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Excerpt | The Secrets We Keep by Stephanie Butland


cover65070-mediumTITLE: The Secrets We Keep

AUTHOR: Stephanie Butland

PUBLISHER: Sourcebooks Landmark

RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2015

GENRE: Women’s Fiction

A tragic accident, a broken heart, and a marriage drowning in secrets…

Mike always walks the dog in the evening while Elizabeth relaxes in the bathtub–but one night he doesn’t come back. Mike has drowned while saving a teenage girl named Kate, his dog standing on the bank barking frantically as the police pull his body from the water.

But despite her husband being lauded as a hero, Elizabeth can’t wrap her mind around the fact that Mike is gone–and Kate won’t reveal the details of what really happened that night.

Elizabeth finds herself facing the unfathomable possibility that she may not have known her husband at all. Does she really want to know the truth? Or will the weight of Mike’s secrets pull her under.(Description from NetGalley.com)


Elizabeth has never been to a funeral home before. She and Patricia enter the building together and then take turns going into the room. Patricia goes first and comes out swollen-faced and silent, nodding and clasping Elizabeth’s hands. So, still unsure, she rises and faces the oak-effect door.

It’s a smaller room than she thinks it will be. The light is low, and the smell of flowers, from a complex arrangement in which some of the smaller blooms are dying, is a mixture of sweetness and must. There’s a cross. And there’s a seat, next to the coffin. Because there’s a coffin. There’s a coffin. Elizabeth closes her eyes and tries to make herself breathe. She looks again. Yes, there’s a coffin. Mike’s coffin. Her soul winces. The top part is open, the rest closed.

Experimentally, Elizabeth puts her hand on the wood near the bottom, where she would imagine Mike’s feet to be, were she able to think about his cold, dead feet in a box. She checks her heart and feels nothing new, nothing worse. She takes a step farther up. Her hand is where his knees would be. The wood is smooth. Her palm runs up thigh, over stomach, rests on chest, in a horrible pantomime of what she’s done so often in life. Her mind is saying, Well, if Mike was gone, this is how it would be, yes, but he can’t be gone. He can’t be.

Elizabeth knows what needs to come next. So she takes another step, and she looks down.

Mike’s face is swollen, only slightly, and an odd color, although that might be the light. Blake had driven them the short distance, neither of them ready for the walk, or the people, or the light of an ordinary day. He had told them in the car that Mike would look as though he was sleeping, but this face, solemn and enclosed, bears no resemblance to her sprawling, duvet-hogging, snoring husband, liable at any moment to throw out an arm and pull her in to him, even though he was fast asleep.

Elizabeth realizes she is holding her breath as she fights to recognize what’s in front of her. Cautious, she reaches out her left hand, her own skin dull in this dull light. She touches his face. Her thumb strokes the indentation to the left of his right cheekbone. He is cold, and his skin is powdery, and she watches, waiting for him to open his eyes. Tears fall from hers and gather on his face, and she wipes them away gently with the thumb that wears his wedding ring, and just for a moment these are his tears, and they are crying together.

Elizabeth bends down and whispers, “You can pretend all you like, but I know you haven’t left me. I know you wouldn’t leave me.”

She whispers, “I want to hold your hand.” Her own hands, free to rake through her hair and twist around each other and catch at tears falling from her chin, tingle at the horrible thought of being contained in the way his are.

She whispers, “Show me that you haven’t gone,” and she sits, and she waits, her hand on the coffin where she thinks Michael’s hand must be. She closes her eyes. “You promised you would never leave me,” she says, trying a different tack, thinking a prod might work where a plea has failed. Time stops, and the world stops, and even the tears stop for a while, as Elizabeth strains for a sign, all of her senses ready and oh so willing. But no sign comes.


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Stephanie lives in Northumberland, England, and talks and trains in thinking skills all over Europe, most recently in Kazakhstan. She has written two books on her experience with cancer, and she is an active blogger and fundraiser. The Secrets We Keep is her first novel.

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Excerpt | If You’re Not the One by Jemma Forte




“What if you could do it all over again?

