The Last Housewife

A Novel

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Pub Date 16 Aug 2022 | Archive Date 20 Aug 2022
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Description

From the author of the acclaimed In My Dreams I Hold a Knife comes a pitch-black thriller about a woman determined to destroy a powerful cult and avenge the deaths of the women taken in by it, no matter the cost.

While in college in upstate New York, Shay Evans and her best friends met a captivating man who seduced them with a web of lies about the way the world works, bringing them under his thrall. By senior year, Shay and her friend Laurel were the only ones who managed to escape. Now, eight years later, Shay's built a new life in a tony Texas suburb. But when she hears the horrifying news of Laurel's death—delivered, of all ways, by her favorite true-crime podcast crusader—she begins to suspect that the past she thought she buried is still very much alive, and the predators more dangerous than ever.

Recruiting the help of the podcast host, Shay goes back to the place she vowed never to return to in search of answers. As she follows the threads of her friend's life, she's pulled into a dark, seductive world, where wealth and privilege shield brutal philosophies that feel all too familiar. When Shay's obsession with uncovering the truth becomes so consuming she can no longer separate her desire for justice from darker desires newly reawakened, she must confront the depths of her own complicity and conditioning. But in a world built for men to rule it—both inside the cult and outside of it—is justice even possible, and if so, how far will Shay go to get it?

From the author of the acclaimed In My Dreams I Hold a Knife comes a pitch-black thriller about a woman determined to destroy a powerful cult and avenge the deaths of the women taken in by it, no...


Advance Praise

"Ashley Winstead takes her reader into the heart of darkness — and brilliantly reveals the tender, human part hidden in those shadows. Propulsive, smart, and chilling, The Last Housewife confirms what In My Dreams I Hold A Knife promised: no one writes like thrillers like Ashley Winstead." —Alison Wisdom, author of The Burning Season

"Provocative and downright terrifying, The Last Housewife feels ripped from the headlines as it explores the dark world of a violent, misogynist cult in a New York college town. The story unfolds through the eyes of Shay Evans, who returns to avenge the deaths of two college friends and save the women who are still in danger. Winstead deftly tackles the complicated issues of gender, coercion and agency while crafting an edge-of-your-seat, action-packed thriller!" —internationally bestselling author Wendy Walker

"Ashley Winstead takes her reader into the heart of darkness — and brilliantly reveals the tender, human part hidden in those shadows. Propulsive, smart, and chilling, The Last Housewife confirms...


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ISBN 9781728229911
PRICE $27.99 (USD)

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Featured Reviews

Publication date: August 16, 2022

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review an advanced reader's copy of this book. This in no way affects my review, all opinions are my own and may be affected by the fact that it is snowy, windy and icy outside and we are in lockdown version 5.0, and I have nothing better to do than read three or more books a day??.

SYNOPSIS
*****************
From the author of the acclaimed "In My Dreams, I Hold a Knife" comes a pitch-black thriller about a woman determined to destroy a powerful cult and avenge the deaths of the women taken in by it, no matter the cost.

While in college in upstate New York, Shay Evans and her best friends met a captivating man who seduced them with a web of lies about the way the world works, bringing them under his thrall. By senior year, Shay and her friend Laurel were the only ones who managed to escape. Now, eight years later, Shay's built a new life in a tony Texas suburb. But when she hears the horrifying news of Laurel's death—delivered, of all ways, by her favourite true-crime podcast crusader—she begins to suspect that the past she thought she buried is still very much alive, and the predators more dangerous than ever.

Recruiting the help of the podcast host, Shay goes back to the place she vowed never to return to in search of answers. As she follows the threads of her friend's life, she's pulled into a dark, seductive world, where wealth and privilege shield brutal philosophies that feel all too familiar. When Shay's obsession with uncovering the truth becomes so consuming she can no longer separate her desire for justice from darker desires newly reawakened, she must confront the depths of her own complicity and conditioning. But in a world built for men to rule it—both inside the cult and outside of it—is justice even possible, and if so, how far will Shay go to get it?

Ooooooh, what a deeply dark and disturbing book!!! A cult is a juicy enough topic but add in the power of friendship and the worries that this cult is still alive and you have an incredible book! It is well crafted and the characters are fascinatingly presented: I will highly recommend this book to friends, family, patrons and book clubs alike. And the "religion-based" cult members in my building....there are a lot of them. Seriously.

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I was so excited to read this book and I was right to be excited. An absolutely unparalleled thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat until the last page. I could absolutely relate to the characters in that made it all the more terrifying. Highly recommend!

