Book Showcase: CONFESSIONS ON THE 7:45 by Lisa Unger



Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger
ISBN: 9780778310150 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781488069079 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488210273 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781799935414 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B087QM8SRM   (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B082Q4Q1MZ   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Park Row Books
Publication Date: October 6, 2020



From master of suspense Lisa Unger comes a riveting thriller about a chance encounter that unravels a stunning web of lies and deceit.

Everyone has a secret… Now she knows yours.

Selena Murphy is commuting home from her job in the city when the train stalls out on the tracks. She strikes up a conversation with a beautiful stranger in the next seat, and their connection is fast and easy. The woman introduces herself as Martha and confesses that she’s been stuck in an affair with her boss. Selena, in turn, confesses that she suspects her husband is sleeping with the nanny. When the train arrives at Selena’s station, the two women part ways, presumably never to meet again.

But days later, Selena’s nanny disappears.

Soon Selena finds her once-perfect life upended. As she is pulled into the mystery of the missing nanny, and as the fractures in her marriage grow deeper, Selena begins to wonder, who was Martha really? But she is hardly prepared for what she’ll discover.

Expertly plotted and reminiscent of the timeless classic Strangers on a Train, Confessions on the 7:45 is a gripping thriller about the delicate facades we create around our lives. 






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Read an Excerpt **Mild Profanity Alert**


Chapter Two

Anne

It had been a mistake from the beginning and Anne certainly knew that. You don’t sleep with your boss. It’s really one of the things mothers should teach their daughters. Chew your food carefully. Look both ways before you cross the street. Don’t fuck your direct supervisor no matter how hot, rich, or charming he may happen to be. Not that Anne’s mother had taught her a single useful thing.

Anyway, here she was. Again. Taking it from behind, over the couch in her boss’s corner office with those expansive city views. The world was a field of lights spread wide around them. She tried to enjoy it. But, as was often the case, she just kind of floated above herself. She made all the right noises, though. She knew how to fake it.

“Oh my god, Anne. You’re so hot.”

He pressed himself in deep, moaning.

When he’d first come on to her, she thought he was kidding – or not thinking clearly. They’d flown together to DC to take an important client who was considering leaving the investment firm out to dinner.  In the cab on the way back to the hotel — while Hugh was on the phone with his wife, he put his hand on Anne’s leg. He wasn’t even looking at Anne when he did it, so for a moment she wondered if it was just absent-mindedness. He was like that sometimes, a little loopy. Overly affectionate, familiar. Forgetful.

His hand moved up her thigh. Anne sat very still. Like a prey animal. Hugh ended the call and she expected him to jerk his hand back. 

Oh! I’m so sorry, Anne, she thought he’d say, aghast at his careless behavior.

But no. His hand moved higher.

 “Am I misreading signals?” he said, voice low.  

Stop. What most people would be thinking: Poor Anne! Afraid for her job, she submits to this predator.

What Anne was thinking: How can I use this to my advantage? She really had been just trying to do her job well, sort of. But it seemed that Pop was right, as he had been about so many things. If you weren’t running a game, someone was running one on you.

Had she subconsciously been putting out signals? Possibly. Yes. Maybe Pop was right about that, too. You don’t get to stop being what you are, even when you try.

They made out like prom dates in the cab, comported themselves appropriately as they walked through the lobby of the Ritz. He pressed against her at the door to her hotel room. She was glad she was wearing sexy underwear, had shaved her legs. 

She’d given Hugh – with his salt and pepper hair, sinewy muscles, flat abs — the ride of his life that night.  And many nights since. He liked her on top. He was a considerate lover, always asking: Is this good? Are you okay? Confessional: Kate and I – we’ve been married a long time. We both have – appetites. She couldn’t care less about his marriage.

Anne didn’t actually believe in the things other people seemed to value so highly. Fidelity – really? Were you supposed to just want one person your whole life? Marriage. Was there ever anything more set up to fail, to disappoint, to erode? Come on. They were animals. Every last one of them rutting, feral beasts. Men. Women. All of society was held together by gossamer thin, totally arbitrary laws and mores that were always shifting and changing no matter how people clung. They were all just barely in line.

Anne neither expected nor encouraged Hugh to fall in love. In fact, she spoke very little. She listened, made all the right affirming noises. If he noticed that she had told him almost nothing about herself, it didn’t come up. But fall in love with Anne he did. And things were getting complicated.

