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  • Writer's pictureJudith D Collins

Center of Gravity

ISBN: 9780718030902

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

Publication Date: 7/14/2015

Format: Paperback

My Rating: 5 Stars +

What if everything you think is true and real about your life is a lie?

Ava’s life in the coastal South appears nearly perfect after her recent marriage to the powerful and handsome Mitchell Carson. She loves her husband and the family they have created. Even Mitchell’s young son from a previous marriage, Jack, with his superhero ambitions, can’t imagine life without Ava. Outwardly, Mitchell appears to be a caring husband and doting father, but as Ava soon discovers, there is a dark side to Mitchell Carson that she never imagined.

When Graham Thomas, a lawyer with a secret past, stumbles into Ava’s life, everything changes. Mitchell’s jealous streak emerges after an innocent encounter between Graham and Ava, and Mitchell soon convinces himself that Ava is unfaithful. When Mitchell starts divorce proceedings and a custody war, Jack is caught in the middle, which soon makes him question Ava’s pure intentions. As Ava searches for a way to save her family she begins to uncover her husband’s secret past and capacity for unhinged jealousy and rage.

About the Author

After six years behind the anchor desk at two CBS affiliates, Laura moved to the Alabama Gulf Coast to raise her family. Her accolades in broadcasting include awards from the Associated Press, including Best News Anchor and Best Specialized Reporter.

Laura works at Spring Hill College as the school’s web content and social media manager and​ is active in her community—participating in fundraisers for the American Cancer Society, Ronald McDonald House, and Providence Hospital’s Festival of Flowers.

Laura was recently awarded a 2-book deal with Thomas Nelson Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. Her novel, Center of Gravity, set in Mobile, Ala., will be published in July of 2015. Laura is represented by Elizabeth Winick Rubenstein, president of McIntosh and Otis literary agency in New York.​ Her writing awards include those from William Faulkner-Wisdom Creative Writing Competition, Writer’s Digest, RWA, and the Eric Hoffer competition.

She holds a master’s degree in journalism from The Ohio State University and a bachelor’s degree in English from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. She is currently pursuing a second master’s degree in interactive technology from the University of Alabama. She is a native of Upstate New York and currently resides near the Alabama Gulf Coast with her two children. Website Twitter Goodreads

My Review

A special thank you to Thomas Nelson-FICTION and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Laura McNeil’s CENTER OF GRAVITY is an intense suspense domestic psychological thriller—a compelling exploration inside the walls of a Southern family, for a riveting page-turner, grabbing you from page one to the end! Set in Mobile, Alabama it would appear from the exterior, Ava and Mitchell Carson’s marriage and family unit is picture perfect. However, behind closed doors— deceit, lies, and control; a devil in disguise, with charm, good looks, intelligence, and manipulation. Will Ava possess the tenacity and strength to protect her children, from a monster? Will the superhero loving, son Jack save the day before it is too late? "Every day, somebody, somewhere, needs a hero." Ava, a teacher meets a charming man who has recently lost his wife. She falls in love with his adorable eight-year old, son Jack, and they are soon married. She does not know much about her new husband’s past life, and does not ask a lot of questions, thinking he does not want a constant reminder of his past life. Ava adopts Jack, and soon thereafter she gets pregnant and they have a son, Sam who is now one. Into the marriage, Mitchell, her husband, a successful man with money, looks, and charm, becomes controlling and demands she quit her job to stay home with the children. She was a teacher at the private school, where Jack attends. Ava is a simple woman and does not need all the frills and material possessions, even driving an older jeep. However, Mitchell wants to continue buying, remodeling, and doing things to the house, to show the world he can take care of his family (true narcissistic behavior). His clothes, car, hair, and everything about him is for show and outward appearances. He is high stressed, short tempered, and spends no time with the children. Ava is innocent, a little naïve at times and wonders if Mitchell is just stressed with work. She is trustworthy, and cannot comprehend her husband would stoop to such drastic measures. She is the only loving parent and soon finds Mitchell is not the man she thought she married. He does not even give her enough money to barely keep the house running-- another control tactic. “Sleeping with the Enemy” intensified, as now there are two children involved. Mitchell is paranoid and extremely jealous. Cold and calculating. Ava has an old childhood friend (a cop), Mike, and Mitchell is even jealous of him. For no apparent reason, he decides to take the kids and move out. He makes Ava look bad and starts spreading lies. In the blink of an eye, he has temporary custody and Ava finds herself getting one hour a week supervised visitation with her own children. How could this have happened? Mitchell gets down and dirty - He has attorneys, the college, colleagues, judges, her old school friends, and even Ava’s own mother in his back pocket, with money to spin his story. Mitchell soon shows his true colors, and is not the man she thought she knew. How many people will he fool before other lives are in danger? Ava has to get her sons away from this mad man. This guy is pure evil! Around every corner, he is conniving, setting up Ava to make her look like an unstable bad mother. He is verbally and emotionally abusive with the boys, and poor Jack is caught in the crossfire. (felt so sorry for the boys). Through messy restraining orders and custody battles, which are one sided, the court mandates a child psychologist, Dr. Lucy Bennett, and a mediator. Will Lucy be able to determine which one is the bad parent, in time to save the kids?

