Monday, September 18, 2017

"Lies She Told" by Cate Holahan

Lies She Told
by Cate Holahan

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan is currently on tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

Sometimes the truth is darker than fiction.
Liza Cole, a once-successful novelist whose career has seen better days, has thirty days to write the thriller that could put her back on the bestseller list. Meanwhile, she’s struggling to start a family, but her husband is distracted by the disappearance of his best friend, Nick. As stresses weigh her down in her professional and her personal lives, Liza escapes into writing the chilling exploits of her latest heroine, Beth.
Beth, a new mother, suspects her husband is cheating on her while she’s home caring for their newborn. Angry and betrayed, she sets out to catch him in the act and make him pay for shattering the illusion of their perfect life. But before she realizes it, she’s tossing the body of her husband’s mistress into the East River.
Then, the lines between fiction and reality begin to blur. Nick’s body is dragged from the East River, and Liza’s husband is arrested for his murder. Before her deadline is up, Liza will have to face up to the truths about the people around her, including herself. If she doesn’t, the end of her heroine’s story could be the end of her own.

He’s tracking my time. Every ten seconds, Trevor’s dark eyes dart to the digital clock on his computer screen, a driver checking his rearview. My pitch has not impressed. He has more important things to attend to, authors who bring in more money. My work is not worth these valuable minutes.
He doesn’t say any of this, of course. Our decade-long relationship has made his thoughts apparent. I read them in the lines crinkling his brow as he sits across from me in his office chair, scratching his goatee while the air conditioner’s hiss recalls the reputational damage wrought by my latest book, Accused Woman. Not my best work, to say the least. Critics dubbed the protagonist “Sandra Dee on diazepam.” She lacked agency, they said. Too many things happened to her. Really, she was too like me to be likeable. My former psychiatrist, Dr. Sally Sertradine, suggested similar failings.
“An affair?” Finally, he speaks . . . barely. A true Brit, Trevor drops the ending r. His accent mocks me, as though my idea has so offended him that even his critique doesn’t require clear articulation.
He removes the wire- framed glasses previously perched on the wide bridge of his nose, sets them on his mouse pad, and walks to his window. Before him lies a landscape of penthouse terraces. In Manhattan, success is determined by view. Trevor’s placement, high above even the city’s wealthy, is a reminder of his importance relative to my own, of the weight his opinion should carry as opposed to mine.
“There’s hardly a new way to do an affair.”
“Well, I think of it as a classic revenge story.” My voice cracks as I make my case. Dr. Sally also said I regress into adolescence at the first whiff of confrontation. The hormones are making things worse. “I think romantic suspense readers want—”
“Right. What they want.” He faces me and nods. Trevor talks with his head the way Italians speak with hand gestures. The angle of his chin conveys his amusement or displeasure. “You must give your audience what they’re craving. Readers are done with love triangles and tortured consciences. Consider what Hollywood is buying: stories about pushing sexual taboos and psychological manipulation. People want to play mind games in the bedroom, eh?”
A forty- two-year old guy is telling me, a thirty- five- year- old woman smack in the middle of my target audience demographic, what my peers want in the sack. Sad fact is, I should probably take notes. For the past year, David and I have only bothered with intercourse when my basal temp kicks up. Trevor is recently divorced and inarguably attractive: a Bronze Age Rodin of a man.
Women must be, as he’d say, “queuing” up.
He snaps to an unknown rhythm. Suddenly, his eyes brighten like he’s figured out the step. “How about something with psychiatrists?
Does he love her or is he messing with her mind?”
I could name four books involving twisted therapists that graced the bestseller lists in the past two years. But doing so would just support Trevor’s suggestion. He isn’t claiming that his idea is original, only that it’s “on trend.” Trends sell, whether writers like them or not.
Trevor mistakes my silence as serious consideration. “Think Hannibal Lecter without the horror. The sociopathic doctor meets a young Clarice, and she falls—”
“I don’t know, Trev. Transference? Is that—”
