Publication Date: 4/26/2016
My Rating: 5 Stars + Top Books of 2016 Critically acclaimed author of The Mourning Hours and The Fragile World, Paula Treick DeBoard returns with a tale of dark secrets, shocking lies and a dangerous obsession that will change one neighborhood forever. Liz McGinnis never imagined herself living in a luxurious gated community like The Palms.
Ever since she and her family moved in, she's felt like an outsider amongst the Stepford-like wives and their obnoxiously spoiled children. Still, she's determined to make it work—if not for herself, then for her husband, Phil, who landed them this lavish home in the first place, and for her daughter, Danielle, who's about to enter high school.
Yet underneath the glossy veneer of The Palms, life is far from idyllic. In a place where reputation is everything, Liz soon discovers that even the friendliest residents can't be trusted. So when the gorgeous girl next door befriends Danielle, Liz can't help but find sophisticated Kelsey's interest in her shy and slightly nerdy daughter a bit suspicious.
But while Kelsey quickly becomes a fixture in the McGinnis home, Liz's relationships with both Danielle and Phil grow strained. Now even her own family seems to be hiding things, and it's not long before their dream of living the high life quickly spirals out of control…
A special thank you to the author, MIRA, and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. Put Gone Girl & The Girl on the Train in your "rear view" mirror: Paula Treick DeBoard's THE DROWNING GIRLS is mind-blowing; The new 2016 fatal attraction psycho-suspense domestic thriller with a modern twist!" Top Books of 2016. Following sensational The Fragile World landing on my Top 30 Books of 2014, the “Queen” of domestic suspense, once again delivers her “third in a row *5 Star* winner” HER BEST YET! An emotional edge-of-your-seat gripping and deeply unsettling psychological tale of chilling dark secrets and obsession. An ordinary family. A wealthy idyllic California neighborhood. What lies below a perfectly manicured gated community’s seemingly flawless surface? It is not pretty. The Palms may not be as it appears. Liz has not had an easy life. Now, her "only dreamed of" fairy tale may be becoming a reality (or a nightmare). Liz and her husband Phil are moving to The Palms, with Liz’s fourteen-year-old daughter, Danielle. The Palms. A gated golf country club. Exclusive. Tightly knit. The rich. Entitled. High Maintenance. Mini-mansions, golf yoga, walking trails, and all the amenities of a luxury resort. On the surface, Liz was mesmerized. Picture perfect. Phil’s job was to soothe the residents. Kiss ass, deal with them, and make them feel important. Keep them happy. The house had come with Phil’s job, a package deal. Parker-Lane, the real estate developer covered their lease, and the hefty monthly HOA fees, with a salary that left them house rich, cash poor. Phil was their new community relations specialist. No money for furniture, but the bare essentials. A prestigious address. However, once inside its gates, reality sets in. What lies and secrets lie beneath the façade? A forgone conclusion. They do not belong. Her family is not “their kind” of people. It was a mistake. Prior to moving, Liz had never given much thought to her neighbors, until now. Bringing out her feelings of insecurity. She wants to fit into this fictional world. She cannot dress like them. She does not run in their circles. They share no interests. Nor can they afford this lifestyle, or fit in. In practical terms, this meant that the people who were fawning over them were paying dearly for the right to hit tennis balls, play golf, and jog along the community trail, while they could participate for free. Liz was a single mom, raising her daughter alone; until, she met the charming Phil, from Melbourne. Men and women alike were drawn to the sexy Australian accent from the outback. They have a solid marriage. As Liz settles in she wants more than anything for her daughter to fit in and establish friends. At a wine tasting/fund raiser (which they could not afford to attend), she meets some neighbors. Danielle spends most of her days with a nose in a book, a nerd; and this other girl sounds as though she would be years ahead of her daughter socially. They arrange for the girls to meet. Not sure what they would have in common. Maybe this girl can take Danielle under her wing, and accept her. A high school counselor Liz feels inferior around these well dressed, made up women. She had left the old Liz Haney behind, pregnant in college, dependent on financial aid and a half dozen part time jobs and section 8 housing until she landed her counseling position. She was still struggling with the rent, when she met Phil. Now here she was hobnobbing with the rich and trying to blend in. She wants desperately for her daughter to fit in—she knows firsthand the peer pressure can be tough especially for teens. Soon Liz sees the kids at school are miniature reflections of their parents—designer clothes and disposable income. From wealth and privilege—a high cost of admission. The pretty girls—getting everything they want. Social media frenzy. Texting. Sexting. Cyber bullying. Superficial. Her daughter soon meets Hannah (a chubby insecure girl) and Kelsey (a femme fatale goddess). Kelsey could have been a model in a men’s magazine, with her black bikini, using her sexy manipulative goods, to seduce her husband, plus use her daughter in the process, like a black widow spider filtrating their lives. Kelsey Jorgensen, a bored, disturbed, deeply troubled, (two