice pushed skyward by Mother Nature.

One by one, Liang’s men entered the water. Jon watched Kate recoil with each splash.

Rinaldo approached. “Ready?”

Kate’s eyes widened. She held her palms up as if to say, “Something?”

Now fully suited, Jon led Kate toward the water. He had to drag her the last few feet. He turned toward her, lifted up his mask, and said, “I’ll hold your hand all the way. This will all be over in five minutes.”

Her eyes still wide, Kate tried to step backward but Jon held onto to her hands and gently kept her in place.

“Just follow me,” Jon said. “I’ve done this hundreds of times.”

Kate shook her head as she dug her heels into the ice.

Rinaldo slapped Jon’s back. The gesture did not feel friendly.

Jon slowly guided Kate toward the hole’s edge. She fought to pull away. He held on tight and looked into her eyes, assuring her in silence that she could do this. Tears streamed down Kate’s face and dripped onto the mask’s rubber lining. Her breathing was erratic. Jon’s heart ached with compassion and guilt. He felt like a jailor forcing an innocent victim into a torture chamber. The bitter taste of choler filled his mouth as he stole a glance at Rinaldo. The beast in his gut grumbled and demanded to be set loose. Jon closed his eyes and slowly breathed in and out to quell the angst.

He opened his eyes, lifted his mask again, and focused on Kate. Softening his voice, he said, “Close your eyes.”

Kate stared at him through her mask. Jon could tell she wanted to trust him, but fear remained her master. He had seen this kind of panic before on the faces of green wannabe SEALs learning how to dive the Navy way. None of them had ever made it through training. For sure, none of them would have survived a dive in Arctic waters.

“Close your eyes and trust me,” Jon said. “Don’t open them until we’re out of the water.”

Trembling, Kate closed her eyes. Jon pulled on her fins and helped her into a seated position with her legs dangling into the water. He did all this with slow movements so as not to make a splash. Rinaldo stood by and watched with impatient indifference. Jon slipped into the hole…


Excerpt from Status-6 by W. Craig Reed. Copyright 2021 by W. Craig Reed. Reproduced with permission from W. Craig Reed. All rights reserved.



Author Bio:

W. Craig Reed

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of thrillers and non-fiction military and business books including Spies of the Deep: The Untold Story of the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War and the critically acclaimed Red November (HarperCollins). Also, The Seven Secrets of Neuron-Leadership (Wiley), an award-winning business book, and Tarzan, My Father (ECW) co-written with the late Johnny Weissmuller, Jr.

Reed served as a U.S. Navy submariner and diver during the Cold War and earned commendations for completing secret missions, some in concert with SEAL Team One. Reed’s military experience and inside contacts help infuse his writing with intrigue and realism, and inspired his next non-fiction book, Also, this novel: STATUS-6 about a former SEAL Team Two operator turned NCIS agent that teams with a British female scientist to stop a Russian submarine controlled by an infected artificial intelligence.

Reed holds an MBA in Marketing and was a former vice president and board director for the Silicon Valley American Marketing Association. Reed is the co-founder of Us4Warriors, an award-winning Veterans Non-Profit and serves on the Board of Aretanium, a wellness firm that leverages the neuroscience he wrote about in his leadership book to provide personalized wellness and professional development programs to accelerate brains, careers, and relationships.

Guest Post

How is the Indonesian Submarine Tragedy
Similar to the Russian Kursk Incident?

As the author of Red November, Spies of the Deep, and other submarine / military books, and as a former U.S. Navy Diver and submariner, I have access to “inside information” about the lost Indonesian submarine KRI Nanggala 402. The 1977-vintage German-built Cakra-class diesel (non-nuclear) submarine disappeared on Wednesday, April 21. It’s a smaller boat, only 195 feet long by 20 feet wide, with four diesel engines that recharge a bank of batteries to provide a few days of power while submerged. The sub then needs to come shallow to “snorkel” by running its engines to recharge batteries and ventilate the air.

The Commander of the Indonesian National Armed Forces reported that the Nanggala had gone missing in waters about fifty nautical miles north of Bali. The Indonesian navy verified that the sub requested permission to dive prior to test firing two Surface and Underwater Target (SUT) torpedoes. An hour later, the training task force commanding officer authorized the shots, and the ocean went silent while the Nanggala flooded its torpedo tubes. The Chief of Staff of the Indonesian Navy said the Nanggala fired both an unloaded practice and a live torpedo before contact was lost.

What might have happened to the Indonesian submarine that led to its demise? How is this incident similar to the loss of the Russia Kursk submarine in August 2000? The Indonesian navy relayed that the Nanggala may have had battery power issues after submerging in waters more than 2,000 feet deep, which exceeds the sub’s crush depth by 400 feet. Torpedo test firings can also be hazardous and led to the loss of the Russian submarine Kursk in August 2000.

The Nanggala had 53 people on board, including 49 crew members, three weapons specialists, and the sub’s commander, Lieutenant Colonel Heri Oktavian. The commander of 2nd Fleet Command submarine unit was the highest-ranking naval officer aboard, who was accompanied by an officer from the Weapons Materials and Electronics Service. The latter was aboard to observe the test firings of the 1967-built AEG SUT 264 torpedoes, which are 21-inch heavyweight wire-guided weapons of German design.

On the 25 April, three separate parts of the Nanggala were found and the entire crew of 53 were confirmed dead.

Until the evidence can be examined, we can’t know why the submarine was lost, but there are similarities to the Argentinian ARA San Juan and Russian Kursk disasters. Older model diesel submarines are plagued by propulsion system malfunctions, such as battery shorts, fires, and explosions. Similar to the Kursk, the Nanggala was conducting torpedo firing exercises, so a weapons malfunction may be an even more plausible scenario.

On August 12, 2000, the bow compartment on the Russian Kursk submarine exploded, killing all but 23 survivors. The Russians claimed that during a test firing of an outdated Type 65 torpedo, an unstable propellant caused the initial explosion. They suggested that the torpedo was loaded into an unclean tube moments before the scheduled firing, and the irritants ignited the fuel. Any torpedoman, whether NATO or Russian, knows that torpedoes are loaded and ready in clean tubes hours before a test-firing. Also, two civilian experts from the Dagdizel military plant were in the torpedo room monitoring the exercise and would not have allowed an unstable weapon to be mishandled.

