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THE CROWN FOR CASTLEWOOD MANOR

MY AMERICAN ALMOST ROYAL COUSIN SERIES

A vibrant manor tale with a striking protagonist who is a bit too perfect.

A California heiress with a doctorate heads to her ancestral home in this debut novel.

Gemma Alexandra Lancaster Phillips has recently finished her doctoral dissertation but is hesitant to accept a professorship, wondering if there’s something more she can do. After catching her boyfriend, Michael West, kissing another woman shortly after graduation, the Malibu-based daughter of famous actress Jillian Phillips—and an American-born descendant of British royalty—receives an invitation to help her cousin Evan Lancaster, the eighth marquess of Kentshire. Evan must ready Cherrywood Hall, the family home in England, for a life-changing competition. The winner will serve as the location for a major new television series, Castlewood Manor, which will lead to a significant boost for Cherrywood Hall’s vineyard and outreach opportunities to the local community. Gemma soon fits right in, putting her doctorate to use in digging up family history in the form of hidden diaries and wardrobes; falling head over heels for Evan’s best friend and business partner, Kyle Williams; and feeling a special connection to Pippa, her dead great-great-aunt, who saved Cherrywood Hall from ruin in the early 20th century and whose glamorous, renegade spirit is still present in every corner of the estate. Unfortunately, the fun is soon tinged with mystery as competing estate owners begin dying under strange circumstances—everything from sudden car accidents to tea-party strychnine poisoning—and Gemma sets out to save Cherrywood Hall once and for all. In this lucid series opener, Barton isn’t sparing with delicious details about the beautiful family estate, Pippa’s extensive and gorgeous collection of dresses, and the countless meals and teas prepared by the resident butler for Gemma and her friends and family. Fans of TV shows like Downton Abbey will no doubt be drawn in by the “everything old is new again” escapist fantasy of Gemma’s vivid and entertaining adventures in bucolic England. But Gemma never displays any faults or vulnerabilities. She’s tall, blond, and stunning as well as wealthy, intelligent, and charming, and nearly everyone falls in love with her on first meeting. If Gemma were a little less perfect and a little more relatable, the story would be more effective and enjoyable.

A vibrant manor tale with a striking protagonist who is a bit too perfect.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-984195-82-1

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THE HOUSE ACROSS THE LAKE

A weird, wild ride.

Celebrity scandal and a haunted lake drive the narrative in this bestselling author’s latest serving of subtly ironic suspense.

Sager’s debut, Final Girls (2017), was fun and beautifully crafted. His most recent novels—Home Before Dark (2020) and Survive the Night (2021) —have been fun and a bit rickety. His new novel fits that mold. Narrator Casey Fletcher grew up watching her mother dazzle audiences, and then she became an actor herself. While she never achieves the “America’s sweetheart” status her mother enjoyed, Casey makes a career out of bit parts in movies and on TV and meatier parts onstage. Then the death of her husband sends her into an alcoholic spiral that ends with her getting fired from a Broadway play. When paparazzi document her substance abuse, her mother exiles her to the family retreat in Vermont. Casey has a dry, droll perspective that persists until circumstances overwhelm her, and if you’re getting a Carrie Fisher vibe from Casey Fletcher, that is almost certainly not an accident. Once in Vermont, she passes the time drinking bourbon and watching the former supermodel and the tech mogul who live across the lake through a pair of binoculars. Casey befriends Katherine Royce after rescuing her when she almost drowns and soon concludes that all is not well in Katherine and Tom’s marriage. Then Katherine disappears….It would be unfair to say too much about what happens next, but creepy coincidences start piling up, and eventually, Casey has to face the possibility that maybe some of the eerie legends about Lake Greene might have some truth to them. Sager certainly delivers a lot of twists, and he ventures into what is, for him, new territory. Are there some things that don’t quite add up at the end? Maybe, but asking that question does nothing but spoil a highly entertaining read.

A weird, wild ride.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18319-9

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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