Judith D Collins
The Personal Assistant
By: Kimberly Belle
Publisher: Park Row
Publication Date: 11/29/2022
My Rating: 5 Stars + (ARC)
USA TODAY bestselling author Kimberly Belle returns with a deeply addictive thriller exploring the dark side of the digital world when a mommy-blogger’s assistant goes missing.
When Alex first began posting unscripted family moments and motivational messages online, she had no intention of becoming an influencer. Overnight it seemed she’d amassed a huge following, and her hobby became a full-time job—one that was impossible to manage without her sharp-as-a-tack personal assistant, A.C.
But all the good-will of her followers turns toxic when one controversial post goes viral in the worst possible way. Alex reaches out to A.C. for damage control, but her assistant has gone silent. This young woman Alex trusted with all her secrets, who had access to her personal information and front row seats to the pressure points in her marriage and family life, is now missing and the police are looking to Alex and her husband for answers. As Alex digs into A.C.’s identity – and a woman is found murdered – she’ll find the greatest threat isn’t online, but in her own living room.
Written in alternating perspectives between Alex, her husband, and the mysterious A.C., this juicy cat and mouse story will keep you guessing till the very end.
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About the Author
Sara Hanna Photography
Kimberly Belle is the USA Today and internationally bestselling author of eight novels, including the forthcoming The Personal Assistant (out 11.29), The Marriage Lie, a Goodreads Choice Awards semifinalist for Best Mystery & Thriller, and the #1 co-authored Audible Original, Young Rich Widows. Her books have been published in some 20+ languages and have been optioned for film and television.
A proud graduate of Agnes Scott College, Belle divides her time between Atlanta and Amsterdam.
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Kimberly Belle Books
Exceptional Authors. Standout Books. Elevator Talk.
INTRIGUING QUESTIONS. INQUIRING READERS WANT TO KNOW
Q&A Elevator Ride with
bestselling author Kimberly Belle
"BEHIND THE BOOK"
Welcome to the November #AuthorElevatorSeries —where we go behind the scenes of the book and the author. We are super excited to have back with us today one of my favorite authors, the award-winning bestselling author and queen of domestic thrillers, Kimberly Belle and her highly anticipated novel, THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT.
Q. Kimberly, I know you divide your time between Amsterdam and Atlanta. We love seeing all your exciting social media posts. Where are you today? Do you go back and forth throughout the year, or have a set time at each location?
KB: I’m currently in Atlanta and will be through the end of the year. We don’t have a set schedule, but we do try to chase the weather. That means escaping the Georgia heat for summers in Amsterdam, and spending winters here where things aren’t quite so cold and wet. But we do have family on both sides of the Atlantic we want to see for holidays, so Christmases depend on the year. We try to do Thanksgiving in one place and Christmas in the other, though we’re spending both here this year. It’s a constant search for balance but on the positive side, we have lots of frequent flyer miles.
Q. Give us your BEST Elevator Pitch for THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT.
KB: The Personal Assistant is a thriller about the dark side of today’s digital world—cancel culture meets Single White Female when an influencer’s assistant goes missing, and all eyes turn to the influencer and her family for clues.
Q. INSPIRATION: The spark that ignited the novel? Where were you when the idea came to you?
KB: The idea for The Personal Assistant is something that developed out of my own life. One of the job requirements of any author is to put yourself out there on social media for readers to find and interact with, and I’m constantly walking a fine line between sharing snippets of my life and holding back on personal, private moments. Sometimes that line can become a little fuzzy.
And I’m not always in control of how posts land, or what people think of the photographs and captions after I hit Share. One wrong word can blow up in ways you don’t always anticipate, all of which got me thinking…
What if the people on the receiving end of these posts don’t have the best of intentions? What if the animosity on Instagram and Facebook turned all too real, the danger circling ever closer to your home and family? These questions and more were the basis for the story.
Q. DUAL TIMELINES: Which was your favorite timeline (present or past) and/or most challenging?
KB: I grew up in Tennessee, so a Southern voice comes fairly easily for me. In this book that voice belonged to Anna Claire, a young maid in southern Georgia who gets caught up with an older, wealthy gentleman. As tragic as her story is, she was the most fun to write.