Several high-ranking officials aboard the Kursk and the target warship, the Peter the Great, observed the exercise. The two vessels were thirty miles apart. A Type 65 torpedo at top speed would have taken thirty minutes to reach the target and would have run out of fuel before arriving—an event not likely to attract an audience of senior military personnel. Recent evidence reveals that the Kursk was not test firing an old Type 65 weapon, but rather a newer top-secret Shkval rocket torpedo. To observe the exercise, the USS Toledo spy sub snuck in close. The tragic events that unfolded were covered up by Russian and NATO officials for almost twenty years.

Interviews with numerous experts and officials have verified that a Shkval became lodged in the tube during the firing exercise. After the firing mechanism was triggered, the Shkval was programmed to light off the rocket engine. Unable to leave the tube, the torpedo blew off the aft torpedo tube door, and two minutes later, the fire ignited the fuel in other torpedoes and caused the second, catastrophic explosion. Interviews with submariners aboard the Toledo also intimate that a scrape or near-collision with the Kursk may have inadvertently caused the Shkval to become lodged in the tube.

The secondary explosion disintegrated the forward sections of the Kursk, but the aft compartments remained intact. Twenty-three survivors awaited a rescue that never arrived. New evidence revealed by the dive teams involved in the rescue attempt show that the Russians, while using antiquated rescue vehicles, may have accidentally flooded the aft escape trunk on the Kursk, which led to the demise of the survivors.

If a practice torpedo became lodged in the tube of the Nanggala, or the weapon experienced a “hot run” where the propeller spun up before leaving the tube, or there was a malfunction with the tube or firing system, this could have resulted in serious flooding that sent the sub to the bottom. Regardless of the reason, the demise of any submarine is always catastrophic, and the loss of life is devastating to the families of the crew. For those of us in the submarine community, this tragedy ignites a host of nightmares, and our prayers go out to those who are suffering during this time of mourning.

William Craig Reed is the New York Times bestselling author of the award-winning book RED NOVEMBER and SPIES OF THE DEEP: The Untold Truth About the Most Terrifying Incident in Submarine Naval History and How Putin Used The Tragedy To Ignite a New Cold War. This book reveals shocking new evidence about what really happened to the Russian submarine Kursk, lost in August 2000, and why Presidents Putin and Clinton covered up the truth about the incident. Reed is a former U.S. Navy submariner and diver and co-founder of, an award-winning veteran’s non-profit.

Catch Up With W. Craig Reed:
BookBub: @wc14
Instagram: @wcraigreed
Twitter: @wcraigreed
Facebook: @wcraigreed



Tour Participants:

Visit these other great hosts on this tour for more great reviews, interviews, guest posts, and giveaways!



Enter the Giveaway:

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for William Craig Reed. There will be ONE (1) winner who will receive TWO (2) physical William Craig Reed books (including The 7 Secrets of Neuron Leadership AND Spies of the Deep). The giveaway begins May 1, 2021 and ends on June 1, 2021. This giveaway is available only for shipping addresses located in the US, UK, and Canada. Void where prohibited.

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#Review | Ruby Falls by Deborah Goodrich Royce

Ruby Falls by Deborah Goodrich Royce
Genre: Mystery; Psychological Thriller
Published by Post Hill Press
Publication Date: May 4, 2021
Pages: 242
Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
Edition: Kindle
My Rating: 5

Synopsis (via GR)

On a brilliantly sunny July day, six-year-old Ruby is abandoned by her father in the suffocating dark of a Tennessee cave. Twenty years later, transformed into soap opera star Eleanor Russell, she is fired under dubious circumstances. Fleeing to Europe, she marries a glamorous stranger named Orlando Montague and keeps her past closely hidden.

Together, Eleanor and Orlando start afresh in LA. Setting up house in a storybook cottage in the Hollywood Hills, Eleanor is cast in a dream role—the lead in a remake of Rebecca. As she immerses herself in that eerie gothic tale, Orlando’s personality changes, ghosts of her past re-emerge, and Eleanor fears she is not the only person in her marriage with a secret.

In this thrilling and twisty homage to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, the story ricochets through the streets of Los Angeles, a dangerous marriage to an exotic stranger, and the mind of a young woman whose past may not release her.

My Thoughts

Hold on a second, my jaw is on the floor and I need to pick it up!!!! WOW!!!!!

This is the first book that I have read by this author, and if it’s any indication of what’s to come, then I can’t wait.

In 1968, Ruby Russell, six years old, is abandoned by her father at Lookout Mountain, never to be seen again. As a child, she is broken and the incident never leaves her. Even as an adult, she has held on to the fact that her father would return and because of it suffers from severe anxiety.

She has just finished shooting a soap opera that did not end well but is so happy because she marries an aristocrat after a whirlwind romance and they move to Hollywood.

This book had my head spinning as I could not figure out who were the “good guys” and those that weren’t.

A heart pounding read that was tough to put down. The suspense caused palpitations because I didn’t have a clue as to how this was going to turn out. And all I will say is, that it wasn’t what I expected!!!

Highly recommend.

Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗


  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
  • I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

    Mailbox Monday

    Mailbox Monday

    According to Marcia, “Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.

    Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

    Monday: (05/03/21)

    When I Last Saw You by Bette Lee Crosby~ Kindle personal purchase
    Say Goodbye by Karen Rose ~ Kindle from Berkley/PenguinRandomHouse

    Wednesday: (05/05/21)

    Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger~ Kindle from Harlequin via NetGalley


    #Review | The Next Wife by Kaira Rouda

    The Next Wife by Kaira Rouda
    Genre: #DomestricThriller #PsychologicalThriller
    Published by Thomas & Mercer
    Publication Date: May 1, 2021
    ASIN: B08C7J3LQZ
    Pages: 306
    Review Copy From: Thomas & Mercer via NetGalley
    Edition: eARC
    My Rating: 4+

    Synopsis (via GR)

    There is no limit to the lies, suspicion, and secrets that can poison the perfect marriage in this twisting novel of suspense by USA Today bestselling author Kaira Rouda.

