#BookReviews: Her First Mistake and The Marriage Secret by Carey Baldwin @CareyBaldwin @bookouture @NetGalley

Hi everyone! Today, I have book reviews for two gripping reads from an author new to me. I discovered Carey Baldwin and Her First Mistake after reading a review on Mae Clair’s blog last year. Having bought, read, and enjoyed this one, I requested the author’s next book via NetGalley and was delighted to receive a free ARC of The Marriage Secret. So, today, you get two reviews! Carey Baldwin is now one of my go-to writers 🙂  >>>

56928561. sy475 About the Book:

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 Review:

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

GRIPPING

This story will hook you and not let go until the final page.

“Mia covered her mouth with her hand; she mustn’t cry out. Her mother had promised this would be the last time she’d lock her in the shed, and Mia believed her—or at least she was trying to.” … from this wonderful opening line, the reader meets the perfect unreliable narrator and an unexpectedly strong character.

At age six, Mia’s mother would lock her in the shed in the woods overnight whenever she had a ‘visitor’. Mother always came in the morning and let her out, until–one day–she didn’t. Out of food and water, alone and scared, Mia found an empty tin can and dug herself out of the locked shed. The story then picks up twenty years later, and we meet Mia as a young woman who’s just finished regular therapy sessions and works at a local private school with young children.

One night, after being stood up by a female possible-friend, Mia sees a group of her teacher colleagues on a night out together and realises that they’ve all left her out. In a fit of pique, Mia snatches up Celeste’s keys after the woman drops them. The next morning, she awakens wracked with guilt, but before she can make good on her spur-of-the-moment mistake, Mia discovers that Celeste has gone missing.

From here, Mia’s life spirals downward, and she struggles to understand the many undertones and events, not being good at reading people or between the lines. She has to juggle an over-protective aunt … who has her own major issues …, a suspicious detective, a possible stalker, and the complex relationships of Celeste’s family, who adopts Mia somewhat in the aftermath of Celeste’s disappearance.

The world building, characterisation, and plotting are all excellently done. Here are some lines I loved …

“I’m supposed to be on the wagon, but I seem to have gone under the wheels.”

And …

“It’s hard to pack your bags and get away as fast as you possibly can when you have nowhere to go.” (Right?!)

And …

“True friendship can’t be built on deception.”

And, finally … so difficult to stop! …

“It takes a dark night to reveal heaven’s beauty.”

While I guessed the culprit by about two-thirds of the way in, I could never have seen how deep or far reaching the perpetrator’s treachery would go. And I had lots of fun watching Mia struggle to decipher the many and conflicting clues and threads until she reached her own, horrifying truth. Her First Mistake gets a resounding 5 stars from me.

59717467. sy475 About the Book:

He married me despite my darkest secret. But am I safe now that I know his?

From the outside, my marriage to Zach was perfect: dream home, a perfect baby girl and passionate, all-consuming love. When we met, I confessed my darkest secret to him and he never judged me for it. Instead, he vowed to always protect me whatever the cost.

But as I cradle my gorgeous baby, I have to accept that the husband who used to be my everything, has changed. At first it was little things: expecting me to keep to a strict schedule, picking out my clothes for me. Now, he controls every aspect of my life: from how much money I have, to when I leave the house and who I can see.

One fateful night, a young woman is found murdered and Zach is a potential suspect. Turning towards me, a look of warmth returning to his eyes, he swears he’s innocent, and I realize there is only one solution. If I agree to be his alibi, he will keep my secret and our daughter can grow up in a loving home. In that moment, I do what any faithful wife would do: I stand by him.

But I know deep down, only one of us will make it out of this marriage alive.

 

My Review:

🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

WOW … What A Ride!

Many thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for a free ARC of this book.

After reading these two books by Carey Baldwin, this writer is now one of my go-to authors. The Marriage Secret blew me away. 

“Just because you don’t mean any harm to anyone doesn’t mean they don’t mean any harm to you. I want what you have, and I’m coming for it.” From these lines in the first couple of pages, the narrative grabs the reader by the throat and doesn’t let you breathe until the end. 

