Category Archives: Diane Chamberlain

Review: The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain

Title: The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (60s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 346 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


A community’s past sins rise to the surface in New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain’s The Last House on the Street when two women, a generation apart, find themselves bound by tragedy and an unsolved, decades-old mystery.


Growing up in the well-to-do town of Round Hill, North Carolina, Ellie Hockley was raised to be a certain type of proper Southern lady. Enrolled in college and all but engaged to a bank manager, Ellie isn’t as committed to her expected future as her family believes. She’s chosen to spend her summer break as a volunteer helping to register black voters. But as Ellie follows her ideals fighting for the civil rights of the marginalized, her scandalized parents scorn her efforts, and her neighbors reveal their prejudices. And when she loses her heart to a fellow volunteer, Ellie discovers the frightening true nature of the people living in Round Hill.


Architect Kayla Carter and her husband designed a beautiful house for themselves in Round Hill’s new development, Shadow Ridge Estates. It was supposed to be a home where they could raise their three-year-old daughter and grow old together. Instead, it’s the place where Kayla’s husband died in an accident—a fact known to a mysterious woman who warns Kayla against moving in. The woods and lake behind the property are reputed to be haunted, and the new home has been targeted by vandals leaving threatening notes. And Kayla’s neighbor Ellie Hockley is harboring long buried secrets about the dark history of the land where her house was built.

Two women. Two stories. Both on a collision course with the truth–no matter what that truth may bring to light–in Diane Chamberlain’s riveting, powerful novel about the search for justice.


The Last House on the Street by Diane Chamberlain is a captivating dual storyline novel set in rural North Carolina.

In 2010, Kayla Carter and her young daughter Rainie are preparing to move into their new home. The move is bittersweet due to the accidental death of Kayla’s husband, Jackson. They designed the house together and she is not looking forward to living in such a secluded area. Kayla’s uneasiness is compounded by the troubling visit by a mysterious woman who knows too much about her family. When frightening occurrences continue at the house, Kayla discovers shocking details about the history of her new property.

In 1965, twenty-year-old university student Ellie Hockley becomes a civil rights activist who is helping Black residents in the South register to vote. She is assigned close to home and she finally becomes cognizant of the poverty and racism she has not noticed until now. Ellie is compassionate and cares deeply about the people she is trying to assist exercise their civil rights. Because of her activism, she is becoming estranged from her parents and brother, Buddy. Her family is concerned about her welfare, but Ellie is passionate about the work is doing.

In 2010, the women’s lives unexpectedly intersect when Kayla moves into her new home. The Hockley family still lives in their farmhouse which is close to Kayla’s property and the new subdivision. Ellie is caring for Buddy as his health continues to deteriorate. Her mom is also currently living with them although she and Ellie do not get along. As Kayla and Ellie begin to get to know one another, long buried secrets and the town’s appalling history will soon be unearthed.

The Last House on the Street is a compelling novel that highlights the tumultuous civil rights movement. Kayla and Ellie are wonderfully drawn characters that are very relatable. The dual times lines are absolutely fascinating and come together in a very shocking denouement. Ellie’s work with registering voters becomes increasingly dangerous as the local KKK ratchets up their effort to drive out the civil rights activists.  Kayla’s grief is still fresh and she is worried about her and Rainie’s safety. With jaw-dropping plot twists, Diane Chamberlain brings this mesmerizing novel to an unanticipated conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Diane Chamberlain, Historical, Historical (60s), Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Last House on the Street, Women's Fiction

Review: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Title: Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Historical (’40s), Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


From New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain comes an irresistible new novel in Big Lies in a Small Town.

North Carolina, 2018: Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, she finds herself serving a three-year stint in the North Carolina Women’s Correctional Center. Her dream of a career in art is put on hold—until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will see her released immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to leave prison, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940: Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and desperate for work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?


Weaving back and forth in time, Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain is a riveting novel about two women linked by a mural.

In 2018, Morgan Christopher is stunned when Lisa Williams and her lawyer arrange for her early parole from prison. Morgan is serving time for a DUI accident which severely injured the driver of the other car. Despite her assertions of innocence, she is convicted and sentenced to a three year prison term. The early release is not without conditions and although out of her depth, Morgan plans to meet the stipulation to restore a Depression era mural painted by Anna Dale.

For unknown reasons, both the mural and Anna disappeared without a trace in 1941.  However, Lisa’s father, renowned painter Jesse Williams, is in possession of the mural at the time of his death.  For unknown reasons, he selected Morgan to restore the mural so it can be prominently display in the soon to be opened art gallery.  Morgan is aided on her seemingly impossible task by the gallery’s curator, Oliver Jones. Both are the recipients of Jesse’s largesse, and they are determined to fulfill his last wishes.

