#ATBR2022 – Just Like Mother by Anne Heltzel

Another horror win for the #allthebookreviews duo!

Thanks to Tor Nightfire for the free copies in exchange for our honest reviews

JUST LIKE MOTHER – Anne Heltzel (Releasing May 17th, 2022)

Book Description:

A girl would be such a blessing…

The last time Maeve saw her cousin was the night she escaped the cult they were raised in. For the past two decades, Maeve has worked hard to build a normal life in New York City, where she keeps everything—and everyone—at a safe distance.

When Andrea suddenly reappears, Maeve regains the only true friend she’s ever had. Soon she’s spending more time at Andrea’s remote Catskills estate than in her own cramped apartment. Maeve doesn’t even mind that her cousin’s wealthy work friends clearly disapprove of her single lifestyle. After all, Andrea has made her fortune in the fertility industry—baby fever comes with the territory.

The more Maeve immerses herself in Andrea’s world, the more disconnected she feels from her life back in the city; and the cousins’ increasing attachment triggers memories Maeve has fought hard to bury. But confronting the terrors of her childhood may be the only way for Maeve to transcend the nightmare still to come…

Chandra’s Thoughts: 4/5 stars

Hmmmm… Oh myyyyyyyyyyy.  For those who don’t know, I absolutely HATE dolls.  Hate them.  Like decapitated my Barbies and threw various body parts in trash cans across my neighborhood so they couldn’t reassemble and come after me.  Yes, yes… it’s a wonder I’ve made it this far in life.  But hey, you must FACE YOUR FEARS right?  Not as if this cover watched me wherever I went. Nope. It DID NOT. *shiver*

Now, the cover is very apropos of this storyline and lemme just say… cult vibes with creepy lifelike dolls… how could I say no?  All my happy horror nerves were all a tingle.  But how, oh how, do I review this?  Ok. Lemme give it a go.  Maeve and Andrea grew up together in a nightmarish childhood and then were forced apart against their wills.  Growing into adulthood, they took two drastically different paths.  And what a bang their reunion ends up causing.

Uff.  I loved this book but also had some tiny issues with it.  I wasn’t to shake Maeve so many times but if all characters made the best choices, where would all my entertainment go?  I felt like things were pretty obvious and knew where the story was going to go chapter after chapter.  But all of this also fascinated me so I was hungry to feed myself page after page.  All the red herrings filling me up and pointing the way to the obvious conclusion.  And surprisingly not *quite* as creepy as I expected it to be considering my attitude towards dolls though there are certainly a couple of scenes that will stick with me for quite some time.

While I wish this wasn’t as predictable as it was for me (and had one pet peeve moment of mine….), I definitely had a fun time reading it and look forward to reading more by Heltzel. Suspend the belief and have yourself a good time.  And keep an eye out… they’re EVERYWHERE.

My Thoughts: 5/5 stars

Here is a book where the cover absolutely sets the tone for the book before you even open it. That baby doll head is super unsettling and I definitely had this book face down on the nightstand. JUST LIKE MOTHER by Anne Heltzel was a quick read and while there are definite horror elements, I would probably classify this as more of a psychological thriller. There was plenty of suspense and tension to go around and who doesn’t love a good story about an extreme cult?

Maeve and her cousin, Andrea, were two young girls raised in what was called the Mother Collective. A cult that Maeve was able to escape and ultimately cause it’s undoing. Ever since that day, Maeve has never stopped thinking about and longing for her cousin and best friend, but was never successful in finding her. Fast forward twenty years, Maeve is mostly isolated in the city and keeps her casual kind-of boyfriend at a distance but after doing an at-home DNA kit she gets an email from a woman claiming to be Andrea. They meet and their bond is almost instant – who wouldn’t want to hold onto the one bit of flesh and blood family they had left? Maeve quickly learns that her cousin is an incredibly successful business woman that is the CEO of a groundbreaking startup called NewLife.

When Andrea invites her to spend her birthday weekend at their new historical mansion in the Catskills she agrees without hesitation. Why not spend the time with her cousin again and repair the bond that was broken when the cult was broken up? The newest project they’re unveiling soon at NewLife is the Olivia doll – an incredibly, and almost creepily, lifelike doll that women can take care of to either prepare them for motherhood or to help in the grieving process for those that have lost children. Just the description of these dolls was unnerving, like I understand the sentiment and how they could greatly help the women in need, but dolls still creep me out.

Well, without going into too much detail, Maeve begins discovering secrets and unsettling things about Andrea and those around her. I will say that I had some things figured out fairly early but that didn’t take away from the fun of it. I was able to guess some of the events but I wasn’t sure how they were going to unravel, so that kept the suspense up for me. In the end, I’m definitely convinced I’d be seen as a Bloody Mary, so I’m glad this isn’t based off a true story. I will definitely be looking for more from Heltzel!

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