I squeezed in a TLC Book Tour stop today on the excerpt tour for Her Dark Lies by J.T. Ellison. I am a fan of Ellison's work and I am sure I am going to enjoy this book, once I actually get to sit down and read it. I'll report back once I have finished it but until then, here's an excerpt from Chapter Two.
Fast-paced and brilliantly unpredictable, J.T. Ellison’s breathtaking new novel invites you to a wedding none will forget—and some won’t survive.
Jutting from sparkling turquoise waters off the Italian coast, Isle Isola is an idyllic setting for a wedding. In the majestic cliff-top villa owned by the wealthy Compton family, up-and-coming artist Claire Hunter will marry handsome, charming Jack Compton, surrounded by close family, intimate friends…and a host of dark secrets.
From the moment Claire sets foot on the island, something seems amiss. Skeletal remains have just been found. There are other, newer disturbances, too. Menacing texts. A ruined wedding dress. And one troubling shadow hanging over Claire’s otherwise blissful relationship—the strange mystery surrounding Jack’s first wife.
Then a raging storm descends, the power goes out—and the real terror begins…
Insecurity is the worst sense that lovers feel; sometimes the most humdrum desireless marriage seems better. Insecurity twists meanings and poisons trust.
—Graham Greene, The End of the Affair
The last few days before a wedding are the most stressful of a bride’s life.
I repeat this mantra to justify accepting a fourth glass of champagne from the slim, silent, white-gloved server. The champagne is delightful, cool and fizzy against my throat.
I am well past tipsy, and thankfully, it seems the evening is winding down. The quartet is looking decidedly tired, and the servers have been circling with the macarons for over half an hour. All I want to do at this point is sneak off to a corner to discreetly rub the bottoms of my feet; I’m wearing my five-hour heels but I’m pushing hour six and feeling it. I am smiled, chatted, and air-kissed out.
I take a second sip, then cast a glance across the crowded ballroom to my bridegroom. Jack doesn’t seem stressed at all. Quite the opposite; he is as relaxed and calm as I’ve seen him in weeks. He is in his element, surrounded by benefactors and businessmen, people of standing and stature. His dark blond hair is mussed, his eyes a bit glassy from all the toasting. The quintessential quarterback—impossibly handsome, easy smile, thick hair, oozing sex appeal. The kind of guy who doesn’t flame out after college, but goes the whole way, becomes a brand, gets endorsement deals, marries a supermodel and has two perfect kids and an architecturally interesting home.
Though Jack is not a quarterback, and I am hardly a supermodel. I am tall, and I do have an awful lot of blond hair, but that’s where the resemblance ends. I’m an artist, a painter. My talent is large canvas abstracts, modern oils. And even that has been enhanced by Jack’s influence.
These assets don’t seem enough, and yet, William Jackson Compton has chosen to spend his life with me.
Yes, that Jackson Compton, eldest son of the illustrious computer magnate William Brice Compton III, and his brilliant wife, Ana Catalano Compton.
This party is our last obligation before hopping a flight to Italy. To have our wedding on Isle Isola, in the Comptons’ private centuries-old villa, packed with modern art and old secrets. It’s belonged to the family for generations.
Personally, I would have been fine with the courthouse, but there will be nothing but the best for Jack.
At my request, the ceremony itself will be for our closest family and friends only, but because so many people wanted to celebrate with us, the powers that be—Ana, and our wedding planner, Henna Shaikh—decided a precursor event would be fitting. A reception before the wedding, complete with a tanker truck of champagne, heavy hors d’oeuvres, five hundred well-heeled strangers, enough staff to circulate food and wine for the masses, one gregarious groom, and one extremely shy bride.
And twinkle lights. One must never forget the twinkle lights.
This prewedding extravaganza is why I’m now standing in an outrageously expensive Elie Saab column of the palest ivory satin and sky-high Jimmy Choo heels in the ballroom of Cheekwood mansion quaffing champagne as if my life depends on it. One wall of the ballroom has been lit up all evening with tasteful black-and-white photographs from our courtship, interspersed with photos of Jack on-site in foreign countries, holding babies during their inoculations and drilling water wells, part of his duties with the Compton Foundation, a hugely successful and popular philanthropic endeavor. There are even a few shots of me in my studio and my paintings. They look so fascinating in monochrome, it has me itching to sneak away to my studio tonight, though this isn’t going to happen. A—I don’t often like the results when I paint drunk. B—We leave tomorrow for Isola, ergo, there is no more painting time for me until after the wedding.
Jack senses me watching him. His smile grows wider, into a grin that is pure, sheer delight. You are mine, and I am yours, and we are so very lucky, it says. He tips his glass my direction, and I tip mine in return, then take a sip, promptly spilling a teensy bit onto the front of my dress. Shit. I have definitely been overserved.
I set the glass down on the nearest table and discreetly dab at my collarbones with my cocktail napkin, feeling the scratchy embossing of our conjoined initials in golden scroll against my bare skin.
Jack must have seen my faux pas because he crosses the room like a torpedo. He’s not upset, he’s highly amused, judging by the rumbles of laughter coming from his broad chest. His arms encircle my waist and he sweeps me up into a hug that takes my feet off the ground. He whirls me in a circle.
You can see the other book excepts with the bloggers below:
Monday, February 15th: From the TBR Pile
Tuesday, February 16th: Kahakai Kitchen
Wednesday, February 17th: Seaside Book Nook
Thursday, February 18th: What is That Book About
Friday, February 19th: Pacific Northwest Bookworm
Monday, February 22nd: Helen’s Book Blog
Tuesday, February 23rd: Audio Killed the Bookmark
Wednesday, February 24th: Reading Reality
Thursday, February 25th: Palmer’s Page Turners
Friday, February 26th: Mrs. Mommy Booknerd
Monday, March 1st: Living My Best Book Life
Tuesday, March 2nd: Book Reviews and More by Kathy
Wednesday, March 3rd: Books & Bindings
Thursday, March 4th: Jathan & Heather
Friday, March 5th: Novel Gossip
Saturday, March 6th: Where the Reader Grows
Monday, March 8th: Art Books Coffee
and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes standalone domestic noir and psychological thriller series, the latter starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the international thriller series “A Brit in the FBI” with #1 New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter. Cohost of the Emmy Award-winning show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband.New York Times
Rather than make a recipe inspired by this excerpt because I am only mid-way through the book. Since my except included champagne, I thought I'd repost a recipe from the early days of this blog, Hibiscus Flower Champagne Cocktails. These Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup make a stunning drink that would be perfect at any event--even "a wedding none will forget--and some won't survive.
You can find the recipe and details here.
Note: A review copy of "Her Dark Lies" was provided to me by the author and the publisher via TLC Book Tours. I was not compensated for my review and as always, my thoughts and opinions are my own.
You can see the other stops for this TLC Book Tour and what other bloggers thought of the book here.