“When your children are stolen, the pain swallows you whole. Logic fades, reason retreats. Desperation. A charmed life falls to pieces. Destroyed. False promises. Lies. Emptiness.”

Soon Ava starts digging into Mitchell's past and gains the strength to fight for her children against all odds. Did he kill his first wife, the talented author of children’s books? Is she next? The more she learns, the more she fears for her children's safety. Why did Mitchell say his father was dead? What is he hiding behind this façade? Will Graham, Ava’s attorney be able to help her---before it is too late?

WOW! I was not anticipating the intensity and power of CENTER OF GRAVITY!

Compelling and impressive. I happened to be packing preparing for a move, and another week of travel, and driving back to Florida from NC. This is the type of book, you want to read in one sitting, as very difficult to put down. My advice, "Do not start this book until you have the time, as it is so good." One to be read with no interruptions.

Laura McNeill's writing is pitch perfect; the pacing, character development, plot planning and a satisfying conclusion – excellent! My kind of book—possesses every ingredient for a "must read"--not a simple fluff drama marriage/divorce story.

CENTER OF GRAVITY, has depth---a psychological suspense, leaving you holding your breath, wondering what Mitchell will do next. It is so realistically shocking, knowing how many women have to face a man like this, when the legal system is not always there to protect the innocent, and everything is not as it appears.

Loved hearing from each well-developed character, flashing back and forth from each

perspective (Graham, Ava, Mitchell, Lucy, Jack), getting an intimate view (especially Jack, the son). Ava grew so much from the beginning of the book, with newfound strength and confidence in herself and the fierce love of her boys, and her need to protect her family. Jack was adorable with his love of superheroes, and his younger brother, Sam --his need to protect those he loves. Mitchell is evil and mean, and Laura does an outstanding with the portrayal of this character-- his secret past, keeping you in chilling suspense. I loved Graham, the attorney, not the typical attorney, rough around the edges, his motorcycle, leaving you rooting for a happy ending.

“Everyone has a center of gravity. Every family too. It’s the tangible things that make us feel grounded and whole. And it’s different for everyone—a good job, a strong marriage, or a close friendship. Often when that center of gravity tilts with trouble or disappointment, everything becomes a little unstable. When you have a greater rift, like a divorce, it’s more like an earthquake. It takes time and work to achieve that equilibrium and peace again.”

What is normal? CENTER OF GRAVITY is a chilling and haunting tale, yet uplifting novel of one mother’s love and a son’s determination. I fell in love with the book, and the author’s style (what a master storyteller)! She has been added to my favorite author list and fans of psychological suspense will devour this one! Highly recommend.

Upcoming: Cannot wait for her next book to be released April, 2016- Sister Dear, a story of a woman, Allie Marshall, who goes to prison for a crime she doesn’t commit, leaving behind a 5-year old daughter. When Allie is paroled 10 years later, she hopes to reclaim her quiet life and move on, but her daughter, now a teenager, soon challenges her innocence. In her quest to find justice, Allie discovers that the one person she trusts most committed the ultimate betrayal. (Sounds intriguing). Review Links:

On a side note: The superhero part made me think of my youngest son, who just turned 40. About five years ago, his sister-in-law was planning a superhero birthday party for her son’s eighth birthday to include all his little guy friends. She hired a professional Spiderman for his party; however, he cancelled at the last minute. My son agrees to take his place (he is very athletic, and muscular), and rents a nice Spiderman professional costume (with even more muscles included). He evidently gets into the character, (he was also a superhero fan when he was younger). Highly creative, he wants to make a grand entrance--deciding to climb up a power pole and jump, then run across the back yard to the deck to make this appearance.

However, once he reached the top of the power pole, when he is jumping down, his mask slips over his eyes (had not planned for this minor technicality), blinding him, so he is unable to see the ground below to cushion his fall. He falls and breaks his leg. He still makes his appearance in pain, and winds up in the emergency room for the next seven hours, and an entire leg cast for months.

Funny, as the local paper covered the story of the Spiderman superhero cited in the north Charlotte area, with his photo. Since he now has two children of his own (5 and 8), he has given up his superhero stunt performances.






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