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I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review

I loved this one. Very fast paced, had me turning pages as I tore through it – I had to see how it would end. The characters were well rounded and the narrative felt believable. Gave me chills. Solid five

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Ashley Winstead's THE LAST HOUSEWIFE was a 24-hour fever dream of a reading experience. When Shay Evans (now Deroy), a bored, wealthy housewife in Dallas, learns of the suspicious death of her college best friend, Laurel, on a podcast hosted by her childhood best friend, Jamie, she abandons the safe life she's created for herself in order to investigate--and possibly avenge--the alleged suicide. Shay's return to New York plunges her back into the past, when she, Laurel, and their third friend, Clem--also dead by suicide, years ago--were seduced into a misogynistic, sadistic cult. If this sounds far-fetched, that's part of the point: misogyny falls on a spectrum, and while Shay's experience is rare, it's perhaps not as rare as we'd like to believe; and further, it's only an extension of what most women experience every day. THE LAST HOUSEWIFE explores fraught, complex issues of victimhood and power, agency and desire, asking what it takes to free ourselves when the voice controlling us is inside our own minds. Dark, seductive, troubling, and beautiful, an essential read for fans of MY DARK VANESSA and A PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN.

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I feel numb ….

My insides are rattling , my hands can’t seem to shaking . The Last Housewife, is not for the faint of heart . This book is fascinating, dark, deep, and like nothing I have ever read before .

How does such a sweet soul like Ashley Winstead, come up with these mind-blowing, twisted plots ? The jury is still out on that one 😳

After In My Dreams I Hold A Knife, I knew Ashley would become an auto-buy author. If you can get my twisted little black heart to read a RomCom, you know I like you. Ashley did just that.

While waiting for her next thriller I picked up Fool Me Once. Again, this book was amazing. I was hysterical laughing the entire time . That’s the thing with great authors, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, If they know how to write they will always produce a great result .

The Last Housewife, just took my breath away . I was smushed full of anxiety the entire book. I felt sucker punched with the wind knocked out of me with every twist and turn this wild book took me on . To say I was terrified would be an understatement .

While chatting with a friend this morning I told her I felt like my brain was clouded. I just couldn’t grasp reality after concluding this book late last night .

I know we have a 5 star scale we all use on here but I’m sorry I just can’t do it, 10 stars !

What was the last book you read that left you an emotional basket case ? I will be taking a break from reading this weekend . I need a couple of days to get over this one .

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A soaring, sweeping, satisfying novel that kept me up late all night!
Ashley Winstead's writing is hypnotic and totally immersive. You forget where you are reading her work, and just become a part of her mesmerizing and horrifying world. It sucks you in and holds you there.
The characters are superbly fleshed out and real.
The setting is so creepy and atmospheric, I was on pins and needles.
This phenomenal author weaves her stories with a deft hand, turning up the heat with every page.
A gripping page-turner that held me captive until the shocking end.
This girl does the damn thing again! And I look forward to reading many more amazing books from such a remarkable talented author.

Sourcebooks Landmark,
Thank You for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!
I will post my review closer to pub date.





Sourcebooks Landmark,
Thank you for this thrilling eARC!
I will post my review close to pub date!

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This is my third Ashley Winstead novel, and my second thriller by her and once again I am left speechless. Ashley’s ability to research, craft, create, weave together, connect and write is what makes her books a standout and this one completely blew me away. The premise was fascinating, the characters were so profound and the depth on this book that went far beyond a thriller made it my favorite yet. The entire story was so grounded in research with layers upon layers that begs you to analyze how women are viewed in our culture, how they identifying themselves in the roles “set” for them, and the lengths that our MC will go to, to break free of the toxic molds set for us, even if that means exposing a sexual cult in a male dominated society. This book is dark so please read the trigger warnings before reading but it only made for a deeper understanding of what the women in these books went through mentally, physically and emotionally. This one deserves all of the stars and will leave a lasting and memorable impression on me! Highly recommend!

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Aaaaaaahhhhh! Can you hear my shriek? If you didn’t, at least my entire neighborhood absolutely heard. The polite and old couple at next door super nicely advised me stop reading the most exciting parts of the book aloud and shut the freak out! ( of course they didn’t choose the freak word to emphasize their situation but I still think they are nice people! )

This book was one of the most intense, dark, bleak, absolute eyes popper- nail biter- soul crusher- mind blower- nightmare caller- jaw dropper!

It added a special meaning to those spooky cult novels by scaring the living daylights of me!

This amazing author: Ashley Winstead can write a hell of amazing romcom and she can also create the darkest thriller story which could give me real nightmares at the same time!

I’m hooked up from the beginning of the story as soon as I’m introduced to Shay, a new housewife after quitting her writing job, living in Texan suburb, still listening to the podcasts as guilty pleasure.

