Title: Cross Her Heart (Bree Taggert #1)
Author: Melinda Leigh
Published on: 17th March 2020
Genre: Mystery and Thrillers
I am so happy to be a part of the blog tour for Melinda Leigh’s Cross Her Heart. You are in for a treat – there’s a review, Q&As with Melinda, an excerpt from the book and a giveaway. 😀
8-year-old Bree Taggert calls 911 to report an incident – her father is beating up her mum. Bree, her younger sister Erin and baby brother Adam, hide from their father. Before the cops could arrive, Bree’s dad shoots his wife and then, shoots himself.
Almost thirty years later, Bree is now a homicide detective at Philadelphia PD. Erin leaves her a message – she’s in trouble and wants Bree’s help. Bree calls back but Erin doesn’t respond. Sensing that something’s not right, Bree sets off to Erin’s farm.
Matt Flynn, an ex-K9 detective and his German Shepherd Brody are at Justin’s place. Matt is supposed to take his childhood best friend Justin to the AA meeting. But Justin doesn’t respond to the doorbell or text messages. Brody’s acting edgy too. He goes in through the backdoor only to see a dead body in the bedroom. Erin is lying in a pool of blood with a gunshot wound to her chest.
Bree arrives and learns of her sister’s death. The Sheriff’s department is low on staff and not that trustworthy. Justin is missing – it is always the spouse, isn’t it? Erin and Justin were separated. Is it possible that Justin killed her in a fit of rage? After all, he was a recovering addict. Matt and Bree join hands to find the killer.
Heart-wrenching. Tear-jerking. Marvelous. Superb. I cannot stop gushing about this book! Melinda Leigh is a marvelous storyteller. The emotions, the mystery, the flashbacks – Cross Her Heart is an unputdownable book
Plot to Story
Matt is dealing with issues of his own. So is Bree. The childhood trauma still haunts her at times. Her relationship with her siblings is so-so. The siblings too were traumatized by their parents’ death. Every emotion – from Matt’s grudge against the Sheriff’s department to Bree’s fear of dogs, is beautifully incorporated into the story.
When Bree decides to find her sister’s killer, she’s pretty much convinced that Justin is the perp. He’s missing so it is obvious that he had something to do with the murder. Erin’s kids – Kayla and Luke – are devasted. It was heart-wrenching to see the kids heart-broken.
Emotions run high and the suspense keeps one hooked on to the story until the end.
I really liked Bree, Matt and Dana. Not to forget, Brody too. I cannot wait to read the next book in this series. The three siblings – Bree, Erin and Adam – are well-portrayed. Childhood trauma affects relationships and Leigh’s done an excellent job in portraying this in her characters.
Luke and Kayla’s grief was unimaginable. At times I wished I could dive into my kindle and give them a warm hug. Dana was adorable! The mouthwatering dishes she makes – ah, I wish I was one of the characters in the story – to grab a bite or two of her chicken parm and lasagna.
Of course, there’s a tinge of romance in this story! Matt and Bree make a wonderful detective pair.
I did not see that coming! Oh my god! The last few chapters were nothing short of an action-movie sequence! The reason for the killings and the perp’s psychological profile brings shivers down my spine!
A superb series debut. Likeable characters. Heart-wrenching story. Beautifully written. I highly recommend you to read Cross Her Heart.
Q&A with Melinda Leigh
Hello Melinda and welcome to my blog. Tell me and my readers about yourself.
Many years ago, I was a banker, but I wasn’t a very good one. I had no interest in my career. When I had the chance to accept a severance package as a part of a bank merger, I jumped on it. Then I stayed home with my kids for a few years. I loved being with my kids, but I also needed some sanity.
My writing career was an accident. I was always a big reader. One day, my husband commented that I always had my nose in a book, why didn’t I write one? So, I did.
Let’s talk about your latest book – Cross Her Heart. What is the inspiration behind this new series?
Several years ago, I was at a workshop on first responders, and the instructor played recordings of 911 calls. I wanted to know what happened to all of the people who had called for help and how the circumstances that led to those calls affected their lives. By the time the workshop was over, Bree’s character was in my head.
How is Bree Taggert series different from your other series?
Bree is my most flawed heroine to date. She will never truly put her past behind her. Her fear of dogs, her difficulty in forming relationships, and resistance to trusting others will make her life difficult throughout the series. I’m enjoying writing a more complex character.
What’s next for Bree and Matt?
I just finished writing Bree’s second book, See Her Die, which will release in September 2020. In See Her Die, a homeless woman reports a murder. By the time law enforcement arrives, the killer—and the body—are missing. No one believes the witness–except Bree.
What’s next for Melinda Leigh? Any new books in the making?
I have two additional Bree Taggert novels on the horizon. Next, I’ll begin writing Bree’s third story, Drown Her Sorrows, to release in March 2021. I look forward to developing Bree’s character with more demanding cases and personal challenges.
Excerpt from Cross Her Heart
Grey’s Hollow, New York, January 1993
“911. What is your emergency?” the lady asked.
Bree was shaking so hard. She could barely hold the phone to her ear. “Mommy and Daddy are fighting.” A slap sounded down the hall, and Bree flinched. “Would you send the police?”
“The police are coming,” the lady said. “I’m going to talk with you until they arrive.”
“OK.” Bree sniffed and wiped her nose with her sleeve. Snot was running down her face. She hated to cry in front of Daddy. It just made him madder, but she couldn’t help it.
“What’s your name?”
“Bree,” she said in a small voice. She didn’t think Daddy would hear her, but if he did, then Bree would get the same as Mommy. She looked down the hall. Her parents’ door was open, and Daddy was yelling. She couldn’t hear all the words, but she knew he was saying mean things and calling Mommy names. She heard another smacking sound and her mother started to sob. “He’s hitting Mommy.”