    Kate Nelson had it all. A flourishing company founded with her husband, John; a happy marriage; and a daughter, Ashlyn. The picture-perfect family. Until John left for another woman. Tish is half his age. Ambitious. She’s cultivated a friendship with Ashlyn. Tish believes she’s won.

    She’s wrong.

    Tish Nelson has it all. Youth, influence, a life of luxury, and a new husband. But the truth is, there’s a lot of baggage. Namely, his first wife—and suspicions of his infidelity. After all, that’s how she got John. Maybe it’s time for a romantic getaway, far from his vindictive ex. If Kate plans on getting John back, Tish is one step ahead of her.

    She thinks.

    But what happens next is something neither Kate nor Tish saw coming. As best-laid plans come undone, there’s no telling what a woman will do in the name of love—and revenge.

    My Thoughts

    After Reading The Favorite Daughter, I put this author on my radar and have been waiting patiently, well maybe not so patiently, for this book!!

    It’s a big day at EventCo when the company that John and Kate, his first wife, started many years ago goes public on the Stock Market. But Kate, and their only child Ashlyn, are seething because Tish, his 2nd and much younger wife, is trying to move into the spotlight.

    John has been under a lot of stress with the company going public so Tish plans what was going to be a romantic getaway weekend. Another reason to take John away is that she is getting feelings that Kate and John might be having thoughts of reconciliation. But John never makes it home. Did he have a heart attack from all the stress or was it murder?

    Now the 3 Nelson women are battling it out as to who has complete control over the company. Is it Tish, who they think is a gold digger? Or is it Kate, the first wife who helped built this company and wants revenge on how John humiliated her? Or is it Ashlyn, the only heir apparent, who has been spoiled from her birth 21 years ago?

    This was a quick read because I just kept turning the pages to see what the outcome was going to be. The characters were believable. It was a read that transports the reader into the story.

    I knew, or at least thought I thought I did, from that fateful day that John died, who was behind everything and fighting to get everything. WRONG!!!! And then the ending that blew me away!!!!

    A chilling read that was gripping from the first page to the last.

    The reason for not a full 5 stars was for 2 reasons. 1. I felt that some things were repetitive and 2. The ending left me with unanswered questions. Does that mean a sequel?

    Either way, I will be once again in waiting mode for Ms. Rouda’s next novel.

    Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗


  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
  • I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

    Mailbox Monday

    Mailbox Monday

    According to Marcia, “Mailbox Monday is the gathering place for readers to share the books that came into their house last week. Warning: Mailbox Monday can lead to envy, toppling TBR piles and humongous wish lists.
    Today’s list is the combination of a couple of weeks. We finally could travel, after a year, to spend the week with my younger son, DIL and 2 granddaughterss

    Click on title for synopsis via GoodReads.

    Sunday: (04/18/21)

    Bright Burning Things by Lisa Harding ebBookfrom HarperVia via NetGalley

    Monday: (04/19/21)
    Trace Of Doubt by DiAnn Mills ~ Kindle from Tyndale House Publisher via NetGalley

    Tuesday: (04/20/21)

    Cul-de-sac by Joy Fielding ~ Kindle from Random House via NetGalley

    Tuesday: (04/27/21)

    Thee Guilt Trip by Sandie Jones ~ Kindle from St. Martin’s Press via NetGalley

    Dream Girl by Laura Lippman ~ Kindle from Faber & Faber Ltd via NetGalley

    Then She Vanishes by Claire Douglas ~ ARC from Harper Collins

    Wednesday: (04/28/21)

    What To Do When Someone Dies by Nicci French ~ Kindle from Harper Collins

    Saturday: (05/01/21)

    False Witness by Karin Slaughter ~ ARC from Harper Collins


    Beyond The Headlines by R.G. Belsky | #Review #Showcase #Giveaway

    Beyond The Headlines by R.G. Belsky Banner

    Beyond The Headlines

    by R.G. Belsky

    May 1-31, 2021 Tour


    Beyond The Headlines by R.G. Belsky

    She was a mega-celebrity—he was a billionaire businessman—now he’s dead—she’s in jail

    Laurie Bateman was living the American dream. Since her arrival as an infant in the U.S. after the fall of Saigon, the pretty Vietnamese girl had gone on to become a supermodel, a successful actress, and, finally, the wife of one of the country’s top corporate dealmakers. That dream has now turned into a nightmare when she is arrested for the murder of her wealthy husband.

    New York City TV journalist Clare Carlson does an emotional jailhouse interview in which Bateman proclaims her innocence—and becomes a cause celebre for women’s rights groups around the country.

    At first sympathetic, then increasingly suspicious of Laurie Bateman and her story, Clare delves into a baffling mystery which has roots extending back nearly fifty years to the height of the Vietnam War.

    Soon, there are more murders, more victims, and more questions as Clare struggles against dire evil forces to break the biggest story of her life.


    5 stars

    Wisecracking Clare Carlson, executive director at Channel 10 but a breaking news journalist at heart is back and investigating another murder.

    As you can see below, I am a HUGE fan of this series and have read all the previous books.  And WOW!!!! This book didn’t disappoint!

    A very wealthy Charles Hollister is found dead in his condo and his estranged wife, Laurie Bateman, is arrested for his murder.  Clare, the only news person that was there as the police escort Laurie out in handcuffs.  Clare was at the scene as she was supposed to interview the wife, who in her own right is famous, and was going to tell all about her marriage to Hollister, which wasn’t what they portrayed in the public and media.

    As Clare starts digging into this story, she feels that Laurie is innocent and wants to help her get out of jail, which she does and even the charges are dropped.  However, she wants to get the scoop as to who really killed Hollister but the more she delves in, the more questions are unanswered and not making sense. Did she make a mistake?  Who really killed Charles Hollister.