“Trans?” He wrinkles his nose, offended by my attempt to slip esoteric knowledge into our conversation. Trevor often laments this about me. He complains that I bog down my books with details: how a gun shoots, how police detect trace amounts of blood, DNA lingo fit for a biologist. For Accused Woman, I attended a week- long writer’s workshop at the police academy in Queens so I could get down every detail of the way a gun discharges and how detectives investigate. I even bought my own handgun: a Ruger SR22, touted by experts as the most affordable semiautomatic for women. My aim is horrible.
“Transference happens when a person projects unresolved feelings about their past onto people in their present, like a patient transferring romantic emotions onto their psychi—”
Trevor’s full lips press flat against his teeth.
“It’s not important. Forget it.” My voice sounds small. Somehow, I’ve neared forty without gaining the surety that’s supposed to come with middle age. I cough and try to add heft to my tone. The act clenches my stomach, intensifying the persistent queasiness that I’ve suffered for weeks. “What if, by the time the book comes out, interest in psychiatrists has waned?”
Trevor gives a What-you-gonna-do? shrug. “Well, think about it. And send me an outline before you go too deep into anything.”
The request spurs me from my seat quicker than a cattle prod.
Not once in my career has Trevor demanded anything more than a rough idea and a finished draft. Now he needs a chapter-by-chapter breakdown? The suddenness of my movement topples the chair onto Trevor’s floor. I recoil at the spectacle of its four legs sticking in the air like a poisoned cockroach. I promised myself I’d stay calm.
I right the seat and stand behind it, head lowered. My temples throb their early warning alarm for a migraine. “That’s really not how I work. I let the characters dictate the action.” My tone is apologetic. Sorry, Trev. I’m not good enough to write an outline. That’s what he thinks I’m saying.
“Maybe it’s worth a try. New methods can lead to new results.”
“If I could just write through a draft—”
“Liza, come on. You’re a fast writer. An outline’s no big deal for you.”
“A draft barely takes longer. I’ll spend twelve hours a day writing. Fourteen—”
“You’ve got the MWO conference coming up.”
“I’m only staying through my panel.” Nerves add unnecessary vibrato to my voice. “Hey, if you like the story, then we’re both happy. If not, I’ll start over.” I force a laugh. “I’ll even throw in a psychiatrist.”
He runs his hand through his grown-out buzz cut. The longer hairstyle is new, post-divorce. It makes him look younger.
“Please, Trev.” I’m actually begging. “I think this idea could have legs. Let me run with it. Give me one month. Thirty days.”
Trevor reclaims his glasses and places them on his face. The spectacles magnify the teardrop shape of his eyes as he checks in with his computer clock. “All right.” His head shakes in disagreement with his words. “You have until September fifteenth. One month. I can’t give you any more than that.”
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Lies She Told had me questioning my own sanity, biting my cuticles well into the night, and jumping at the sound of my cat snacking in the kitchen. The best kind of suspense writer, Holahan will keep readers slightly off balance all the way through the book. Author and character so completely overlap, it makes the reader wonder if art is imitating life or life is imitating art. An excellent and compelling psychological read!" ~ Susan Crawford, bestselling author of The Pocket Wife and The Other Widow
"This was a thriller I couldn't put down. Cate Holahan expertly constructs two parallel stories connected in unexpected ways with a twist that left me thinking about the characters long after I turned the final page." ~ Rena Olsen, author of The Girl Before
"A page-turner of the top order, cleverly conceived, brilliantly executed and impossible to put down. Cate Holahan has proven herself a master of psychological suspense ...This mind-bending tale of jealousy, love, and revenge should be at the top of everyone’s summer reading list." ~ Allison Leotta, author of The Last Good Girl
"Wow. Just wow. As soon as you think you've figured it out, Cate Holahan hits you with a twist you did. Not. See. Coming ... A taut story." ~ Alexia Gordon, award-winning author of Murder in G Major and Death in D Minor
"[A] masterpiece ... Lies She Told is guaranteed to make Cate Holahan a household name." ~ Joe Clifford, author of the Jay Porter thriller series
"A chilling story ... Cate Holahan keeps you guessing - and turning the pages - right to the end." ~ Patrick Lee, NYT bestselling author of the Sam Dryden and Travis Chase trilogies

My Review
I received this book in return for an honest review.