Now, more from the author!
"BEHIND THE AUTHOR"
FAVORITE MAKEUP/HAIR TIP
All my curly haired gals out there who love a do-it-yourself home blowout, check out Rene Furterer’s Karinga line. It’s kind of hard to find and it’s not cheap, but it’s completely changed my hair! It stays sleek and shiny all day, even when it rains.
YOUR FAVORITE LIFE LESSON QUOTE?
You can’t change another person’s behavior, but you can change your response to it. My kids are sick of hearing me say it, but the older they get, the more they agree that it’s a fantastic life lesson.
FAVORITE SONG OR ARTIST?
John Legend. I’ve seen him so many times, in small sit-down theaters and giant stadiums. His voice is so dreamy!
IF YOU WERE GRANTED 3 MONTHS OF UNINTERRUPTED WRITING TIME—WHERE WOULD IT BE?
Amsterdam! We have a place in the middle of the city so it’s easy to pop out for food or a drink, and clearing your mind with a walk along the canals is like stepping through a postcard. So much inspiration, and our apartment is the perfect spot for me to hide away without feeling completely isolated.
FAVORITE THING ABOUT YOUR KILLER AUTHOR CLUB?
All the authors we get to talk to about their process. I love hearing how others approach writing a story and building a career, and I always walk away with something new to try. And bonus – I get an early look at their books!
DO YOU LISTEN TO MUSIC WHILE WRITING? I prefer writing in silence. No music, nobody around me at all. On the days my husband works from home, I have noise-cancelling headphones on and an app that plays white noise.
YOUR FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM? (Or would you prefer none of them)?
I love and adore TikTok though I’m more of a lurker there than anything else. People there are so darn funny! I could scroll and scroll for hours.
INTROVERT OR EXTROVERT?
An extroverted introvert, is that a thing? I love going out with my husband or girlfriends, but after a big party or evening out I always need some alone-time to recharge.
WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON TODAY?
I’m currently working on two books—a sequel for the Widows series with Audible called Desperate Deadly Widows. I have three coauthors for this one, Vanessa Lillie, Cate Holahan, and Layne Fargo, so the process is a lot different (and so much easier) than writing a book alone.
I’m also working on my next solo thriller, The Paris Widow, about a couple vacationing in Paris when the husband is killed, the victim of what looks to be a freak accident—but when the gendarmerie point to him as the target of the explosion, she begins to wonder what kind of man she married…and worse, if his killers might be after her next. Coming 2024 from Park Row Books.
PIE OR CAKE?
Cake all the way, and preferably the dirty and cheap grocery store kind, made with Crisco and sugar and food coloring. I don’t eat it often, but when I do, gimme the corner piece with tons of icing.
WINE, MIXED DRINK, BEER OR OTHER?
A nice crisp sauvignon blanc is almost always my choice, or maybe a skinny margarita. I can’t tell you the last time I drank a whole beer; usually a sip or two is enough.
Working the drive-thru at Arby’s. I was sixteen and loved it because all my friends would swing by to say hi.
COFFEE OR TEA?
Coffee in the morning, tea all afternoon and after dinner. My latest favorite is fresh ginger root and a lemon slice.
IF YOUR FOOD IS BAD AT A RESTAURANT, DO YOU SAY SOMETHING?
Only if it’s the wrong order or cooked incorrectly. Sometimes a dish doesn’t taste the way you expected, and that’s a bummer but in my book not a reason to send it back. Better to just suck it up and eat.
ONE OF THE EVILEST CHARACTERS FROM YOUR BOOK?
Hmm, that’s hard to choose because every Kimberly Belle book has a pretty evil bad guy. But I think Beth’s husband in Dear Wife is the worst--abusive and controlling and ultimately, deadly. Abuse in a marriage is a sick sort of love, and it feels like the ultimate betrayal.
AN ITEM ON YOUR BUCKET LIST?
I am dying to go to the Maldives. I want to stay in one of those huts built in the water and swim with the whale sharks. It’s a hike to get there, and with our family spread over two continents our vacations are usually either in the US or Europe, but hopefully one day soon we’ll get there.
SUNSHINE OR RAIN?