    Like the previous books in this series, this sequel will transport the reader because of the descriptive nature of the written word and conversations of the characters.  The reader will become one with the story and be totally unaware of what is going on around them.  That’s what happens to me when reading this author’s works.

    The suspense is constant and will have the reader sure as to who the suspect is and then BAM!  Wrong!  OK.  Let’s try this again. it has to be this character!!  Not!! Duped again!!!!!

    Even though this is the 4th book in the series, it can easily be read as a stand-alone, but I suggest you start with the first book, not only to get to know Clare a bit better but to also have the experience of reading some exceptional writing!!!!!

    I absolutely recommend this extraordinary book(s)!!!!

    BTW Mr. Belsky, no pressure, but when will the next book be available????

    Check out my Review for Yesterday’s NewsHERE

    Check out my Review for Below The FoldHERE

    Check out my Review for The Last ScoopHERE

    Book Details:

    Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
    Published by: Oceanview Publishing
    Publication Date: May 4th 2021
    Number of Pages: 336
    ISBN: 160809409X (ISBN13: 9781608094097)
    Series: The Clare Carlson Mystery Series, 4 (This can be read as a stand alone mystery.)
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads

    Read an excerpt:


    “Do you know who Laurie Bateman is?” my friend Janet Wood asked me.

    “I do,” I said. “I also know who Lady Gaga is. And Angelina Jolie. And Ivanka Trump. I’m in the media, remember? That’s what we do in the media, we cover famous people. It’s a dirty job, but somebody’s gotta do it.”

    “Laurie Bateman hired me.”

    “As an attorney?”

    “Yes, as an attorney. That’s what I do, Clare.”

    We were sitting in my office at Channel 10 News, the TV station in New York City where I work as news director. I should have known something was going on as soon as Janet showed up there. We usually met at Janet’s law office which is big, with panoramic views of midtown Manhattan, and a lot nicer than mine.

    Janet never comes to see me at Channel 10 unless she has a reason.

    I figured I was about to find out that reason.

    It was early December and outside it was snowing, the first real storm of the winter. The snow started falling during the night, and by now it was covering the city with a powdery white blanket. Pretty soon the car exhausts and trucks would turn it into brown slush, but for now it was gorgeous. From the window next to my desk, the city had an eerie, almost unreal quality. Like something from a Norman Rockwell painting.

    My outfit for the day was perfect for the snowy weather, too. I’d walked in wearing a turtleneck sweater, heavy corduroy slacks, a blue down jacket with a parka hood and white earmuffs, scarf and mittens. The ski bunny look. I felt like I should have a cup of hot chocolate in my hand.

    “Why does Laurie Bateman need you as an attorney?” I asked Janet.

    She hesitated for what seemed to be an inordinately long amount of time before answering.

    “Are we talking off the record here?”

    “Whatever you want, Janet.”

    “I need your word on that.”

    “C’mon, it’s me. Clare Carlson, your best friend in the world.”

    She nodded.

    “Laurie Bateman wants me to represent her in divorce proceedings.”


    “I thought you’d like that.”

    “Is it too late to take back my ‘best friend in the world/ off-the-record’ promise?”

    Janet smiled. Sort of.

    “How much do you know about Laurie Bateman?” she asked me now.

    I knew as much as the rest of the world, I suppose. Laurie Bateman seemed to have the American Dream going for her. Since coming to the U.S. as a baby with her family after the fall of Saigon in 1975, the pretty Vietnamese girl had grown up to become a top model, then a successful actress, and finally, the wife of one of the country’s top corporate deal makers. She had a fancy Manhattan townhouse, a limousine at her beck and call and her face had graced the covers of magazines like Vogue and People.

    Her husband was Charles Hollister, who had become incredibly wealthy back in the ’70s as one of the pioneers of the burgeoning computer age. He was a kind of Steve Jobs of those early days, and he later expanded into all sorts of other industries—from media to pharmaceuticals to oil drilling and a lot more. He was listed as one of the ten wealthiest businessmen in America.

    When Hollister married Laurie Bateman a few years ago, there were a lot of jokes about the big difference in age between the two—she was so much younger and so beautiful. Like the jokes people made about Rupert Murdoch with Wendy Deng and then Jerry Hall, his last two wives. People always assume that a younger and pretty woman like that is marrying for the money. But Laurie Bateman and Charles Hollister insisted they were in love, and they had consistently projected the public persona of a happily married couple in the media since their wedding.

    Except it now appeared they weren’t so happily married.

    “Is she trying to divorce him to get her hands on his money?” I asked.

    “Actually, he’s trying to divorce her and stop her from getting her hands on any of his money.”

    “So the bottom line here is this divorce is about money.”

    “Always is.”

    “Isn’t there a pre-nuptial agreement that would settle all this?”

    “Yes and no.”

    “Spoken like a true lawyer.”

    “Yes, there is a pre-nup. But we don’t think it applies here. That’s because other factors in the marriage took place which could invalidate the terms of the pre-nup they agreed to and signed.”


    I waited.

    “Such as?” I asked finally.

    “For one thing, Charles Hollister has a mistress. A younger woman he’s been seeing.”

    “Younger than Laurie Bateman?”

    “Much younger. In her twenties.”

    “Jeez! Hollister’s such an old man I have trouble imagining him being able to have sex with his wife, much less getting it up for a second woman on the side.”

    “Her discovery that he was cheating on her, along with a lot of other reasons, have turned Laurie Bateman’s life into a nightmare—a living hell—behind the walls of the beautiful homes they live in. She’s kept quiet about it so far, protecting the happy couple image they’ve put on for the media. But now she wants to let the world know the truth. That’s where you come in, Clare.”

    Aha, I thought to myself.

    Now we’re getting down to it.

    I was about to find out the real reason Janet was here.

    “Laurie Bateman wants to go public with all this,” Janet said. “She wants to tell her story in the media. The true story of her marriage to Charles Hollister. We know Hollister is going to use his clout to try and smear her and make her look bad, so that’s why we want to get her version out quickly. What I’m talking about here is an exclusive interview with Laurie Bateman about all of this. Her talking about the divorce, the cheating—everything. And she wants you to do the interview with her.”