By Lynda Dickson
After a poor reception for her last book, former bestselling author Liza is given her one month to complete a draft of her new book. As if that isn't stressful enough, she is also on hormone therapy and trying to conceive a baby with her husband David. But he's pre-occupied with the disappearance of his law partner Nick, who has been missing for one month. Liza's story is interspersed with scenes from her romantic suspense novel, featuring new mother Beth, who suspects her husband Jake is cheating on her. It's not long before we can see the parallels in both stories and it's not long before the truth becomes the fiction and vice versa. Liza has hit upon the way the secret formula for writing a bestseller. Unfortunately, someone has to die in the process.
It's hard to keep track of the two separate stories, as they are so similar. Beth's hot therapist Tyler is a dead ringer for Liza's hot editor Trevor. Both of their husbands are suspected of having affairs. Even the names Liza and Beth are both nicknames for Elizabeth.
The fonts for the two stories are different in the Amazon version but not in the version I read. Suggestions to improve the readability: use page headers with the narrator's names, label Beth's story with her name instead of numbers, or tell Beth's story in the third person.
While there are some great lines throughout the book (see below) and an interesting insight into the world of writing, the prose is dry and choppy, while the plot is pedestrian and predictable. The book literally put me to sleep on several occasions. The clues the author drops are none too subtle, and I had both stories figured out early on. It doesn't help that the book description mentions the major plot developments, even though those events don't occur until halfway through the book. Why is it all revealed there? On top of that, the characters are all unlikable, Liza is obviously an unreliable narrator, and Beth is a manipulative bitch, not a sympathetic victim. The stories themselves are a never-ending litany of too many showers, so much vomiting, and failed marriages everywhere.
Warnings: coarse language, sexual references, violence.

Some of My Favorite Lines
"He isn’t claiming that his idea is original, only that it’s 'on trend.' Trends sell, whether writer’s like them or not."
"To be a writer is to be a life thief. Every day, I rob myself blind."
"For a moment, I think I might start crying again, but I’ve used up my supply of salt water. The prior night has left me with an emotional hangover. There’s nothing left in me except bile."
"He’s lobbing questions too fast, a tennis machine on an expert-level setting. I can’t volley this. I raise my hand as if to block another inquiry from flying at my face."
"I think of my belly, bloated with hormones and swollen follicles. My ripe eggs will rot inside me. There aren’t enough fertility drugs in the world to fix a husband refusing to bed his wife."
"Laughter is the only vaccine for crying. You shed a few tears instead of a thousand."
"Sleep doesn’t ask my permission."
"Emojis don’t exist for what I’d like to write now."
"Want me to kill her off in a book?"
"When you’ve been immersed in the character for so long, you really do feel what they feel and write what they are thinking. You don’t have to imagine it anymore."
"I’d rather be a murderer than a bad mother."
"I lack the constitution for true crime. Violence against my made-up characters is all the brutality I can withstand."

About the Author
Cate Holahan
Cate Holahan is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Widower’s Wife, Lies She Told, and Dark Turns, all published by Crooked Lane Books. In a former life, she was an award-winning journalist that wrote for The Record, The Boston Globe, and Business Week.
She lives in NJ with her husband, two daughters, and food-obsessed dog, and spends a disturbing amount of time highly-caffeinated, mining her own anxieties for material.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win one of two print copies of Lies She Told by Cate Holahan (US only).