Thank you so much @tlcbooktours and @harlequinbooks for my free copy of BEAUTIFUL BAD by Annie Ward.
Things that make me scared: When Charlie cries. Hospitals and lakes. When Ian drinks vodka in the basement. ISIS. When Ian gets angry… That something is really, really wrong with me.
Maddie and Ian’s love story began with a chance encounter at a party overseas; he was serving in the British army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend, Jo. Now almost two decades later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America. But when a camping accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending writing therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian’s PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son; and the couple’s tangled and tumultuous past with Jo.
From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, sixteen years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.
A domestic psychological suspense novel with a fun premise that pushes boundaries and manipulates you with its clever ways!
Maddie and Jo became fast friends many years ago when they met abroad. They are kindred spirits, adventurous, and dream of saving the world. Maddie has taken a job as a travel journalist in the Balkans where the two are living it up, but then they meet Ian. Ian, who is a British soldier, is handsome, enigmatic, and Maddie falls for him. Maddie and Ian have an instant connection, but when things don’t work out, Maddie returns to New York. Years go by, the girls’ friendship splinters, and Maddie decides to reconnect with Ian. They marry and have a son named Charlie, but Ian suffers from PTSD which makes him intense, fearful, and his behavior becomes questionable. How you may ask? You’ll have to read to find out.
We follow several timelines: present day or the “Day of the Killing”; the past, when Maddie meets Ian while working in the Balkins; and the last few months prior to the crime. As we read through the various timelines, Ward takes us through the different perspectives masterfully. She intimately addresses mental illness, PTSD, and traveling the world with authenticity. What I love about this book might be what others dislike but ultimately I was enthralled by this unique, layered, tension filled, and entertaining novel. BEAUTIFUL BAD is gripping, memorable, and intelligently written. This is definitely one you’ll want to discuss with your friends!
I rate this 4.5 out of 5 stars!
I slide my paper across to Cami J, who, now that I have gotten a better look at her in very tight seventies-style flared yoga pants, I am tempted to privately think of as “Cami Toe.”
She begins to read silently. I say, “I think I repeated myself. I think I wrote ‘Charlie crying’ twice.”
She nods, concentrating on my list. “Repetition can be informative.”
After a few minutes she looks up at me, and this time she doesn’t even bother with subtlety. Her eyes take a little trip up and down the wrecked and winding road from my lip to my brow. “Does it still hurt?”
“When I smile. A little.” “Is that why you don’t smile?” “I don’t? I’m pretty sure I smile.” Then I smile, to prove it.
“Have you been to see a plastic surgeon?”
“No. I probably will eventually, though.” The truth is, I have always been what my grandmother called “jolie laide.” Beautiful ugly. My eyes are peculiar and pale gray. My smile is asymmetrical, and there is something fox-like about the shape of my face. I’ve never lacked for male attention, but I know that whatever appeal I possess lies in my oddity. I have not decided yet if I like my developing scar or not. Sometimes when I look at myself in the mirror I think it is a far more honest cover for the book that is me.
Cami J nods, her eyes moist with motherly empathy. She taps my paper. “You are doing a lot of what we call ‘catastrophizing.’”
“That’s a new word for me.”
“It’s more and more common now that we have the constant stream of bad news. The irrational fear of catastrophe. It’s easy to overestimate the possibility of an extremely rare tragedy befalling you or a loved one.”
I think about telling her about my intimate knowledge of rare tragedy, but I decide to save it. I say simply, “Accidents happen. Anything at any time.”
“Anything? Alligators?” She smiles, leans forward and winks. “German cannibals?”
I shrug and then I can’t help it. I laugh. German cannibals.
“There is something else going on here, though,” she says, and the whole Zumba vibe is gone, and she is deadly serious. “Would you like to tell me more about your relationship with Ian? Is he Charlie’s father?”
I nod, and to be clear, I would love to tell her all about Ian. Really, because it’s a great story. But for some reason I suddenly can’t speak, and the thought of what’s happened to Ian is too much. I find myself paralyzed, my tongue a slimy fish crammed in my mouth, swampy water in my nose. This happens sometimes. I remember being held under, my face just inches under the surface, eyes bulging and air so close and inviting that I opened my mouth to breathe…
The water poured into my mouth and down my throat. It took over and that was that. Everything was different.
“Which way is your bathroom, please?” I manage, standing up. “I’m going to be sick.”
Charlie’s father. The love of my life. Ian. Wait. Let me start at the beginning. I was a “do-gooder.” A lot of my friends were do-gooders, too. Back then I lived in a part of the world that most tour guides didn’t bother to mention. If they did, they used words like war-ravaged. Impoverished. Lawless. All three of those adjectives would have held quite a bit of appeal for me. I found it thrilling to live in, as it was sometimes called, “The darkest, most forgotten corner of Europe.” So, I was smack-dab in the middle of my do-gooder phase teaching poor students English in one of the isolated former Soviet Bloc countries known collectively as the Balkans.
I was based in Bulgaria, and my best friend, Joanna, lived one country over from mine, in a little-known but very combustible place called Macedonia.
I first met Ian at a fundraiser. That sounds boring, doesn’t it? He was far from boring.
We were in Ohrd, a touristy resort town a few hours south of Macedonia’s capital city of Skopje, not far from the Greek border. Picturesque in a run-down way, its stone villas were stacked on a hill overlooking the sun-dappled lake water. At the highest point, looking out south toward Greece, was the domed, postcard perfect thirteenth-century Church of St. John, so lovely and tranquil that it belied all the discord in the village over which it presided. If it weren’t for the tangible tension among the people milling about the twisty alleys and plazas, Ohrid might have been comfortably charming. Instead, it was a holiday destination packed with people of two warring religions, and it seemed to me that everyone was eyeing everyone else with a mixture of bloodlust and suspicion. The country was on the brink of civil war.