    “Why me?”

    “What do you mean?”

    “Why not Gayle King? Or Savannah Guthrie? Or Barbara Walters or Katie Couric or Diane Sawyer or another big media name? I’m just the news director of a local TV station here.”

    “She wants you, Clare. In fact, I think that’s the reason she hired me for her lawyer. She found out you and I were friends—and she’s hoping I can deliver you to her to do this interview on air with her.”

    “I still don’t know why she wouldn’t want to go with someone really famous . . .”

    “You’re famous too, Clare. You know that as well as I do. And that’s why she wants you. You’re as famous as any woman on the air right now.”

    Janet was right about that.

    I was famous.

    It could have gone either way—I could have wound up being either famous or infamous because of what I did—but in the end I’d wound up as a media superstar all over again.

    Just like I’d been when I won a Pulitzer Prize nearly twenty years ago for telling the story of legendary missing child Lucy Devlin—even though I didn’t tell the whole story then.

    “Laurie Bateman’s life with Charles Hollister is a big lie,” Janet said to me. “Now she wants to tell the truth on air about all those lies she’s been hiding behind. Like you did when you finally told the truth on air about you and Lucy Devlin. That’s why she wants you to be the one who interviews her.”

    I still wasn’t sure how I felt about all this new found fame I’d gotten from my Lucy Devlin story, but there was no question that if it got me this Laurie Bateman story . . . well, that would be a huge exclusive for me and the station.

    “When can I meet her?” I asked Janet.


    Excerpt from Beyond The Headlines by R.G. Belsky. Copyright 2021 by R.G. Belsky. Reproduced with permission from R.G. Belsky. All rights reserved.



    Author Bio:

    R.G. Belsky

    R. G. Belsky is an author of crime fiction and a journalist in New York City.

    His new mystery, BEYOND THE HEADLINES, will be published in May 2021. It is the fourth in a series featuring Clare Carlson, the news director for a New York City TV station – and follows THE LAST SCOOP, published in 2020. The first Clare Carlson book, YESTERDAY’S NEWS, won the David Award at Deadly Ink for Best Mystery of 2018. The second Clare Carlson book, BELOW THE FOLD, was named Best Mystery 0f 2019 in the Foreword INDIES Awards.

    He also is the author of two thrillers written under the pen name of Dana Perry – THE SILENT VICTIM (2019), THE GOLDEN GIRL (June, 2020) and HER OCEAN GRAVE (June 2021 – Bookouture).

    Belsky previously wrote the Gil Malloy series – THE KENNEDY CONNECTION, SHOOTING FOR THE STARS and BLONDE ICE – about a newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News.
    Belsky himself is a former managing editor at the Daily News and writes about the media from an extensive background in newspapers, magazines and TV/digital news. He has also been a top editor at the New York Post, Star magazine and NBC News.

    His previous suspense/thriller novels include LOVERBOY and PLAYING DEAD. Belsky lives in New York City.

    Catch Up With R.G. Belsky:
    BookBub – @dickb79983
    Instagram – @dickbelsky
    Twitter – @DickBel
    Facebook – @RGBelsky



    Tour Participants:

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  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
  • I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble.   I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

    #Review | Her First Mistake by Carey Baldwin

    Her First Mistake by Carey Baldwin
    Genre: Psychological Thriller, Women’s Crime Fiction
    Published by Bookouture
    Publication Date: April 30, 2021
    ASIN: B08V57793T
    Pages: 315
    Review Copy From: Publisher via NetGalley
    Edition: Kindle
    My Rating: 5

    Synopsis (via GR)

    Mia covered her mouth to keep from crying out. She hated the dark, but her mother had made her promise. But what was the point of being a good little girl if she couldn’t help her mother? She’d promised her mother not to scream, but she hadn’t promised not to escape…

    To the world, Mia Thornton is invisible—a quiet, timid preschool teacher. People would never guess that she found the will to dig her way out of a locked shed when she was just six years old. That she never saw her mother again.

    Now, all Mia longs for is a normal life and friends to call her own. But when she runs into a group of colleagues one evening, she discovers that, once again, she’s been excluded. Stung at the rejection, she pockets the keys of one of the women in a petty act of revenge. Celeste Cooper is fearless, pretty, popular—everything Mia wishes she could be.

    The next day, Celeste is reported missing. And Mia realizes that it might have been her fault. Wracked with guilt, she joins the search, determined to make up for her mistake. But as she grows closer to Celeste’s family, Mia can’t help but feel she’s being watched…

    What if Celeste’s disappearance has more to do with Mia than she realizes? And if she keeps digging, does she risk being dragged back into the dark forever?

    Prepare to be gripped by the pulse-pounding new psychological thriller from USA Today bestselling author Carey Baldwin. Fans of The Wife Between Us, The Girl on the Train and Gone Girl will be totally addicted to Her First Mistake.

    My Thoughts

    Caveat: It’s been some time since I read a Carey Baldwin book and when I saw that her newest book, a psychological thriller, I was so excited and preordered a Kindle copy. But then, I saw that it was available for request as an eARC on NetGalley and I did because sometimes patience isn’t one of my virtues. Am I glad I did?

    Since the synopsis concisely describes the story, I’m not going to reiterate except to say that Mia’s first mistake of taking Celeste’s keys, sets in motion a chain of events of lies in which Mia finds herself and deepens as the story progresses, but will state how I felt reading this book.

    Even though it may look like that it took many days to read it, it has nothing to do with the story and suspense of the book. It was due to adulting responsibilities. But also with this book, I did something I haven’t done in quite a while and that is read into the early hours of the morning until I finished it because I just HAD to find out how this was going to end. Am I glad I lost some hours of sleep? Absolutely!!!

    The author’s writing style transported me directly into the story. I felt that I could visualize every single page of the story and feel each of the characters’ emotions. The suspense started on page 1 and continued to the intense ending. An ending that I had to process after reading the last word.

    A thrilling page-turner that captivates the reader and doesn’t let go!!!