Sunshine when I have places to go, rain when I’m spending the day inside. We recently moved to the 16th floor of a high rise, and as much as I miss the view when it rains, it’s like being inside a car wash.
THE ONE FOOD YOU COULD NEVER GIVE UP?
French fries. I especially love the Dutch kind, big and fat and salty, dipped in mayonnaise. YUM.
Thank you, Kimberly, for spending time with us today!
"A thoughtfully written, suspenseful story of intertwined lives that draws the reader quickly along to an unexpected ending."—Kirkus Reviews
“Kimberly Belle’s latest features her usual ingredients for success: a chilling premise encompassing a worst fear, an imperfect heroine who rallies to save her children and herself, and a story that pulses with suspenseful twists propelling the reader to the explosive end. The Personal Assistant is Belle at her best. A chilling, fast-paced read. I loved it!”
—Kaira Rouda, USA Today, Amazon Charts bestselling author of The Next Wife and The Widow
Belle delivers twist after twist and constant surprises in this riveting novel of domestic suspense. Who can you trust online — and in your own home? What happens when the trolls you expect in your living-out-loud existence as a social media influencer are right behind you, breathing down your neck in the real world? Pacy, compelling, and utterly breathless The Personal Assistant never lets up as Belle expertly ratchets up the suspense chapter by chapter through the shattering conclusion.
— Lisa Unger, NYT bestselling author of Secluded Cabin Sleeps Six
"A missing assistant to an Instagram influencer, a mysterious dead body, and a nesting box of family secrets drive this cat-and-mouse thriller to a deliciously unexpected finale. A great page-turning read!"
—Wendy Walker, bestselling author of Don't Look for Me
“[A] riveting thriller... This twisty, multilayered tale should win Belle new fans.”— Publisher's Weekly
“Kimberly Belle has delivered another twisty, tense and terrifying tour de force! The Personal Assistant shows the consequences of living in an online world where nothing is as it seems, turning the glamor of an insta-worthy life into a nightmare. If you ever had dreams of being an Instagram influencer, this book will have you thinking again. Unputdownable and impossible to forget.”
—Julie Clark, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Flight and The Lies I Tell
"The Personal Assistant has everything I look for in a book – an intriguing premise, a suspenseful plot and a theme that has me questioning my own choices and behaviour. Under the shifting sands of perspective, I never knew who to trust. A masterful novel that I read in an afternoon. I will be recommending to everyone."
—Sally Hepworth, New York Times bestselling author of The Younger Wife
“The Personal Assistant is a riveting view into the dark side of the social media influencer world. Alternating narratives, each more fascinating than the last, will keep you flipping pages in a race to the finish. Master storyteller Kimberly Belle weaves an unforgettable tale of subterfuge and betrayal that will leave you wanting more. I loved it!”
—Liv Constantine, bestselling author of The Last Mrs. Parrish
“A cautionary tale about what happens when you make an enemy in the social media age, The Personal Assistant is smart, timely, and humming with suspense. You won’t be able to stop reading this killer novel until you reach the final jaw-dropping page.”
—Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of The Overnight Guest
“Kimberly Belle has done it again! She’s written another gripping, propulsive page-turner packed with never-saw-that-coming shocks and surprises, with a plot that asks, How much is too much to give away about ourselves?”
—Kate White, New York Times bestselling author of The Second Husband
The narrative alternates between Alex and Patrick each narrating their troubles and the story of Anna Claire, a motel maid who meets a man who promises to make all her money troubles go away. … Belle reveals [the connection] in an explosive climax. This taut and twisty domestic thriller will keep readers guessing until the very end. —Booklist Reviews
"Warning: Kimberly Belle’s latest knock-out thriller will make you turn the pages so fast, your fingers might catch fire. The Personal Assistant is a breathtaking tale of lies, deceit, and revenge, mixed with buckets of intrigue and careful-what-you-wish-for fame. Masterful, brilliant, and sure to make your spine tingle, it’s an absolute must read. Superb!"
— Hannah Mary McKinnon, internationally bestselling author of Never Coming Home
A captivating and propulsive thriller about the dark side of social media. The Personal Assistant is smart, original, and twisty. Prepare to be addicted!