Morgan is grateful for the second chance but she remains haunted by the fate of the DUI accident’s victim. She keeps her fretful thoughts at bay through hard work but it is impossible for her put her concerns behind her.  As she works to restore  the mural, Morgan is intrigued and confused by some elements of the beautiful piece of art.  Now emotionally invested in the project, she begins searching for information about Anna.  But will Morgan unearth the truth about what happened to Anna’s initial vision of the project and the final painting?

In 1940, Anna welcomes the diversion of traveling to Edenton, N.C. to plan the mural she has been selected to paint.  But the New Jersey native is unprepared for Southern small town life and the intricacies of race relations. Anna forms a warm relationship with her landlady Myrtle Simms and her daughter Pauline. But not everyone is happy she won the contest and Anna must deal with outright hostility from some of the town’s residents. Nonetheless,  she eagerly begins her project and as she begins taking risks, Anna ignores the warnings from Myrtle and Pauline.  As the deadline fast approaches, Anna undergoes a drastic  personality change that affects her ability to finish the mural. Following her abrupt disappearance, everyone, including Morgan in the present, try to uncover the truth about what happened to both Anna and the mural.

Big Lies in a Small Town is an emotionally compelling novel that touches on racism, mental illness, addiction, women’s inequality and violence towards women. Both story arcs are fascinating with Morgan’s story playing out in real time while Anna’s portion of the storyline is revealed through her diary entries. The characters are vibrantly developed and both time periods are realistically depicted.  Diane Chamberlain brings this thought-provoking novel to a poignant yet ultimately uplifting conclusion.  A thoroughly captivating story that greatly enjoyed and highly recommend.

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Filed under Big Lies in a Small Town, Contemporary, Diane Chamberlain, Fiction, Historical, Historical (40s), Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press

Review: The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain

Title: The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (70s), Women’s Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


New York Times bestselling author Diane Chamberlain delivers a thrilling, mind-bending novel about one mother’s journey to save her child.

When Carly Sears, a young woman widowed by the Vietnam war, receives the news that her unborn baby girl has a heart defect, she is devastated. It is 1970, and she is told that nothing can be done to help her child. But her brother-in-law, a physicist with a mysterious past, tells her that perhaps there is a way to save her baby. What he suggests is something that will shatter every preconceived notion that Carly has. Something that will require a kind of strength and courage she never knew existed. Something that will mean an unimaginable leap of faith on Carly’s part.

And all for the love of her unborn child.

The Dream Daughter is a rich, genre-spanning, breathtaking novel about one mother’s quest to save her child, unite her family, and believe in the unbelievable. Diane Chamberlain pushes the boundaries of faith and science to deliver a novel that you will never forget.


The Dream Daughter by Diane Chamberlain is a  magical, thought-provoking and sometimes heartbreaking novel that is impossible to put down.

Twenty-six year old Caroline “Carly” Sears has already suffered heartrending losses when she discovers her unborn baby has a fatal heart defect.  She is very distraught since her baby is the last piece of her husband, Joe, who was killed in action in Vietnam. Her brother-in-law Hunter Poole tells Carly he knows of a way to save her baby but she is initially skeptical. After he offers irrefutable proof he is telling the truth, Carly knows she will do whatever it takes to save her unborn child.  However, unforeseen circumstances leave Carly in an untenable situation which forces her to make a gut-wrenching decision.

Carly and Joe are teenage sweethearts whose romance survives despite the distance between them. Happily married after graduating from college, Carly is supportive of his military career. Despite the protests surrounding the controversial Vietnam War, Carly and Joe have no reason to doubt the US efforts in Vietnam are just.  Soon after Joe arrives in Vietnam, Carly discovers she is pregnant and her beloved husband is killed in action. Learning about her unborn baby’s heart problem is a crippling blow but can she trust Hunter’s certainty that his proposition is the only way to save her child?

With a cast of likable and sympathetic characters, The Dream Daughter is an imaginative, compelling novel that quickly capture readers’ attention. The premise quite intriguing and Diane Chamberlain brilliantly executes the ingenious storyline. Carly’s situation is heart-wrenching and readers will be fully invested as she wrestles with an impossible choice that will break her heart no matter what she decides. An utterly captivating novel that I absolutely loved and HIGHLY recommend.

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Filed under Diane Chamberlain, Historical, Historical (70s), Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Dream Daughter

Review: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain

Title: The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Historical (40s), Fiction
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Steeped in history and filled with heart-wrenching twists, The Stolen Marriage is an emotionally captivating novel of secrets, betrayals, prejudice, and forgiveness. It showcases Diane Chamberlain at the top of her talent.

One mistake, one fateful night, and Tess DeMello’s life is changed forever.