Now, finished and holding her around the waist, Hugh was crying a little. His body weight was pinning her down. He often got emotional after they made love. She didn’t mind him most of the time. But the whole crying thing — it was such a turn off. She pushed against him and he let her up. She tugged down her skirt, and he pulled her into an embrace. 

She held him for a while, then wiped his eyes, kissed his tears away. Because she knew that’s what he wanted. She had a special gift for that, knowing what people wanted — really wanted deep down – and giving them that thing for a while. And that was why Hugh – why anyone – fell in love. Because he loved getting the thing he wanted, even if he didn’t know what that was.

When he moved away finally, she stared at her ghostly reflection in the dark window, wiped at her smeared lipstick.

“I’m going to leave her,” Hugh said. He flung himself on one of the plush sofas. He was long and elegant; his clothes impeccable, bespoke, made from the finest fabrics. Tonight, his silk tie was loose, pressed cotton shirt was wilted, black wool suit pants still looking crisp. Garments, all garments – even just his tennis whites — hung beautifully on his fit body.

She smiled, moved to sit beside him. He kissed her, salty and sweet. 

“It’s time. I can’t do this anymore,” he went on.

This wasn’t the first time he’d said this. Last time, when she’d tried to discourage him, he’d held her wrists too hard when she tried to leave. There had been something bright and hard in his eyes – desperation. She didn’t want him to get clingy tonight. Emotional.

“Okay,” she said, running her fingers through his hair. “Yeah.”

Because that’s what he wanted to hear, needed to hear. If you didn’t give people what they wanted, they became angry. Or they pulled away. And then the game was harder or lost altogether.

“We’ll go away,” he said, tracing a finger along her jaw. Because of course they’d both lose their jobs. Hugh’s wife Kate owned and ran the investment firm, had inherited the company from her legendary father. Her brothers were on the board. They’d never liked Hugh (this was one of his favorite pillow talk tirades, how Kate’s brothers didn’t respect him). “We’ll take a long trip abroad and figure out what comes next. Clean slate for both of us. Would you like that?”

“Of course,” she said. “That would be wonderful.”

Anne liked her job; when she’d applied and interviewed, she honestly wanted to work at the firm. Numbers made a kind of sense to her, investment a kind of union of logic and magic. Client work was a bit of a game, wasn’t it – convincing people to part with their cash on the promise that you could make them more? She also respected and admired her boss – her lover’s wife — Kate. A powerful, intelligent woman. 

Maybe Anne should have thought about all of that before she submitted to Hugh’s advances. He wasn’t the power player; she’d miscalculated, or not run the numbers at all. She made mistakes like that sometimes, let the game run her. Pop thought it was a form of self-sabotage. Sometimes, sweetie, I think your heart’s not quite in it. Maybe he was right.

“Ugh,” said Hugh, pulling away, glancing at his watch. “I’m late. I have to change and meet Kate at the fundraiser.”

She rose and walked the expanse of his office, got his tux from the closet, and lay it across the back of the couch. Another stunning item, heavy and silken. She ran her fingers lovingly along the lapel. He rose, and she helped him dress, hanging his other clothes, putting them back in the closet. She did his tie. In his heart, he was a little boy. He wanted to be attended to, cared for. Maybe everyone wanted that.

“You look wonderful,” she said, kissing him. “Have fun tonight.”

He looked at her long, eyes filling again.

“Soon,” he said. “This charade can end.”

She put a gentle hand to his cheek, smiled as sweetly as she could muster and started to move from the room.

“Anne,” he said, grabbing for her hand. “I love you.”

She’d never said it back. She’d said things like “me, too” or she’d send him the heart-eyed emoji in response to a text, sometimes she just blew him a kiss. He hadn’t seemed to notice, or his pride was too enormous to ask her why she never said it, or if she loved him. But mainly, she thought it was because Hugh only saw and heard what he wanted to.

She unlaced her fingers and blew him a kiss. “Goodnight, Hugh.”

His phone rang, and he watched her as he answered. 

“I’m coming, darling,” he said, averting his eyes, moving away. “Just had to finish up with a client.”

She left him, his voice following her down the hall.

