Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Book Blitz and Giveaway: The Despair of Strangers by Heather Topham Wood

Title: The Despair of Strangers
Author: Heather Topham Wood
Publication Date: March 9th 2021
Print Length: 230 pages
Genre: Contemporary Romance

I don’t know how to do this without you anymore…

The text message wasn’t meant for Alyssa. After ending her engagement to a liar and cheater, she left everything behind, moving into a new apartment and changing her number. She didn’t expect to feel the words reach inside her, picking at scars never likely to heal.

I miss everything about you and I won’t move on. I can’t move on…

The messages kept coming, telling a story of loss that made Alyssa’s pain feel small. When she answered the texts, she formed a bond with Derek. Derek who was not writing to Alyssa at all, but trying to deal with his grief by sending messages to his dead fiancée.

All day today I was surrounded by people and I felt absolutely empty. Like when you went away, you took all of me with you….

Derek and Alyssa became friends first, then something more developed—a connection that felt like love, but one that left them both scared, uncertain of second chances. Alyssa wanted a future with Derek, but she wondered when Emily’s ghost would finally let him go.

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Plastering on a wide smile, I approached Mr. Fredericks. He was in his late sixties and widowed for more than a decade. Despite my attempts at friendliness, he was always short with me. Whenever he came in, he requested Jenny as his waitress and voiced his displeasure when she was unavailable. “How are you today, Mr. Fredericks?”

“Ever hear of gout, new girl?” he groused, his brows knitting severely as he stared at me. “I could barely sleep last night because of it. I hope that coffee is extra strong.”

I opened my mouth to reply, but then stopped. My body stilled and I could feel the hairs on my neck come alive.

“I mean by the tenth book it becomes a challenge to keep things fresh and interesting. But my goal with the latest release was to bring the reader back to what they loved so much about the first novel…”

His voice. D’s voice was in my ear. I could recognize the sound in an instant. I had vivid dreams about that voice. I had detailed sexual fantasies about that voice. But the voice wasn’t on the other line of my phone. The sound was right inside the diner.

I twirled around, ignoring Mr. Fredericks as he asked me what was wrong. The room felt like it was spinning. Nothing made sense. Two worlds were colliding and I wasn’t ready for it to happen.

I scanned every table, every seat at the counter. Why was he here and what the hell was he talking about? What book? I couldn’t find the source of the voice, making me think I imagined the entire episode. I reasoned my grip on reality must’ve finally slipped and I was suffering a vivid delusion.

“I’m grateful for the success of the series. I’ve written since I was a boy because it always felt like the truest expression of myself…”

Definitively, I realized D’s voice was not inside the diner, but coming from the television that sat perched in the corner behind me.

Staring up at the screen, I wasn’t sure if I was having some sort of hallucination. Maybe the mental stress of the called off wedding finally caused the breakdown I predicted would happen to me. The moment couldn’t be real. I couldn’t actually hear D’s voice coming from a man in a suit, sitting in a chair being interviewed by a pretty journalist on a talk show.

The journalist smiled without showing her teeth. “With the announcement of the series coming to an end, what can we expect next from you?”

As he answered, the camera zoomed in for a close-up. Oh no, I panicked. That couldn’t be him. No way, I was not looking at my mystery caller. Because the man speaking with D’s voice was beautiful in a way that felt unfair to the rest of us regular folk. Dark hair with sexy waves, mussed perfectly. His eyes were brown and soulful with arched eyebrows that refused to disguise any of his emotions as he spoke. I moved my eyes down to examine his lips—lips that looked soft and sensual, sexy kissing lips. He didn’t look tan, but rather having a natural olive complexion. And good Lord, seemingly permanent five o’clock shadow on his chin—my one true weakness when it came to men.

What is this?” I whispered. Mr. Fredericks had been speaking to me the entire time, but I had been in a complete trance. I cleared my throat. “What are you watching?”

“Girl, you having a seizure or something?” Mr. Fredericks shouted in my direction while snapping his fingers.

I shook my head quickly. “No…I just need to know what you’re watching.”

“It’s an interview with that author who lives in Jersey,” he sneered, looking disgruntled that I was forcing him to answer my question. “His wife got murdered a couple years back.”

And then the room was certainly spinning on its axis. I slammed the coffee pot on the table, then fell into the seat across from Mr. Fredericks. I felt close to fainting, cradling my face in my hands. “Who?” I hissed.

He had to be wrong. Of course, Mr. Fredericks was wrong. Emily wasn’t murdered. And D said she was his fiancée not his wife.

Mr. Fredericks ignored me. “Jenny! Can you get your girl to a doctor? She’s having some kind of episode at my table.”

Jenny was tying on her apron as she rushed to the table. Her eyes grew wide with concern. “Alyssa, what’s wrong?”

I shushed them instead of answering, trying to hear the interview.

I had missed the answer to the previous question. The camera panned once again to the reporter, who smiled at D while leaning forward conspiratorially. “Was there another reason you came to speak with us today?”

His face was grim. “I believe it’s important to bring attention back to Emily’s case.”

I wanted to cry. It really was him. D was on television and he was talking about his murdered wife’s case. A sobering thought brought on a wave of nausea. Leaning forward, I circled my fingers around the edge of the table until they were bloodless. “He’s not a suspect, right? Did he kill her?” I asked Mr. Fredericks through gritted teeth.

Mr. Fredericks bent away from me as if I was contagious. Meanwhile, Jenny was staring as if I had lost my mind. She wasn’t far off. “Who, Derek Walsh? Isn’t the killer always the husband?”

I’d been talking to a killer. I had phone sex with a killer. What was wrong with me? How could I have such godawful taste in men? And the entire time, I thought he was a thousand times the man Jake ever could be.
Heather Topham Wood's obsession with novels began in childhood while growing up in a shore town in New Jersey. Writing since her teens, she recently returned to penning novels after a successful career as a freelance writer. She's the author of the paranormal romance Second Sight series and the standalones Falling for Autumn and The Disappearing Girl.

Heather graduated from the College of New Jersey in 2005 and holds a bachelor's degree in English. Her freelance work has appeared in publications such as USA Today, Livestrong.com, Outlook by the Bay and Step in Style magazine. She resides in Trenton, New Jersey with her husband and two sons. Besides writing, Heather is a pop culture fanatic and has an obsession with supernatural novels and TV shows.

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Win a $50 Amazon gift card and a signed paperback of The Despair of Strangers by Heather Topham Wood!
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  1. Looks like an interesting book.
    Thanks for the contest. 

  2. Not a good start to a relationship, to walk in the shadows of some ones ghost.

  3. I would enjoy this book.
    Thank you for sharing the review.

  4. this looks like a awesome book!

  5. David HollingsworthMay 4, 2021 at 6:56 PM

    Sounds like a really great story!

  6. This sounds like an interesting book and the cover has nice artwork.

    abfantom at yahoo dot com

  7. Nice cover. It sounds like a really interesting book. Thank you for sharing.

  8. The excerpt is interesting. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. This one sounds a bit different . That's a good thing.

  10. The book sounds very emotional.

  11. sounds like a fun one

  12. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?

  13. Based on the excerpt it sounds like an easy but very good read. Love the Author's writing style.

  14. Thank you for the excerpt. It sounds like a good story.