    Purchase Links: Amazon 🔗 | Barnes & Noble 🔗 | Goodreads 🔗


  • This blog was founded on the premise to write honest reviews, to the best of my ability, no matter who from, where from and/or how the book was obtained, and will continue to do so, even if it is through PICT or PBP.
  • I received a copy of this book, at no charge to me, in exchange for my honest review. No items that I receive are ever sold…they are kept by me, or given to family and/or friends.
  • I do not have any affiliation with or Barnes & Noble. I am providing link(s) solely for visitors that may be interested in purchasing this Book/EBook.

    Until I Find You by Rea Frey | #Showcase #Interview #Giveaway

    Until I Find You

    by Rea Frey

    April 26 – May 21, 2021 Tour


    Until I Find You by Rea Frey

    The Set-Up

    Soon, Rebecca Gray won’t be able to see. Diagnosed in her twenties with a degenerative eye disease, each day her world grows a little darker. She’s moved to the suburbs to raise her son, Jackson. In the wake of her husband\’s death, it should be a quieter, easier way of life. It won’t be.

    The Moment That Changes Everything

    When Bec awakes after fainting in the park, she makes promises to start taking better care of herself. When her son begins to cry, she approaches the crib. Reaches in. Picks him up. But he’s not her son.

    The Search

    There’s nothing Bec won’t do to find Jackson. But she’s a blind woman in a world where seeing is believing. The police think she’s confused. Her friends don’t see any differences. Relying on the conviction of her instinct and the power of a mother’s love, Bec must push the limits of her world to uncover what happened to her baby boy…and bring him home for good.

    Book Details:

    Genre: Domestic Suspense
    Published by: St. Martin’s Press
    Publication Date: August 11th 2020
    Number of Pages: 320
    ISBN: 1250241588 (ISBN13: 9781250241580)
    Series: Until I Find You is not a part of a series.
    Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Goodreads


    Author Bio:

    Rea Frey

    REA FREY is the multi-published, award-winning bestselling author of three suspense novels and four nonfiction books. She’s been featured in US Weekly, Entertainment Weekly, Glamour, Popsugar, Hello Sunshine, Marie Claire, Parade, Shape, Hello Giggles, CrimeReads, Writer’s Digest, WGN, Fox News, Today in Nashville, Talk of the Town, and more. She is also the CEO and Founder of Writeway, where aspiring writers become published authors.

    To learn more, visit or

    Q&A with Rea Frey

    What was the inspiration for this book?

    In a nutshell: Until I Find You is about a blind widow, Rebecca Gray, who believes her three-month-old son, Jackson, has been swapped for another baby…but no one will believe her. I first got the idea after having recurring nightmares about hearing a baby cry in the room next door. But every time I would go to get the baby, I’d reach into the crib and realize it wasn’t my baby. This image kept coming to me again and again, but I couldn’t figure out how to write about it. After a brainstorming session with my editor, I decided to make my protagonist, Rebecca Gray, vision-impaired. While she believes her three-month-old son has been swapped for another baby, what happens when no one believes her? It seems like such an improbable but scary thing to consider…and, as I’ve struggled with eye issues my whole life, I felt passionate about creating a character with a disability.

    What has been the biggest challenge in your writing career?

    I think the biggest challenge in anyone’s writing career today is having to wear so many hats. When my first book was published (17 years ago!), it was just about writing. Now, it’s about writing, marketing, promoting, and consistently feeling as though you have to stay RELEVANT in order to be a “successful’ author. It’s important not to constantly compare yourself to other authors in your space, to feel overwhelmed, or like you’re not doing enough… it’s very easy to focus on results, more than the craft.

    What do you absolutely need while writing?

    Quiet! I used to write in coffee shops, but during quarantine, with my daughter and husband at home EVERY SECOND OF THE DAY, I felt literally unglued. So, I invested in a tiny home at the back of our acre lot, and it’s been a game changer. I can hear myself think.

    Do you adhere to a strict routine when writing or write when the ideas are flowing?

    Since I run a business for writers who want to become published, Writeway, and juggle a large client list, my writing has to come in seasons. I’m a very fast writer (luckily), and once I engage in a project, I’M IN IT, and it’s a fast and furious race to finish. But I’ve long ago given up on the notion that I must write every day (for me), since I’m writing every day for my clients and reading constantly. For me, one of the most important parts of writing is processing, so I take a lot of solo walks to ideate and problem-solve in my head. I do find when I set a 3000 word count goal and put that at the top of most days, I feel better in every way. But sometimes life happens, and I just have to roll with it. While I often dream of JUST writing, I absolutely love helping writers achieve their dreams too. It’s my way of giving back, and if my own writing time suffers a bit in the process, I’m okay with that.

    Who is your favorite character from your book and why?

    I love Rebecca Gray, because she has endured so much. She’s lost her mother, her husband, her vision, and her child, yet she never wavers from her convictions. She is the epitome of resilience.

    Tell us why we should read your book.

    I love exploring family dynamics and having the reader question what he or she would do in any given situation. I also love taking black and white issues and making them gray. Can you ever do the wrong thing for the right reason? I love testing a reader’s limits and nudging them to think in different ways.

    Give us an interesting fun fact or a few about your book?

    In my effort to research, I went to the Tennessee School for the Blind and really learned how the vision-imparied community works. I also worked with a local cop who informed me how “crimes” are often handled (or mishandled) within this community. As the book takes place in Elmhurst, I went there to stay with friends, where my husband led me around blindfolded so I could literally step into Rebecca Gray’s shoes (which was terrifying).

    Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

    I appreciate every single one of you. Your feedback and willingness to spend time with these characters makes every writer’s career possible. My only ask is that if you enjoy the book to tell someone about the book or share and review! Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful tool, in my opinion.

    Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

    I went to school for fiction writing and had a novel published when I was 22, but the entire thing blew up in my face. The publisher was a vanity publisher. I never saw a dime from that book, and it really sent me down the path of wanting to understand the industry I wanted to be a part of. Disappointed with fiction, I turned to nonfiction, wrote a bunch of health and wellness books that were traditionally published, and I stuck my hand in every facet of writing that I could–I became a journalist on three death row cases; I wrote for newspapers, magazines, and worked for billion-dollar corporations. I was hired out as a ghostwriter and editor. But, at the end of the day, the tug to return to fiction was so strong, and it wasn’t until the end of 2016–after more than a decade-long hiatus from fiction writing–that I got the inspiration for a book while standing in an airport, where I witnessed a horrific mother-daughter exchange. I was a woman possessed. I promptly went home, quit two of the three jobs I was working, and I wrote the book that would become my debut, Not Her Daughter, in a month. I landed an agent. The book went to auction and landed a two-book deal with Macmillan, then a movie deal, then another two book deal. It seemed I was on top of the world…but then I realized that I had to SELL the books. That this fairytale would only continue if readers picked up my books. This began a side hustle to raise money to hire a publicist as well as help other authors with their books or book proposals, editing, and pitching to publishers. I wanted to share what I was learning. This side hustle grew to a six-figure business in year one and again in year two. At the top of 2020, despite a pandemic, I created Writeway, which helps aspiring writers become published authors. We created a weekly podcast, a weekly newsletter, and watched our company soar, as men and women decided they were finally going to write their books. It has been an honor to help our clients land agents, book deals, and even become bestselling authors. It’s unreal to be entrenched in this world as both an author and an entrepreneur…

    What’s next that we can look forward to?

    From a business perspective, we have weekly podcast episodes that publish every Tuesday, which demystify the publishing industry so writers can make informed decisions about their careers. Our weekly newsletter gives super fun industry news, freebies, and sneak peeks of what we’re working on. In terms of books, my next novel, Secrets of Our House, comes out February 8, 2022! Secrets of Our House is about a family torn apart by secrets. Desi Waters is trying to hang onto the last summer before her daughter leaves for college. No matter that her twenty-year-marriage is on the brink of divorce. No matter that her daughter falls madly in love and decides she doesn’t want to go to college after all. No matter that a decades-long secret Desi has been keeping threatens to come out and ruin everything. After a sudden plane crash threatens their livelihood, Desi must decide what secrets are worth keeping and what she will do to save her family–and ultimately, herself.

    Catch Up With Rea Frey:
    BookBub – @ReaFreyAuthor
    Instagram – @reafrey
    Twitter – #ReaFrey
    Facebook – @reafrey


    Read an excerpt:


    Someone’s coming.

    I push the stroller. My feet expertly navigate the familiar path toward the park without my cane. Footsteps advance behind me. The swish of fabric between hurried thighs. The clop of a shoe on pavement. Measured, but gaining with every step. Blood whooshes through my ears, a distraction.

    One more block until the park’s entrance. My world blots behind my sunglasses, smeared and dreamy. A few errant hairs whip across my face. My toe catches a crack, and my ankle painfully twists.

    No time to stop.

    My thighs burn. A few more steps. Finally, I make a sharp left into the park’s entrance. Jackson’s anklet jingles from the blistering pace.

    “Hang on, sweet boy. Almost there. Almost.” The relentless August sun sizzles in the sky, and I adjust my ball cap with a trembling hand. Uncertain, I stop and wait for either the rush of footsteps to pass, or to approach and attack. Instead, nothing.

    I lick my dry lips and half turn, one hand still securely fastened on my son’s stroller. “Hello?” The wind stalls. The hairs bristle on the back of my neck. My world goes unnaturally still, until I choke on my own warped breath.

    I waver on the sidewalk and then lunge toward the entrance toWilder. The stroller is my guide as I half walk, half jog, knowing precisely how many steps I must take to reach the other side of the gate.


    My heart thumps, a manic metronome. Jackson squeals and kicks his foot. The bells again.


    The footsteps echo in my ears. The stroller rams an obstacle in the way and flattens it. I swerve and cry out in surprise.


    I reach the gate, hurtle through to a din of voices. Somewhere in the distance, a lawn mower stutters then chugs to life.


    I slide toward the ground and drop my head between my knees. My ears prick for the stranger behind me, but all is lost. A plane roars overhead, probably heading for Chicago. Birds aggressively chirp as the sun continues to crisp my already pink shoulders. A car horn honks on the parallel street. Someone blows a whistle. My body shudders from the surge of adrenaline. I sit until I regain my composure and then push to shaky legs.

    I check Jackson, dragging my hands over the length of his body— his strong little fingers, his plump thighs, and perpetually kicking feet—and blot my face with his spit-up blanket. Just when I think I’m safe, a hand encircles my wrist.


    I jerk back and suck a surprised breath.

    The hand drops. “I’m sorry,” a woman’s voice says. “I didn’t mean to scare you. You dropped this.” Something jingles and lands in my upturned palm: Jackson’s anklet.

    I smooth my fingers over the bells. “Thanks.” I bend over the stroller, grip his ankle, and reattach them. I tickle the bottom of his foot, and he murmurs.

    “Are the bells so you can hear him?” the woman asks. “Are you . . . ?”

    “Blind? Yes.” I straighten. “I am.”

    “That’s cool. I’ve never seen that before.”

    I assume she means the bells. I almost make a joke—neither have I!—but instead, I smile. “It’s a little early for him to wear them,” I explain.

    “They’re more for when he becomes mobile, but I want him to get used to them.”

    “That’s smart.”

    I’m not sure if she’s waiting for me to say something else. “Thanks again,” I offer.

    “No problem. Have a good day.”

    She leaves. My hands clamp around the stroller’s handle. Was she the one behind me? I stall at the gate and wonder if I should just go back home. I remind myself where I am—in one of the safest suburbs outside of Chicago—not in some sketchy place. I’m not being followed.

    It’s fine.

    To prove it, I remove my cane, unfold it, and brace it on the path. I maneuver Jackson’s stroller behind and sweep my cane in front, searching for more obstacles or unsuspecting feet.

    I weave toward Cottage Hill and pass the wedding garden, the Wilder Mansion, and the art museum. Finally, I wind around the arboretum. I leave the conservatory for last, pulling Jackson through colorful flower breeds, active butterflies, and rows of green. My heart still betrays my calm exterior, but whoever was there is gone.