In her office, she gathered her things, a strange knot in the pit of her stomach. She sensed that her luck was about to run out here. She couldn’t say why. Just a feeling that things were unsustainable – that it wasn’t going to be as easy to leave Kate as he thought, that on some level he didn’t really want to, that once things reached critical mass, she’d be out of a job. Of course, it wouldn’t be a total loss. She’d make sure of that.  

There was a loneliness, a hollow feeling that took hold at the end. She wished she could call Pop, that he could talk her through. Instead her phone pinged. The message there annoyed her.

This is wrong, it said. I don’t want to do this anymore.

Just stay the course, she wrote back. It’s too late to back out now.

Funny how that worked. At the critical moment, she had to give the advice she needed herself. The student becomes the teacher. No doubt, Pop would be pleased.

Anne glanced at the phone. The little dots pulsed, then disappeared. The girl, younger, greener, would do what she was told. She always had. So far.

Anne looked at her watch, imbued with a bit of energy. If she hustled, she could just make it. 


Excerpt from Confessions on the 7:45 by Lisa Unger. 
Copyright © 2020 by Lisa Unger. Published by Park Row Books. 
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.





Meet The Author


Lisa Unger is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of eighteen novels, including Confessions on the 7:45 (Oct. 2020). With millions of readers worldwide and books published in twenty-six languages, Unger is widely regarded as a master of suspense. Her critically acclaimed books have been voted “Best of the Year” or top picks by the Today Show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly, Amazon, IndieBound, and others. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR, and Travel+Leisure. She lives on the west coast of Florida with her family.



Connect to the author via her website, Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, and Twitter.




This excerpt brought to you by Park Row Books

Book Showcase: SMASH IT! by Francina Simone



SMASH IT! by Francina Simone
ISBN: 9781335146502 (hardcover)
ISBN: 9781488069390 (ebook)
ISBN: 9781488209215 (digital audiobook)
ISBN: 9781094190983 (audiobook on CD)
ASIN: B084WS6BS6   (Audible audiobook)
ASIN: B07ZVXMVBK   (Kindle edition)
Publisher: Inkyard Press
Publication Date: September 22, 2020


Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts—why, God, why?—she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list—a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold—do the thing that scares me.
2. Learn to take a compliment.
3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys—and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.

#SMASHIT






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Read an Excerpt (Caution: Mild Profanity)


CHAPTER ONE

Fuck.

I’m an idiot.

It’s Halloween and I’m the only one in a packed club on Teen Night not wearing a costume. Girls are jumping and screaming lyrics in cheap shiny wigs, and all the guys, dressed in a motley of cheap polyester, are scoping out the dance floor, their gazes hopping right over me. Even the bartender, slinging water bottles, has on pink bunny ears.

This isn’t an I’m seventeen and too cool for dress up moment. I like wearing costumes. I just thought I’d look like an unintentional clown doing it. We’re at a club. Who wears a Halloween costume to the club? Apparently, everyone except this freak in an Old Navy hoodie and khaki shorts. I’m wearing khaki shorts, like a nerdy loser.

Some girl bumps into me and does a double take at the sight of my hoodie. It’s Florida; I know October everywhere else is like that meme of the dog in a wig wearing a scarf because “it’s sweater weather,” but we’re in Florida; the leaves don’t change here. They just fall off sometime between hot-as-fuck and damn-where-that-wind-come-from? So even though this white girl has on a mesh shirt over a nude bra—I don’t know what the hell she’s dressed as—I can tell by her raised brows and attempt to act like she didn’t see me that she doesn’t know what in god’s name I’m doing right now either.

Oh my god. Why am I like this?

This is what I get for not doing the yes thing. My mom bought this book by Shonda Rhimes, Year of Yes, and—I’m not going to lie—some rich black lady with a gazillion TV shows shouldn’t be able to tell me, some sad black girl, how to be all, Say yes to the dress! But right now, I’m really wishing I had said yes when Dré asked, Are you sure you don’t want to put on something? It’s a costume party at a club. Don’t you have something sexy? Sexy nurse? Sexy vet? Hell, cut up your hoodie and go as a sexy hobo.

I’m wishing I had scissors or the foresight to go as Sexy Hobo, because now, while my best friends are onstage at the hottest teen club in Orlando, singing their asses off like rock gods, I look like the freak who has no social shame.