It is 1944. Pregnant, alone, and riddled with guilt, twenty-three-year-old Tess DeMello abruptly gives up her budding career as a nurse and ends her engagement to the love of her life, unable to live a lie. Instead, she turns to the baby’s father for help and agrees to marry him, moving to the small, rural town of Hickory, North Carolina. Tess’s new husband, Henry Kraft, is a secretive man who often stays out all night, hides money from his new wife, and shows her no affection. Tess quickly realizes she’s trapped in a strange and loveless marriage with no way out.

The people of Hickory love and respect Henry but see Tess as an outsider, treating her with suspicion and disdain. When one of the town’s golden girls dies in a terrible accident, everyone holds Tess responsible. But Henry keeps his secrets even closer now, though it seems that everyone knows something about him that Tess does not.

When a sudden polio epidemic strikes Hickory, the townspeople band together to build a polio hospital. Tess knows she is needed and defies Henry’s wishes to begin working at there. Through this work, she begins to find purpose and meaning. Yet at home, Henry’s actions grow more alarming by the day. As Tess works to save the lives of her patients, can she untangle the truth behind her husband’s mysterious behavior and find the love—and the life—she was meant to have?


The Stolen Marriage by Diane Chamberlain is a well-researched, historically accurate novel set during the mid 1940s in North Carolina.

Twenty-three year old Tess DeMello is happily engaged to next door neighbor Dr. Vincent Russo. Looking forward to her upcoming wedding and completing her nursing studies, she is disappointed yet understanding when Vincent goes to Chicago to help out during a serious polio outbreak. When his return date continues to get pushed back, she and her best friend take a trip to Washington, DC that forever alters Tess’s life and eventually leads to a loveless marriage to furniture maker Henry Kraft.

Tess is a strong, confident young woman who has a close relationship with her mother and Vincent’s family. Her one misstep has far reaching implications and she loses everything dear to her the aftermath. Not expecting Henry to offer marriage, she nonetheless accepts his proposal and relocates to his hometown of Hickory.  Needless to say, neither her mother-in-law Ruth nor her sister-in-law Lucy welcomes her into the family and Tess grows incredibly lonely in her new circumstances. She is also puzzled by Henry’s lack of interest in their marriage and although she would like to confront him, Tess is fearful of upsetting their fragile bond. Tess remains hopeful things will improve over the coming months and despite her reluctance to go against her husband’s wishes, she nonetheless holds firm when it comes to attaining her RN license.

Tess is definitely a fish out of water in her new home. She is expected to conform to Ruth’s wishes and she gradually loses her sense of self under the weight of these expectations. Dealt a crushing blow in the aftermath of tragic losses, Tess unexpectedly finds the opportunity to fulfill her prior dreams when the town comes together and builds a hospital for polio patients.  When her past crashes headlong into the present, Tess realizes the enormity of everything she has lost, but will she find a way to escape her increasingly unhappy life?

The Stolen Marriage is an enthralling historical novel with a rich cast of vibrantly developed and life-like characters. Tess is an extremely sympathetic and appealing protagonist who is a victim of not only her impetuous decisions but the strictures of time period. The small town of Hickory is realistically depicted but it takes the townspeople’s generosity in the face of adversity for Tess to realize she has misjudged most of its residents.  Diane Chamberlain’s meticulous research of Hickory’s past highlights a remarkable but little known piece of important history. An incredibly captivating and thought-provoking novel that provides an insightful glimpse of turbulent race relations, haunting polio epidemics and limited choices women endured during the mid 1940s in America.

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Filed under Diane Chamberlain, Fiction, Historical, Historical (40s), Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Stolen Marriage

Review: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain

pretending to danceTitle: Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


Molly Arnette is very good at keeping secrets. She lives in San Diego with a husband she adores, and they are trying to adopt a baby because they can’t have a child on their own. But the process of adoption brings to light many questions about Molly’s past and her family-the family she left behind in North Carolina twenty years before. The mother she says is dead but who is very much alive. The father she adored and whose death sent her running from the small community of Morrison’s Ridge. Her own birth mother whose mysterious presence in her family raised so many issues that came to a head. The summer of twenty years ago changed everything for Molly and as the past weaves together with the present story, Molly discovers that she learned to lie in the very family that taught her about pretending. If she learns the truth about her beloved father’s death, can she find peace in the present to claim the life she really wants?


Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain is a bittersweet novel of healing and forgiveness. This compelling story within a story begins in the present as lead protagonist Molly Arnette and her husband Aidan James begin the process to adopt a baby. Completing the final paperwork of her family history thrusts Molly back in time to the summer she was fourteen and the tragic events that forever changed her life. In order to move forward, Molly must face the troubling memories that continue to haunt her but will she make peace with her past before it is too late?