Then we found out the podcast called transgressions is hosted by her childhood friend Jamie: they have a complicated relationship. Shay left her past behind, living under the radar, using pen name for her writing gigs, lost connection with her old friends!

But her past is about to catch her: Jamie’s last podcast episode is about Laurel’s suicide: her best friend and partners in crime who ran away from a cult 8 years ago! The same year their close friend Clem also took her life! The same year Shay realized she couldn’t keep her promises to her friends and best way to stay safe was disappearing into thin air!

Now she has to face her dark past, not only avenging her best friends but also finding out what happened to those missing girls, she returns back to New York to flip the bird to the same misogynistic, tempting, enigmatic cult leader who tried to seduce them with his brainwashing tactics!

She finds herself getting attracted of that dark, dangerous life style. She has to find a way of her freedom in expanse losing the old self behind! But how? Let the darkest mind games begin!

Of course there’s no chance for me to give this book less than five stars! This is one of the best thriller reads of the year I highly recommend it!

Special thanks to NetGalley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for sharing this amazing digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinions.

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Ho.Ly.CraP this book. Dark, intense, twisty, compulsively readable - ALL THE CONTENT WARNINGS, yeesh, it is much much darker than I generally read but once I started I couldn't stop. Wow.

After learning of her college best friend's suicide (maybe murder?) from the podcast of her childhood best friend, disaffected writer Shay abandons all the trappings of her normal life and returns to the scene of... so much trauma. Determined to find the truth and get justice for Laurel, Shay delves into a dark underbelly of sex clubs, secret societies, and a rotten, insidious philosophy creeping everywhere. Can she get justice? Or will the man who once controlled her take her back?

AAAAAAGH!

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THIS BOOK. I haven’t read a book in a long time that I couldn’t put down and when I had to I would count down the minutes until I could read it again. Let me preface this by saying PLEASE read the content warnings. This book has really dark content and has many scenes with violence against women depicted.

This book is best to go blind with regards to the plot (but again please read CW) so I won’t say much about the plot. The story is sexy, dark, disturbing, and just a perfect thriller. The twist at the end will shock you. And the writing is just incredible. I’m an Ashley Winstead fan girl and will read literally anything she writes from here on out. Plus, she is the nicest human.

But, on top of all that, I am obsessed with this book because of how it resonated with me as a woman. I knew I would love it from the first Scheherazade reference (I have loved One Thousand and One Nights since middle school and the way her story relates to this book is just chef’s kiss).

The way these men in the Pater Society were able to use feminism and intellectual ideas to manipulate women into giving away their power was insane. But it happens every day (obviously to a lesser extent). I have seen it in college classes as a chemistry major and in STEM academia - the way that women are treated as if they are inherently less intelligent and inferior. AND men are able to get away with these behaviors due to the “understanding” between powerful men that keeps abuse towards women under wraps (I know you can all think of well known instances where this was the case).

The message we are taught as women is that the ultimate goal is to have people like you. Shay really grapples with the fact that the way for her to gain power is to play by the men’s rules but in the process she is giving up her agency. The story also explores whether sexualization of women gives them power over men or the other way around. Truly so much to think about and I think it would be a perfect book to buddy read and discuss with friends.

Also the true crime podcast element - perfection. Especially the way it was used at the end 👀 I really enjoyed reading transcripts of interviews interspersed between the story.

Thank you @netgalley and @sourcebookslandmark for the eARC.

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wow wow wow! I absolutely loved this dark and twisty soul!

I was super impressed with ashley’s first debut novel, in my dreams I hold a knife, so I literally screamed when I received the arc for this one. and I screamed the whole way through.

while her first novel was dark academia, it’s so unfair to compare the two because they’re completely different beasts!! the last housewife has it ALL: cults, best friends going missing, possible serial killers, grooming, brainwashing, you name it.

the way ashley was able to write such a heavy and difficult story was such ease and beauty was REMARKABLE. and those plot twists? hoo boy, I did not see coming.

writing the book in a single POV (which usually isn’t my favorite) was perfect, due to the fact that it was split between podcast transcripts and first person narrative. the transcripts were a wonderful way to see more into the main character’s head as she was interviewed - asking the questions flat out instead of beating around the bush.

yes, this book is not for the faint of heart, but if you’re a fan of the maidens and the collective, you DEFINITELY need to pick this one up. (but even if you’re not, still preorder this one because it will shock you to your core)

thank you to netgalley, ashley, and sourcebooks for the advanced copy in exchange for a review. august cannot come soon enough!!!

rating: 5 stars
wine pairing: napa cabernet sauvignon

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There is so much to say about The Last Housewife. This book was so dark and twisted. It brought up so many questions and thoughts about men and women and our defined and undefined "roles" in society, how we see ourselves and how the opposite sex sees us. It did it in an entertaining way that made this book unable to put down.