“Where are they?”
“In their bedroom.”
Erin came out into the hall. She held her stuffed bunny by one ear and dragged him as she walked toward Mommy and Daddy’s room.
“Erin, don’t go in there!” Bree called as loud as she dared, but it came out as a whisper. She didn’t want Daddy to hear.
“Who is Erin?” the lady asked.
“My little sister,” Bree answered. “Erin, come here!”
“How old is she?”
“Four. I’m eight. I have to look after her. Mommy said so.”
“You’re eight years old.” The lady coughed.
Bree went down the hall toward her sister, but the phone cord wasn’t long enough. “I can’t reach her.” She held the phone tight. She didn’t want to put it down. She yelled, “Erin!”
Her sister turned her head. Erin wasn’t crying, but her eyes were real big, and she’d wet her pajamas. When her sister turned around and walked toward her, the air whooshed from Bree’s chest, and stars danced in front of her eyes. She pulled Erin down the hall and into the kitchen with her.
“I got her,” Bree said to the lady.
In the third bedroom, the baby began to scream. His doorway was right across from Mommy and Daddy’s. His crying made Bree’s tummy hurt. Daddy would get madder.
“Is that your sister crying?” the lady asked.
“No. I got a baby brother.” Bree didn’t want Daddy in the room with Mommy, but she didn’t want him to come out either. “I have to go get him. I have to make him be quiet.” Bree turned to her sister. “Stay here.”
Before she could go to the baby’s room, Daddy came into the hall. His face was red, and his eyes were small and mean. Mommy was right behind him. Her mouth was bleeding, and her neck had red marks all around it.
“Stop.” Mommy grabbed Daddy by the arm. “I’ll get him.”
Daddy spun and slapped her across the face.
Bree yelled, “Stop hitting Mommy!”
But he didn’t. He smacked her again.
The baby screamed, and Daddy turned toward his room.
“What’s happening, Bree?” the lady asked.
“Daddy’s gonna get the baby.” Bree didn’t know what to do. She was so scared, her belly cramped, and her legs shook. Her sister crawled under the kitchen table. “Please send the police.”
“They’re coming, Bree,” the lady said. “It’s going to be OK.”
“Stop it!” Mommy jumped on Daddy’s back and started hitting him. “Don’t you touch him.”
Daddy spun real fast, knocking Mommy into the wall. She fell off his back onto the hallway floor. He turned away from the baby’s doorway. His face was dark, madder than Bree had ever seen him. He lunged toward Mommy, his fingers curling around her arm and yanking her to her feet. Then he dragged her back into their room.
“I have to go. I have to get the baby now.” Bree put the phone down. She could hear the lady talking as she tiptoed into the baby’s room. Red-faced and screaming, her baby brother stood in his crib, his little hands hooked over the top rail. “Shhh.” Bree picked him up and put him on her hip. “You got to be quiet.”
As she carried him out, she looked into her parents’ room. Daddy held Mommy against the wall with one hand. In the other, he held a gun. Bree froze for a second. Her whole body went cold, and she almost peed her pants.
Then she backed away and ran down the hall as fast as she could. The baby stopped crying as he bounced on her hip. He buried his face in her shoulder and hiccupped. She hurried past the phone on the floor. The lady was calling her name, but Bree didn’t have time to talk to her.
She stopped next to the kitchen table and called Erin.
Her sister crawled out from under the table. “Bree?”
“Come on,” Bree whispered. “We got to hide.”
“I’m scared,” Erin said.
“I know where to go. It’ll be OK.” Bree grabbed Erin by the arm and pulled her out the kitchen door.
Erin resisted. “Promise?”
Shifting the baby aside, Bree drew a tiny X in the middle of her own chest. “Cross my heart.”
She turned toward the door again. This time Erin didn’t resist.
It was dark in the backyard, and the porch was icy under bare feet. The wind blew right through her pajamas. But she kept going, down the steps and around to the loose board under the porch. She pulled it back and held it while Erin wiggled through the hole. Then she pushed the baby into the darkness and crawled in after him. Bree pulled the board back into place. She’d hidden here before plenty of times when Mommy and Daddy were fighting.
Under the porch, they were out of the wind, but it was still cold.
Bree looked between the boards at the dark yard. In the shadow of the barn, Daddy’s dogs barked from the kennel. The lady had said the police were coming. The wind came through the spaces between the boards. Bree couldn’t hear Mommy and Daddy fighting anymore. What is Daddy doing?
“I’m cold.” Erin’s teeth chattered.
Bree pulled her sister closer and shushed her. The baby shivered in her arms and whimpered. His face scrunched up, like he was gettin’ ready to cry. If he did, Daddy might hear. He might find them. Bree wrapped her arms around his little body and rocked him. “Shhh.”
A door slammed, and Bree jumped. Heavy boots stomped overhead. She couldn’t tell if the footsteps were inside the house or on the back porch. Had the police come? Maybe it was gonna be OK. Just like the lady said.
A gunshot blasted. Bree jumped. Mommy!
Her hands tightened on the baby, and he began to cry. Another door slammed. Bree wanted to run to the sound, but she was too afraid. She heard more footsteps, more yelling, then another gunshot.
Bree closed her eyes.
Even without seeing what happened, she knew that nothing would ever be OK again.
I am offering you a copy of Cross Her Heart with a signed bookplate. To be eligible for this giveaway, you have to be a follower of my blog(WordPress or email) and leave a comment below saying you are interested in winning a copy of the book. The giveaway is open internationally. The giveaway is open until the end of this week so hurry. 🙂
You can follow the blog tour here.
Many thanks to Rachel Gul from OverTheRiverPR for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this blog tour.