Molly has been estranged from most of her family for the past twenty years and she has carefully fabricated a series of lies to hide the reason why. But as she and Aidan complete the adoption paperwork, she is terrified her carefully constructed history will be revealed. After hearing unsettling news from her cousin, Molly’s disquieting memories from that pivotal summer rise to the forefront as she wrestles with her fears of agreeing to an open adoption.

The long ago summer begins on a happy note with Molly eagerly assisting her beloved father with completing his current book before embarking on a book tour. Her father, Graham, is paralyzed from the neck down due to multiple sclerosis and the two are extremely close. The once joyful summer is soon marred by family infighting but Molly’s new friendship with newcomer Stacy Bateman offers an escape from the tense situation. Stacy shakes up Molly’s rather sheltered world and introduces her to the wonders of older boys and other illicit teenage past times. As tensions increase at home, Molly’s attention is focused on the boy she has a crush on and she misses some obvious signs that portend a tragic loss that will put her at odds with the rest of family for decades to come.

In the present, Molly and Aidan continue the adoption process while she tries to sort through her ambivalent feelings about open adoption. They are cautiously optimistic that a birth mother will select them to adopt her baby and these scenes are heartwarming while at the same time, anxious, since Aidan and Molly try to protect themselves from possible heartache. Molly is startlingly intuitive about the birth mother and she offers surprising advice and words of wisdom to the young mother. However, memories of that turbulent summer continue to surface and revisiting that time in her life gives her the opportunity to re-examine them with the maturity and wisdom from an adult point of view. Her perspective shifts but Molly still remains hard and unforgiving until an unexpected loss forces her to make a decision that changes the course of her life.

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain is a heartfelt and engaging novel that also has a bit of suspense element to the storyline. The characters are vibrantly life-like and appealing with relatable flaws and imperfections. Molly’s past and present are seamlessly woven into a captivating story that is moving and poignant. Unexpected plot twists, shocking revelations and surprising reunions bring the novel to an emotional conclusion that will touch readers’ hearts.  A deeply affecting novel of reconciliation that I absolutely loved and strongly recommend to fans of contemporary women’s fiction.


Filed under Contemporary, Diane Chamberlain, Pretending to Dance, Rated A, Review, St Martin's Press, Women's Fiction

Review: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain

silent sisterTitle: The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Length: 353 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley


In The Silent Sister, Riley MacPherson has spent her entire life believing that her older sister Lisa committed suicide as a teenager.  Now, over twenty years later, her father has passed away and she’s in New Bern, North Carolina cleaning out his house when she finds evidence to the contrary.  Lisa is alive.  Alive and living under a new identity.  But why exactly was she on the run all those years ago, and what secrets are being kept now?  As Riley works to uncover the truth, her discoveries will put into question everything she thought she knew about her family.  Riley must decide what the past means for her present, and what she will do with her newfound reality, in this engrossing mystery from international bestselling author Diane Chamberlain.

The Review:

The Silent Sister by Diane Chamberlain is a thought-provoking mystery that is very engrossing. Although some of the storyline is a bit predictable, the intriguing plot raises some very interesting moral questions but it is the family aspect of the novel that makes it such an interesting read.

What if everything you thought you knew about your family turns out to be a lie? That is pretty much what happens while Riley MacPherson is settling her father’s affairs after he unexpectedly passes away. The information she uncovers runs the gamut from mundane (her father had a girlfriend) to puzzling (a mysterious monthly payment and a surprising bequest) to life altering (the sister she thought was dead is actually alive). Riley’s quest for the truth reveals some dark and deeply hidden secrets that challenge just about everything she thought she knew about herself and her family.

The MacPherson family underwent dramatic changes after the loss of their oldest child. Riley’s mom suffered from varying degrees of depression and her dad immersed himself in his hobbies. Her brother Danny suffered the most as her parents went to great lengths to keep their secrets hidden. He has been unable to escape the dysfunction of his youth and his problems are compounded by PTSD from his military service. With the exception of her troubled relationship with Danny, Riley is the only one who emerged from the tragedy relatively unscathed.

Riley is a likable, but sometimes frustrating character. Her heart is in the right place when she tries to help Danny, but she is a little immature and inexperienced. She sometimes makes rash and impetuous decisions without giving much thought to the consequences of her actions. Riley occasionally lets people steamroll over her but she does eventually stand up for herself.

The Silent Sister is well-written but some of the plot is easy to figure out. This does not lessen enjoyment of the overall story and there are some unexpected twists and turns that keeps the novel interesting and moving along at a pretty fast pace. Some important clues are revealed fairly early but Riley remains oblivious to their significance for much of the novel. Diane Chamberlain brings the novel to an unanticipated, but satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Contemporary, Diane Chamberlain, Mystery, Rated B+, Review, St Martin's Press, The Silent Sister