faces) evil and malicious femme fatale has now entered their household, their lives, corrupting their daughter, and now obsessed with her husband. How can this family escape the madness before it destroys their lives? Phil, a thirty-seven-year-old community relations specialist, who loves his wife; however, not opposed to a little flirting or using his charm, to help him out with his job. The women have nothing better to do than to stop by with a problem, expecting him to feed their ego. Is he a helpless victim of circumstances? From dropping in Phil's office to his home--Kelsey with her short skirts, and indecent proposals, seduction, to stalking and obsession—what is he going to do? She could ruin his job and family. Should be retain an attorney? Everything she does is calculating--designed for attention. She is sick. Indecent photos. Can he tell his wife? Would she understand? What has this girl done to this family? Repulsive. Obsession. Calculating. When will she strike again?Liz has to protect her family. Phil has to protect his family. However, neither communicate their thoughts. They keep this disaster to themselves. Afraid of the consequences. With alternating chapters, we hear from Liz and Phil--from past to present— (several months) the pool scene, a drowning---a crime scene---keeping the reader in breathtaking suspense as to how they arrived at this point. Impending tragedy is lurking. Darkness. We know it is coming, but how? Despite everything, Danielle seemed happy with her friendship with Kelsey—who has taken over their lives. What has happened to the old Danielle? She is not the same girl. Liz and Danielle are no longer close. Liz and Phil are not communicating. Their house, the job, their lives are in jeopardy. Twisted. Lies. Secrets, a dangerous fixation, stalking. When would Danielle realize Kelsey wasn’t her ticket to cool? Taking over their lives like a deadly disease they could not get rid of. Living at the Palms is far from the idyllic life Liz and Phil had expected. Maybe there was no normal at The Palms. The entitled and over-privileged. Unhinged. An attempted suicide? An accident. What is the truth? A strained marriage, and a life spiraling out of control. Things were going to end badly. A place that represented happiness and security, had only been a mirage, evaporating quickly. Suspicions. Trust. Will this life slip away as quickly as it came? Wow! You cannot miss this one. No one can tell a complex twisted tale like DeBoard! The scary part – this could happen to anyone. Everyday, ordinary people finding themselves caught in the middle of a living nightmare. Characters under enormous amounts of pressure from extenuating circumstances. With all her books, she writes of families, facing pressures, from tight knit communities to others facing scrutiny of their neighbors, and those concerned with reputations, and the personal secrets of marriage and family. Everything about the tale was spot on, perfectly paced, complex, emotional, gritty, and dark. "OMG... The Palms is more scandalous than Desperate Housewives’ Wisteria Lane, Fatal Attraction, and the Boy Next Door! YUM." This gal is pure evil! Readers will be glued to this one—reserve the time—you will not be able to put it down. On a personal note: When I was married we lived in an upscale gated country club and the residents were similar to fictional characters referenced. In addition, was a Regional Sales & Marketing Manager for a large real estate developer--overseeing upscale luxury multi-million-dollar golf communities, and waterfront mansions on the east coast of Florida, as well as the design centers. The entitled residents were a bit like the ones described. I attended a few HOA meetings and found myself re-living some of the book. SCARY. Paula is one kick ass talented writer, and anything with her name attached – you know you are in for a treat! The pool scene with the slip of the bikini top was priceless, combined with Paula’s wit and humor—Highly Entertaining. Movie Worthy! I want a front row seat at the premier. Has to be the top domestic suspense of the year. Fans of Mary Kubica will enjoy the slow burning intensity. (2013) The Mourning Hours (2014) The Fragile World
The Mourning Hours
"...a gripping portrayal of a family straining against extraordinary pressure, and a powerful tale of loyalty, betrayal and forgiveness." Published June 2013
The Fragile World
"...a journey through America's heartland and a family's brightest and darkest moments, exploring the devastating pain of losing a child and the beauty of finding healing in unexpected ways." Published October 2014
The Drowning Girls
"...a tale of dark secrets, shocking lies and a dangerous obsession that will change one neighborhood forever." Coming April 2016
About the Author
Paula Treick DeBoard is a writer, latte drinker and all-around slave to public education. Her first novels—written in the back seat of a 1977 Chevy Caprice station wagon where her parents let her jostle around, unprotected by a seatbelt—were sadly lost in one cross-country move or another. The Mourning Hours (2013) was her first novel to survive. Paula is also the author of The Fragile World (2014) and The Drowning Girls (April 2016). She holds a BA in English from Dordt College and an MFA in Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She breaks up the monotony of staring at her laptop screen for long hours with her teaching commitment as a lecturer in the Merritt Writing Program at the University of California, Merced. Her heart—and any remaining spare time—belongs to Will and their four-legged brood. Website