— Jeneva Rose, bestselling author of The Perfect Marriage and One of Us is Dead
Deliciously addictive, binge-worthy, and wholly unpredictable, this juicy thriller consumed my entire weekend! Both a searing and terrifying examination of influencer culture as well as a propulsive, compulsive read with twist after jaw-dropping, twist, Kimberly Belle's The Personal Assistant will be this winter's buzziest thriller!
— May Cobb, author of My Summer Darlings
Dazzling! The BEST. So Good.
Kimberly Belle, the "queen" of domestic suspense, returns following My Darling Husband (5 stars) with her latest riveting thriller, THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT — a complex multi-layered game of cat-and-mouse where nothing is as it appears.
In this "thrills by the minute" domestic suspense, the dark side of influencers and social media are explored and will have you gasping, frantically turning each page, until the jaw-dropping satisfying conclusion.
Set in Atlanta, GA, we meet wife and mother, Alex—a social media influencer @UnapologeticallyAlex on Instagram. Husband Patrick, a mega TV financial star at WXBA, and their twelve-year-old twin daughters (Gigi and Penelope from a first marriage). Patrick is the second husband and stepfather.
They live a luxurious lifestyle with the home, cars, and perks that come along with the wealth. Also, plenty of money for tucks, cosmetic surgery, designer clothing, and the best money can buy.
Alex is celebrating her million followers with her assistant AC and husband Patrick. She has had a lot to drink. The next day, she sees a post (apparently she posted, which she does not remember from her account) that horribly slams a former Disney TV star.
Now the trolls are after her, her followers are angry, and she is losing sponsorships and everything she has worked for. Has she been hacked? Who did this? Was it her assistant AC? She knows she did not. Where is she, by the way?
Desperate, they cannot find AC, which is missing in action. Her assistant knows all her passwords and everything about their lives. She can destroy them. She is not answering her phone or emails.
In the meantime, there is another parallel story from 1994 (over 30 yrs ago— in a rural southern Georgia town. A young maid (Anna Claire) down on her luck who works at a rundown motel. A wealthy man who picked her up on the side of the road. Millions of dollars of drug money.
Also, some college-age boys who happen to be traveling much later — stop at this motel, which sets a dangerous web of deceit, lies, and murder in motion.
What does the past have to do with the present, and how do they connect?
There is also an anonymous account named Mister Fluff les that is causing many problems on her IG account. There are death and rape threats to her family, and because Alex has put her entire life online, there is nowhere to hide.
Patrick is acting strange, and his TV ratings are declining due to Alex's situation, and he has never cared for her assistant, AC. After an investigation is opened, they realize they do not know AC. Not the person behind the social security number.
The police demanded answers. Her family is threatened. And in the middle of it all, the missing AC. A million followers are watching. A NIGHTMARE.
Does Alex know her loveable husband? What secrets is he keeping?
Alternating from past to present from POVs: Alex, Patrick, and Anna Claire, the past comes back to haunt the present, and Belle keeps the tension high as all the lies and secrets rise to the surface, with one shocker after another.
Juggling multiple narratives like a rock star, this is a chilling, cautionary tale about what happens when you make an enemy in the social media age and will have you questioning how much of your life you make public.
Fully immersive, a propulsive, and addictive multi-level page-turner! Belle is at the top of her game in this timely and relevant story of obsession, greed, revenge, lies, and deceit. It will make you think about what is real, what is fake, and the essential things in life.
I am a massive fan of the author and have read every book she has written since her debut, and I would not miss one! Every book is unique, and fresh, with unforgettable characters. She dives deep into the minds of characters that experience trauma and come out stronger from that experience with wise lessons learned.
Highly entertaining! I loved THE PERSONAL ASSISTANT. Get this one on your list.
INTERVIEW: Stay tuned for my #AuthorElevatorSeries Interview with Kimberly coming 11/29 via email newsletter, where we go behind the book and the author! Sign up for my newsletter to have it delivered to your inbox.
A special thank you to #ParkRow and #NetGalley for an e-ARC to read, review and enjoy.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
My Rating: 5 ⭐ STARS
Pub Date: Nov 29, 2022
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