The truth is I have too much social shame. So much shame that it seeps out of me like fresh cut garlic on the back of the tongue.

I make eye contact with Eli. He’s on the keyboard, belting out lyrics and twisting in and out of a rap. His voice is the love child of Sam Smith and Adele. He’s all suave and mysterious to everyone here, but I know him as the boy who shaved off half an eyebrow when we were thirteen and those Peretz Hebrew/Palestinian hairy genes started coming in. His mom and dad were on that Romeo and Juliet vibe back in the day, and even though it makes for an epic love story, with real war and faking deaths to escape their families and countries (epic as hell), their genetic combo gave Eli thick brows and hair like nobody’s business.

He smiles at me with his dark brown eyes just under his fedora. Of the three of us, he’s definitely the broody one, writing poems about nostalgia and love.

Dré, on the other hand—he’s got on shades. Who wears sunglasses inside at night? Dré. When we were in middle school, Dré used to hide his Spanish and pretend his name was Andrew. I don’t blame him. Our school had a lot of white kids, and they always asked dumb as hell questions. I always got, “If you can’t get your hair wet, how do you wash it?” One kid asked Dré if Puerto Rican meant legal Mexican in Spanish. The kid legitimately didn’t know. I know our education system is shit, but come the fuck on.

High school has been a game changer for all of us. Our magnet school pulls in kids from all over the county. But now there are too many kids from way too many places. Now we have to be different to fit in—cue Dré’s flashy, Spanish-heritage-day-is-every-day evolution. He’s a self-proclaimed Puerto Rican papi, and he kind of radiates like a sunny day on South Beach.

Then there’s me. In my hoodie, khaki shorts, and Converse, stuck in the middle of a club with hundreds of kids basking in the glory that is Dré and Eli. I look like an outcast from a bad ’90s movie. I’m not uncool, but I do these uncool things as if I’m addicted to self-sabotage.

Mesh Girl looks at me again; she’s probably wondering why Dré keeps pointing and making steamy eyes at me while he spits some rhymes in Spanish. I know she’s thinking, How’d she get him? Girls have asked me that. They see me, with my not-slim body and my brown skin, and say, No offense, but damn, girl, how you got with Dré?

I’m not. Never have, never will. This flashy thing that he’s doing is our signal for me to check his hair. My only job is to make sure it still looks good. I nod and sway to the music, ignoring Mesh Girl’s eyebrows, which are raised to the top of her blond head. Is it bad that I like the attention? I enjoy her envy, even though I’m not the girl she thinks I am.

Some girl dressed like a pumpkin shuffles past me and reaches out to touch Dré’s hand. What she doesn’t know is that he’s transferring half a store’s worth of product onto her fingers. He spends so much time on his hair, we have to speed to school—which is the last thing we should do in Dré’s rusty old car, the Bat Mobile. It’s already two gearshifts away from blowing up with us inside. We call it the Bat Mobile not because it’s cool, but because it looks like a hundred bats dropped turds all over it and eroded the paint.

Even though it’s pretty much trash on wheels, I’m so jealous. I can’t even get my mom to let me practice my learners in her car. The queen of burning out engines thinks I’ll mess something up. Then again, here I am on Halloween, the only girl in the club not having fun because of my shitty choices.

Mesh Girl bumps me with her shoulder. “He’s hot, right?” She’s talking about Eli, and I do a weird laugh thing and nod, because I’m the worst at small talk, and it’s too much to yell, Yeah, I’ve thought that for years. I can like the way he looks, right? That’s normal, right?

She doesn’t seem to care that my laugh was borderline psychotic. “Oh my god, we should totally dance for them. Guys love that shit.” Suddenly this girl that I don’t know from Eve is pulling me toward the stage, and I start freaking out.

I’ve watched enough romance movies to have this scene planned in my head—but those are fantasies, and this is getting too real. People are staring at us as she starts twerking and swinging her arms around.

She waves at me. “Come on!”

Nope. I just smile and shrink back into the crowd. She’s clearly one of those people who really believes in herself—like, no one has ever told her she can’t do a damn thing, because, here she is, shaking her ass like she invented the booty pop.