    I whisk my T-shirt from my body. Jackson babbles and then lets out a sharp cry. I adjust the brim of his stroller so his eyes aren’t directly hit by the sun. I lower my baseball cap and head toward the play-ground. The rubber flooring shifts beneath my cane.

    Wilder Park is packed with last-minute late-summer activity. I do a lap around the playground and then angle my cane toward a bench to check for occupants. Once I confirm it’s empty, I settle and park the stroller beside me. I keep my ears alert for Jess or Beth. I think about calling Crystal to join us, but then remember she has an interior design job today.

    I place my hand on Jackson’s leg, the small jingle of his anklet a comfort. Suddenly, I am overcome with hunger. I rummage in the diaper bag for a banana, peel it, and reach again for Jackson, who is playing with his pacifier. He furiously sucks then knocks it out of his mouth. He giggles every time I hand it back to him.

    I replay what just happened. If someone had attacked me, I wouldn’t have been able to defend myself or identify the perpetrator. A shiver courses the length of my spine. Though Jackson is technically easy—healthy, no colic, a decent sleeper—this stage of life is not. Chris died a year ago, and though it’s been twelve months since the accident, sometimes it feels like it’s been twelve days.

    Jackson’s life flashes before me. Not the happy baby playing in his stroller, but the other parts. The first time he gets really sick. The first time he has to go to the emergency room, and I’m all alone. The first time I don’t know what to do when something is wrong. The first time he runs away from me in public and isn’t wearing bells to alert me to his location.

    Will I be able to keep him safe, to protect him?

    I will the dark cloud away, but uneasiness pierces my skin like a warning. I fan my shirt, swallow, close my eyes behind my sunglasses, and adjust my ball cap.

    The world shrinks. I try to swallow, but my throat constricts. I claw air.

    I can’t breathe. I’m drowning. My heart is going to explode. I’m going to die.

    I lurch off the bench and walk a few paces, churning my arms toward my chest to produce air. I gasp, tell myself to breathe, tell myself to do something.

    When I think I’m going to faint, I exhale completely, then sip in a shallow breath. I veer toward a tree, fingers grasping, and reach its chalky bark. In, out. In, out. Breathe, Rebecca. Breathe.

    Concerned whispers crescendo around me while I remember how to breathe. I mentally force my limbs to relax, soften my jaw, and count to ten. After a few toxic moments, I retrace my steps back to the bench.

    I just left my baby alone.

    Jackson’s right foot twitches and jingles from the stroller; he’s bliss- fully unaware that his mother just had a panic attack. I calm myself, but my heart continues to knock around my chest like a pinball. I open a bottle of water and lift it to my lips with trembling hands. I exhale and massage my chest. The footsteps. The panic attack. These recurring fears . . .

    “Hey, lady. Fancy meeting you here.” Jess leans down and delivers a kiss to my cheek. Her scent—sweet, like honey crisp apples—does little to dissuade my terrified mood.

    “Hi. Sit, sit.” I rearrange my voice to neutral and move the diaper bag to make room.

    Jess positions her stroller beside mine. Beth sits next to her, her three-month-old baby, Trevor, always in a ring sling or strapped to her chest.

    “How’s the morning?” Beth asks.

    I tell them both about the footsteps and the woman who returned the bells, but conveniently leave out the part about the panic attack.

    Beth leans closer. “Scary. Who do you think was following you?”

    “I’m not sure,” I say.

    “You should have called,” Jess says. “I’m always happy to walk with you.”

    “That’s not exactly on your way.”

    “Oh, please. I could use the extra exercise.”

    I roll my eyes at her disparaging comment, because Beth and I both know she loves her curves.

    “Anyway, it’s sleep deprivation,” Jess continues. “Makes you hallucinate. I remember when Baxter was Jackson’s age and waking up every two hours, I literally thought I was going to lose my mind. I would put things in odd places. I was even convinced Rob was cheating.”

    I laugh. “Rob would never cheat on you.”

    “Exactly my point.” She turns to me. “Have you thought about hiring a nanny?”

    “Yeah,” Beth adds. “Especially with everything you’ve been through.”

    My stomach clenches at those words: everything you’ve been through.

    After Chris died, I moved in with my mother so she could essentially become Jackson’s nanny. And then, just two months ago, she died too. Though her death wasn’t a surprise due to her lifelong heart condition, no one is ever prepared to lose a parent. “I can’t afford it.”

    “Like I’ve said before, Rob and I are happy to pitch in—”

    I lift my hand to stop her. “And I appreciate it. I really do. But I’m not ready to have someone in my space when I’m just getting used to it being empty. I need to get comfortable taking care of Jackson on my own.”

    “That makes sense,” Beth assures me.

    “It does.” Jess pats my thigh. “But you’re not a martyr, okay? Everyone needs help.”

    “I know.” I adjust my sunglasses and rearrange my face in hopes of hiding the real emotions I feel. “What’s new with both of you?”

    “Can I vent for a second?” Beth asks. She situates closer to us on the bench. Thanks to the visual Jess supplied, I know Beth is blond, petite, and impossibly fit—and is perpetually in a state of crisis. She’s practicing attachment parenting, which, in her mind, keeps her glued to her son twenty-four hours a day. I’ve never even held him.

    “Vent away,” I say.

    “Okay.” She drops her voice. “Like, I love this little guy, truly. But sometimes, when it’s just the two of us in the house all day, I fantasize about just running away somewhere. Or going out to take a walk. I’d never do it, of course,” she rushes to add. “But I just have this feeling like . . . I’m never going to be alone again.”

    “Nanny,” Jess trills. “I’m telling you. Quit this attachment parenting crap and get yourself a nanny. And if she’s hot, she can even occupy your husband so you don’t have to.”

    I slap Jess’s arm. “Don’t say that. You’d be totally devastated if Rob ever did cheat.”


    Excerpt from Until I Find You by Rea Frey. Copyright 2020 by Rea Frey. Reproduced with permission from Rea Frey. All rights reserved.



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