Immediately before her wedding, Mia confided a great secret to her husband about something that happened when she was sixteen. He still wanted to marry her and said he’d keep her secret. What she didn’t know then was he intended to use it to control and coerce her. As the book progresses, we discover that hubby, Zach Bancroft, has major issues, and he abuses his wife psychologically and emotionally. Also turns out, he doesn’t treat his mother much better. His was a character I hated with venom, which takes extraordinarily good writing to achieve while still being able to tolerate reading. Mia, I loved. Sometimes, I disliked her choices, but I could well understand them. The world building, characterisation, and plot were all done excellently, and I read this book in one sitting. I stayed up until midnight devouring the action. I could not put this read down. Here are some lines I loved …

“His voice could’ve flash frozen a side of beef …”

And ...

“Only right now those lucky stars were hiding behind the clouds.”

And …

“…that’s what a cold-hearted murderer would’ve done. Too bad her heart wasn’t yet frozen solid.”

At the three-quarter point, a twist rocked me that I just did not see coming. And, impossible though it seemed at the time, the tension ratcheted up even more. The next big twist, I had kinda wondered if that might happen, but it was thrilling nonetheless, and I loved the way it was portrayed. That came at the 90% point, and the final confrontation and reasons, well … I simply could never have guessed the what or the who. I can’t say more without giving away major spoilers. Suffice it to say, The Marriage Secret gets a solid and enthusiastic five stars from me. You have to go and read this book!

***

NOTE ON RATINGS: I consider a 3-star rating a positive review. Picky about which books I give 5 stars to, I reserve this highest rating for the stories I find stunning and which moved me.

5 STARS: IT WAS AMAZING! I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN! — Highly Recommended.
4 STARS: I WOULD PULL AN ALL-NIGHTER — Go read this book.
3 STARS: IT WAS GOOD! — An okay read. Didn’t love it. Didn’t hate it.
2 STARS: I MAY HAVE LIKED A FEW THINGS —Lacking in some areas: writing, characterisation, and/or problematic plot lines.
1 STAR: NOT MY CUP OF TEA —Lots of issues with this book.


I’d love to hear what you think of these reviews. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

 

For anyone interested, here are the Amazon links …

 

Her First Mistake:

UK … https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08R8XRTB2/

US … https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08R8XRTB2/

 

The Marriage Secret:

 

UK … https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08R8XRTB2/

US … https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08R8XRTB2/

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Roberta Eaton Cheadle

These both sound very good, Harmony. Thanks for these reviews,

Jacquie Biggar

The last line in the blurb for The Marriage Secret hooked me- these sound great!

Jan Sikes

These both sound like great reads! Thanks for sharing, Harmony!

Judith (Judi Lynn) Post

Great reviews! I read Mae’s review of Her First Mistake and loaded the book on my Kindle. Your review’s making me move it up to my next read:) Both books sound great!

Diana Peach

It looks like you had two great reads here, Harmony. Thanks for sharing your reviews and recommendations. Both sound like winners. 🙂 Happy Reading.

Staci Troilo

Excellent reviews, Harmony. Both books sound like novels I’d love. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Kymber Hawke

Love your reviews, Harmony! I’m looking them up now. 🙂

CS Boyack

Sounds like these really made an impression on you.

Gwen Plano

Incredible reviews, Harmony. I’m definitely heading to Amazon for these two. Thank you for sharing.

Joan Hall

I read Her First Mistake last year and found it hard to put down. Pretty sure I also learned of it through Mae’s review. The Marriage Secret sounds like it will be equally thrilling. Thanks for the reviews, Harmony.

Mae Clair

Whoa, you sold me on The Marriage Secret. I loved Her First Mistake, and am so glad you enjoyed it. I just started a Net Galley read last night, but I’ll have to bump The Marriage Secret to the top of my TBR as my next read. Great reviews, Harmony!

And Amazon has The Marriage Secret at .99c right now. A no-brainer for sure, especially given it was just published. Thanks for alerting me to this book, Harmony!

D.L. Finn, Author

Great reviews, Harmony! They both sound good!

Priscilla Bettis

Wow, The Marriage Secret in particular sounds gripping. Even the blurb and your review had my heart beating a little faster!