Mesh Girl isn’t looking at me anymore. She’s dancing and looking at Eli, and—he’s looking at her. I know I’m not supposed to care, because he’s just my best friend and he and Dré are supposed to interact with the crowd—that’s part of the gig—but he’s looking at her and smiling like he’s impressed. He thinks this girl’s half-baked dance moves are cool. He thinks she’s cool.

I can dance better than that. I could be that cool.

Except I’m not.

I’m the girl who hides in the crowd. I’m the girl who isn’t even in costume. And now, the guy I maybe-sorta-like is smiling and singing to the girl who is doing the scary thing, even though she’s not that good at it.

Fuck my life. My crush is about to go up in tired-ass flames like the rest of my dreams. This isn’t the first time I’ve passed up doing what I want because I’m afraid of looking like a clown. It isn’t even the tenth or the hundredth.

Hell, just this morning I walked by a flyer for the school musical auditions, and when the drama teacher offered me one, I did the weird laugh, and—let’s just say she’ll probably never make eye contact with me again.

All I had to do was say yes. All I had to do was tell myself I’d try.

Why am I so chickenshit?

I make my way to the bar and order a soda.

The guy at the bar eyes me as he sprays Coke into my glass. He puts the Coke down in front of me, and just when I want him to walk away and leave me in my despair, he pulls off his pink bunny ears and puts them next to my bubbly soda. “Take these. I don’t want you to stand out.”

I shake my head. Honestly, he’s got long hair and it’s kind of greasy, so there is no way I’m putting that on my head. “I’m cool. Don’t need pity ears, but thanks.”

He laughs, and it’s low-key judgmental. “Yeah, because cool people don’t wear costumes, right? You must be a blast at parties.” He looks around at the club behind me. “Oh, wait.”

Rude. “Look. I happen to be a very cool person, thank you very much.” I shouldn’t talk when I’m in my feelings, because my voice goes up an octave and I can never get my eyebrows to stay still. They’re up in my hairline now, showing the whole damn world that I have no chill.

Dude puts his bunny ears back on and leans on the bar. “Yeah, it’s so cool sitting by yourself at a Halloween party with no costume.” He shrugs. “I’m not saying high school is going to be the best time of your life, but you should get over yourself enough to have a little fun while you can. Otherwise, you’ll be a cool adult sitting alone at a bar wondering why your life sucks.” He stands up, crosses his arms and looks proud of himself.

Is there a sign on my head that says, I’m having a hard time. Please do pile on? I take a deep breath and hate myself, because my first reaction is to smile and nod. But I stare him dead in the eye and say, “Because being a bartender at thirtysomething is so great.” I feel a little badass for saying it, but also super guilty for being a bitch.

“Well, one of us is having fun.” He wiggles his bunny ears. “And the other one is at a party full of kids and only has the bartender to talk to.” He pulls the white towel off his shoulder and starts wiping down the bar. “Don’t forget to tip.” And then he’s moving away and pulling out waters for a group of guys in some anime costumes.

I drop my head to the bar, which, regrettably, is sticky. That turd of a bartender doesn’t know me, but he’s kinda right. Some girl on YouTube—the one with the minimalist white walls that look chic instead of broke as hell—said everyone has a moment in life when there are two paths before them. The cool one where you change your pathetic ways and everything gets brighter and better. And the other one where you die sad and alone.

She obviously knows what she’s talking about, because she manages to make millions of people listen to her talk about hacking procrastination and how to make your room over with just a succulent and a few black-and-white photos strung up on the walls. 

I don’t want to be sad and alone, or to freeze every time my moment comes to shine. I want to be the fierce inner beast I know I am. I want Eli to look at me like I’m the only one in the room.

Something has to change, because that bartender and the succulent girl are right. If I don’t, I’m going to disappear like I was never here. 



Excerpt from SMASH IT! by Francina Simone. 
Copyright © 2020 by Francina Simone. Published by Inkyard Press. 
All Rights Reserved. Reprinted with permission.





Meet The Author

Francina Simone Author Photo by Francina Simone


Francina Simone believes in one thing: authenticity. She writes YA stories full of humor and hard life lessons with sprinkles of truth that make us all feel understood. Her craft focuses on stories about girls throwing caution to the wind to discover exactly who they are and what it means to love. Francina is also known for her BookTube channel, where she discusses controversial topics in books.



Connect to the author via her website, Goodreads, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube.




This excerpt brought to you by Inkyard Press