Jennifer Wright is pretty sure her husband doesn’t love her anymore. She and Max used to be the perfect couple, but the pressures of work and kids have pulled them in opposite directions. Now , Jen is full of “what if” questions about whether her bland, suburban existence is all she was ever destined for.

When a terrible accident sends Jen into a coma, she is able to see what her life could have been if she had run off to Australia with the handsome, dangerous man she met on vacation, or if she had stayed with her workaholic college boyfriend. Would she ever have loved another child as much as she loves her daughters? Could she have become rich? More than anything, Jen wants to do the right thing for her family. But what she discovers may leave her with even more questions about the choices she made, and no easy answers about what to do next.” (Description from NetGalley.com)


Stay with us, Jennifer. Come on, love, you can do this. Hang
in there.”

Why was everyone yelling? She was so tired. All she wanted to do was sleep. She was so close to being able to slip away, yet wasn’t being allowed to. She felt very muddled and had a vague sense of being bullied.

“Patient’s suffering agonal respirations and has a CO2 of eleven. Probably in anaphylactic shock. Let’s commence CPR.”

“Jen, please hang in there. I’m so, so sorry. I love you.”

“Sorry, Mr. Wright. Can you stay out of the way? It’s very important.”

What is Max doing here? she wondered. For a second, she was tempted to open her eyes, but she wasn’t able to because a burning sensation swept through her so violently, she would have done anything to make it stop. It was pain on a level she never would have thought possible. Every cell in her body was on fire, doused in hot, white agony. Then, as quickly as it showed itself, it subsided, and once again she reverted to her numb state of nothingness.

Then someone was applying pressure to her that hurt in a different way. She didn’t want to be awake anymore. She craved peace and sensed a way she could achieve it. It would definitely remove the pain, and any further possibility of it.

But she wasn’t sure she wanted to go that way either. She reflected for a second, as though she were suspended in time and space, floating almost. She wasn’t ready for that, which meant there was only one option left. So, once more, she sank back into the gray fog, more cries of panic sounded around her.

As the paramedics went about their frenzied business of trying to save her life, the strangest things were happening in Jennifer’s bruised brain.

None of us can really comprehend what the human brain is capable of doing, in the same way that Jennifer had no clue as to the true capabilities of her laptop. All she tended to use her PC for was to write emails, do a bit of shopping, or social networking, meaning its dual core processor was never fully taken advantage of. She was always stunned when Max, who was far more tech-­savvy than her, did some simple task on her computer in a way that made her realize she was only ever utilizing around 10 percent of what it could do, if only she knew how to operate it properly.

It’s the same with the human brain, only on a far grander and more mysterious scale, its true power being so tricky to tap. Most of its work and activity happens at a deeply subconscious level, and yet even beyond that, there are areas of it that we never unearth, even when dreaming.

Psychics do better than most. Whether you believe in them or not, they at least have more awareness of the various possibilities that we could utilize if only we tried.

Right at that second, within Jennifer’s skull, a series of lightning-­fast connections were being made, ones that she never would have been privy to if her head hadn’t made contact with the ground
quite as brutally as it had. Something extraordinary was happening.

As her synapses furiously connected and fused, three tunnels of white light suddenly showed themselves to her. There was one to the left, one straight ahead, and one to the right. Is this what death looks like? Instinct told her it was something different, and suddenly she knew, without needing to be told, that rather than leading her to the afterlife, instead, these tunnels represented different lives she could so easily have led.

What she was being given here was a gift. The gift of being able to see what life would have been like had she chosen another route at three different points in her life. And so it was that Jennifer allowed herself to fall into a deep and very informative coma. As her own private miracle started, she began to glide toward the first tunnel, the one to the left, which was swirling with clouds of light at its entrance. This was the one marked Aidan.



Jemma Forte was a Disney Channel host in the UK for five years, and has gone on to host shows for ITV, BBC1, BBC2, and other channels in the UK. She lives in London with her family.



PUBLISHING COMPANY: Sourcebooks Landmark

RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2015

GENRE: Women’s Fiction

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