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Please, please, please see the content warnings for this book before going into it. Be safe and make sure you're in a good place becuase this book is DARK!

When Shay Evans attended a college in New York, her and her best friends were seduced by a man who made them believe a web of lies about themselves, while also making them do horrible things. Two of them escaped, vowing never to return back to New York. But then eight years later, podcast host Jaime, declares that her friend has died. So Shay goes back to uncover her so-calles suicide, only to find herself in pushed back in a dangerous and patriarchal cult, that has only gotten worse since she left.

Holy cow, this book was WILD! Dark, seductive, twisty, uncomfortable, but most of all important. Ashley (who I am proud to call a very dear friend of mine) has crafted a wonderful blend of a psychological, domestic, dark academic, cult thriller that can only be called one thing. A masterpiece. Oh the web her sweet and twisted mind weaves. It's emotionally taxing, raw, visceral, honest and bold.

We follow Shay as she tries to uncover the death of her best friend, Laurel, along with the help of her old friend, Jamie. The book is told completely from her point of view, and we hear about the horrific past in the format of a podcast (which I loved!!!). Shay's character is so fascinating to read and if you've read Ashley's debut novel, you will see some similarities between her and Jessica. It was so much fun to delve into her twisted and dark mind as we see her past experiences from her voice.

This book is a feminist thriller in every way. It is about a patriarchal sex cult, but the male patriarchy doesn't end in the cult, it seeps into our society today. With topics of female agency, desire, victimhood, autonomy, and most of all power, Ashley's commentary about women in today's world is at the forefront of this story.

Overall, if you're looking for an amazingly pitch-black and twisty thriller, this is the book for you. I think this is a book everyone should read, but only if you can stomach its disturbing content. This one is perfect for book clubs and it will create such interesting discussions. Another brilliant novel from Ashley Winstead, and I can't wait to see what she writes next!

Thank you to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Landmark for providing me with an advanced copy of this novel in exchange for my honest review.

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I really liked Winsteads first book and was very excited to read this one. I’m so happy I it was so good. I loved the hook with the true crime podcast and I really loved the chunks of the story that were told through Shays interviews with Jamie. The way the past unfolded was really interesting and I loved all the twists.

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WOW! My jaw is literally on the floor. There is so much to digest after this one. This book is not for the faint of heart and is VERY dark. Be sure to read the content warnings beforehand.

After learning of her college friend's suicide from the true crime podcast of her childhood best friend, Shay abandons the comfort of her normal life and returns to a dangerous world she thought she escaped. With the help of the podcast host, she searches for answers surrounding her friend's death. As Shay finds herself lured into the rabbit hole of her past, she struggles to differentiate between her desire for justice and her dark desire in an underground world of power and privilege. Can she uncover the truth? Or will she be captivated by the man who once seduced her to return to her old ways?

Let me start by saying that Ashley Winstead's writing is mesmerizing. I found myself out of sync with reality and transported completely into the story. The idea of a misogynistic, violent cult is both equally seductive and disturbing. As wild as this concept seems and as unique as Shay's situation is, it's not totally unbelievable. When it comes to power and money in a male dominated world, anything is possible. It also explores the notion on whether or not sexualizing women gives them power over men and the perceived importance of beauty.

Told from Shay's POV and alternating to interview transcripts for the podcast, this story is alluring, unsettling and chilling. The subject matter is so carefully crafted and well-researched which I really appreciated. It touches on the idea of double standards and a woman's role in society - further supported by philosophies from foundational thinkers such as Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. The way the men in the Pater Society twisted the ideology of feminism to their advantage to manipulate the women was insane! Yet, at times I felt like I could relate with certain convictions, which made it all the more terrifying. It wasn't difficult to empathize with Shay's struggle from her trauma and guilt and I found myself cheering her on as she battled the voice in her head.

I was thinking about this book when I wasn't reading it. I had dreams about it. It stayed with me even when I'd put it down for the night and haunted me once I turned the final page. I love that this book WENT THERE, it was dark in a sophisticated way that resonated with me and wasn't just for the shock factor. The Last Housewife was twisted and brilliant, like nothing I've ever read before.

"Maybe I'd performed for so long I wasn't capable of recognizing my real feelings. Were there even such things, or was everyone always reacting in ways we understood we were supposed to? When did the performance ever end?"

**Thank you NetGalley, Ashley and SOURCEBOOKS Landmark for sharing this amazing digital reviewer copy with me in exchange my honest opinion**I will post on my instagram page in the near future and send a link when I do!

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