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–This must be Thursday. I never could get the hang of Thursdays. –Douglas Adams

This week my guest is Amy M. Reade, author of the romantic suspense novel, Secrets of Hallstead House

5446983142_45f62f06ea Secrets of Hallstead House Banner 450 x 169

Amy M Reade, author of Secrets of Hallstead House

Amy M Reade, author of Secrets of Hallstead House

Please welcome Amy Reade, who will be joining us to talk about her amazing debut novel. A native of upstate New York, Amy grew up in the Thousand Islands region and was inspired by the natural beauty of that area to write her first novel, Secrets of Hallstead House. She now lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children, a Bouvier des Flandres named Orly, and two rescued cats who refuse to answer to their names of Porthos and Athos.

Upon graduation from Cornell University and Indiana University School of Law, Amy practiced law in New York City, but soon discovered that her dream job was writing. In addition to volunteering with school, church, and community groups, Amy is currently working on her second novel, set in the area around Charleston, South Carolina. Though Amy lives within sight of the Atlantic Ocean, she is partial to the blue waters of the Pacific and spends as much time as possible on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the setting of her as-yet-unwritten third novel.

  1. man-pushing-rock-up-hill-ok-to-use.jpg

    That first car…

    What was your first car? My first car was a Nissan Sentra. It was black, standard shift, and I didn’t get it until I was 24 years old because I never really needed one until then! I named the car “The Raven.” To this day I can’t go up a hill in a car with a stick shift. I now drive an automatic.

  2. Worst movie ever? Leaving Las Vegas. Though I think Nicholas Cage did a great job, it really wasn’t my kind of movie. I should have known better than to watch it. Let me put it this way…I’d rather watch Cage in National Treasure. That’s more my speed.
  3. imageedit_2_7996780931Who would you most like to sit next to on an airplane? The President of the U.S. because I want to see what Air Force One looks like.
  4. Best guilty pleasure? A glass of port and a hunk of Stilton.
  5. What is the one thing you can’t live without? I’m glad you asked about a thing instead of a person or animal. My answer: cheese!
  6. What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever heard? I read a book called Guide to Fiction Writing by Phyllis Whitney. In it she discusses her method of writing, which is to have a notebook (I use a three-ring binder) for each novel. Divide the notebook into sections, such as Characters, Setting, Plotting, Outline, Chronology, and the most important, Work Calendar. I highly recommend the book if you’re a “plotter,” or someone who likes everything to be clearly laid out before writing. The other piece of advice was from Sunny Frazier, author of the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries. She was an acquisitions editor at Oak Tree Press when I first “met” her online, and she recommended to me that I get a website, a blog, social media accounts, whatever I could do, if I wanted a publisher to take notice of me.


Secrets of Hallstead House coverMacy Stoddard had hoped to ease the grief of losing her parents in a fiery car crash by accepting a job as a private nurse to the wealthy and widowed Alexandria Hallstead.But her first sight of Summerplace is of a dark and forbidding home. She quickly finds its winding halls and shadowy rooms filled with secrets and suspicions. Alex seems happy to have Macy’s help, but others on the island, including Alex’s sinister servants and hostile relatives, are far less welcoming.Watching eyes, veiled threats…slowly, surely, the menacing spirit of Hallstead Island closes in around Macy. And she can only wonder if her story will become just one of the many secrets of Hallstead House…

  • Genre: Romantic Suspense
  • Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
  • Date of Publication: July 17, 2014
  • Number of pages: appr. 273
  • Word Count: appr. 82,000
  • Formats available: ebook, print-on-demand


gold starREVIEW: 4 out of 5 stars

Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness. --Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Lady Bracknell: To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune. To lose both looks like carelessness. –Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest




Let’s hear it for orphans. Best. MacGuffin. Ever. They drive plots from Shakespeare to Dickens to Star Wars. Can you imagine a superhero who has to bring the candied yams to Thanksgiving dinner? A hard-boiled spy who has to stop over on Saturday to mow Mom’s grass? Or a young wizard whose parents are not only inconveniently alive, but nagging him to take out the trash, put down that wand, and go spend some time outdoors?

But the genre they most define is the gothic novel. Take, for example, Amy M. Reade’s debut novel, Secrets of Hallstead House. Fans of modern gothic incarnations such as Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938) or old school like Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) will recognize all the classic elements—orphaned young heroine, gloomy mansion complete with turrets, sinister servants, family members who’ve met with untimely deaths, mysteriously significant piece of jewelry, weather that mirrors the frightening series of events—all neatly crossed off the plot list for Secrets of Hallstead House.

Secrets of Hallstead House Button 300 x 225This might be Reade’s debut novel, but it’s a beautifully executed example of the genre. We meet young nurse Macy Stoddard as she travels to take up her new position as private nurse to wealthy widow Alexandria Hallstead. Reeling from the recent deaths of her parents, Macy wants to leave Manhattan and her old life behind. Because her new assignment is on a private island, there are only a few people who could be responsible for the increasingly disturbing threats Macy receives. As the threats escalate, she realizes that not only Alexandria’s life is in danger, but someone wants her gone as well.

Those looking for a romance novel will have to be content with a few generic kisses. Those looking for horror will only find a couple of nasty nightmares. But those looking for a well-plotted, carefully built and character-driven gothic true to its roots and worthy successor to Rebecca or Jane Eyre, will be lucky to find Secrets of Hallstead House. We’re told right away that the events Macy is relating occurred twenty years earlier, so we know that our heroine, at least, is going to be around to tell the tale. But the eerie atmosphere that builds with each malevolent incident is faithfully described as tension builds.

I have to admit that for me, the slow and deliberate pace as each tiny threat or elusive clue is revealed took some getting used to. The tepid romance was a bit disappointing. There are a few distracting sideline trips off-island which add to the color and atmosphere, but do little or nothing to advance the plot. Also, the actual time the story is set in was a bit hard to pin down. We know that events were set in motion forty years (at least) before the narrator begins her tale, but the emphasis on propriety seemed slightly anachronistic.

None of that matters, of course, because Amy M. Reade has set herself the task of writing a classic gothic novel, and at that she’s succeeded brilliantly. I would give The Secrets of Hallstead House four stars and look forward to new works from an obviously gifted writer. Bring on more orphans!

**I received this book for free from the publisher or author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.**



Website: http://www.amymreade.com
Blog: http://amreade.wordpress.com
Twitter: @readeandwrite
FB: http://www.facebook.com/amreadeauthor
Kensington website: http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author.aspx/29480



For this week’s contest, I asked Amy to name her favorite weird food combination.
Her answer? “I guess that depends on what you consider weird!” But here are three choices:

  1. Goldfish crackers and Nutella
  2. French fries and mayonnaise
  3. Bananas and Bleu cheese dressing
Which one of the choices above is amy’s actual answer? Please enter your guess in the comments below for a chance to win a free copy of SECRETS OF HALLSTEAD HOUSE!

 late-breaking update –(translation: Danielle points out that I didn’t name last week’s winners…)

See, this is why no good deed goes unpunished. I queued up this post a week ahead so that I could go on holiday with a clear conscience. But since my superpowers don’t include predicting the future (except where my kids are concerned), I didn’t know who the winners of last week’s contest would be! Alison Williams tells me that her chosen superpower would be invisibility.  Luckily, the incredibly generous Alison has come to my rescue with not one but THREE copies of The Black Hours. So the winners are Amanda Capper, Danielle Davis, and Sandra Branum. Congrats to all and thanks for playing Lie-dar. (It would be great if you could rate the book on Goodreads or Amazon when you’re done.)