Make sure to check back in March for my review tour spot!
Thanks to TLC Book Tours and Park Row Books for the excerpt to share with you guys 🙂
BEAUTIFUL BAD – Annie Ward (Releasing March 5th, 2019)
Check back for my full review the end of March!
A devoted wife, a loving husband and a chilling murder that no one saw coming.
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.
After a long weekend with Joanna, I made the bus journey back through the mountains from Macedonia to Bulgaria, closing my eyes as we teetered around precipices and trundled along narrow lanes cutting above massive cliffs. Per usual the driver went far too fast, and the road conditions were poor. Yet for some reason, halfway through the nauseating ride, I was already starting to wonder if and when I might be able to return.
Back in the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, it was with a heavy heart that I arrived to teach my very last class at the university a few weeks later. My time was up. My scholarship was ending as were my afternoons with my students. I would have to go home soon, and I didn’t want to go home at all.
The urban campus was dominated by a massive baroque revival main hall. The front steps led up to four stately columns, which flanked towering arched windows. The roof was a massive copper dome with a striking jade green patina.
Inside, it was far less impressive. Several floors of classrooms surrounded a small courtyard. The stairwells were covered in graffiti. The coffee shop offered espresso in tiny plastic cups alongside a rack stocked with cigarettes and a variety of pretzels. From the coffee shop you could follow a trail of discarded espresso cups and empty pretzel packages to anywhere in the building. The bins were full. There was no janitor. There was no toilet paper. There was no money.
And it was cold. My classroom was on the top floor. Most of the winter I had taught wearing my coat and gloves, looking out over a sea of stocking caps.
That year in Eastern Europe had been an especially magic time in my life. Just strolling the streets of Sofia, it would have been hard to say what my fascination was with the people and the culture of that maligned country.
Everywhere you looked, there were ghosts. The black-and- white paper death notices featuring photos of the recently deceased were omnipresent in all the Balkan countries; stapled to telephone poles, plastering bus stops, papering walls and nailed to trees. Underneath the gaze of all those dead photocopied eyes the dogs paced, watching the drunk teenagers with their döner kebabs. A couple of wrinkly men in old, stained fedoras played backgammon at a plastic table under a Zagorka beer umbrella at a derelict café constructed of metal siding. I breathed in the smells of Sofia. Grilled meat and peppers, smoldering trash, crisp, pungent pine from the mountain, badly masked body odor, flower markets and fresh popcorn. It wasn’t for everyone, but I was head over heels for those forlorn and villainous Balkan streets, and my sordid city was about to be wrenched from my desperate embrace. I would have given anything to stay just a little longer.
It was getting dark when I caught the dilapidated tram back to my apartment in the city center. Moments after tossing my keys on the coffee table, my rotary phone—a contraption that looked like it belonged in a silent film or a museum—made its shrill rattle. “Hello?”
It was Caroline, an editor from Fodor’s Travel Guides, who had hired me to write a few chapters about Spain when I was fresh out of graduate school. “We’re finally breaking down our Eastern European Edition into countries,” she said.
It was the best surprise ever.
She offered me the job of covering Bulgaria for their 2003 travel guide. The pay was not good by American standards but in bargain-basement Bulgaria? I’d just been handed the keys to the Kingdom. I was going to travel, all expenses paid, to every corner of my beloved adopted homeland. It was the middle of May and the start of the gorgeous Balkan summer. Bulgaria had vast stretches of unspoiled beaches as well as breathtaking mountains for hiking. Jo could come visit, and we would take weekend drives down to Sozopol, where she would swim while I read on the beach. There would be picnic tables laden with succulent lamb chops, salty tomato-and-cucumber salads and crispy french fries covered in crumbly feta. We would go barefoot, and our skin would darken and freckle and we would drink homemade white wine in remote, ancient and tourist free fishing villages.
I could stay. It was pure happiness. Pure freedom. I called Joanna to tell her the news. “I don’t have to go home when my scholarship ends after all,” I said. “I’ll have lots of time to come see you. I have my laptop. I can write from anywhere. We have the whole summer before I have to leave.”
“Yay!” she screamed over the phone. “Oh my God. That is abso-fucking-lutely the best news ever. Congratulations, baby!”