Member Reviews

I didn't love this one. You have to suspend disbelief quite a bit to enjoy the idea behind the novel. I didn't believe that an adult would so easily put her family in jeopardy to play a "daring" game with an old friend.


I received an advance copy. All thoughts are my own.

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Synopsis:
"When best friends Hannah and Scarlett meet Thomas in college—the chemistry is instantaneous. They grow closer while playing the Daring Game, where each dare is riskier than the last. As the trio's friendship begins to cross boundaries between the platonic and the illicit, jealousy and secrets quickly develop. As tensions between the three grow, so do the stakes in the Daring Game, resulting in tragedy with Scarlett’s final dare to Thomas. When Thomas gets expelled from school and leaves without a trace, it seems like the Daring Game has finally ended.
Sixteen years later, Hannah is unhappy in marriage and in life. That is, of course, until she gets a mysterious letter about the Daring Game from none other than Thomas himself. With Scarlett out of the picture, and a renewal of the dangerous game, the sparks begin to fly between them once more. Until the day Hannah and Thomas are called to the secret meeting place of the Daring Game, where they’re welcomed by a single dare—“to tell the truth.”"

My Thoughts:
This story feels more about the characters and their obsession with one another than an edge of your seat thriller. Told from Hannah's POV we read a lot about her attraction to Thomas, issues with her husband, guilt, pain, and challenging friendship with Scarlet. The story does jump back and forth between the past and present, which is what saved it for me. The present timeline of Hannah drinking wine and wanting to be with Thomas became a bit boring, so we needed the slow clues of the excitement in the past to shake things up. Overall this is a solid mystery, perfect for those who enjoy getting to know the characters over edge of your seat action.

⭐⭐⭐💫 (3.5)

Thank you to @netgalley , @crookedlanebooks , and @dreamscape_media for the gifted copy of this book.

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This isn’t my favorite thriller, but it was entertaining. I felt like the pacing of the story was really good. There were so many twists, and it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. I also loved that it had a romance and spice element to it, which is uncommon in thrillers.

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I wanted to like this book more than I did. It’s a well written dual timeline written from the perspective of the main character Hannah. It tells of her time at college where she and her best friend Scarlett formed a threesome with Thomas. They became exclusive, hanging around together and not making any other friends. They started playing a game called the Daring Game where they would take their turns to dare each other to do something outside their comfort zone. However, one day the dare goes too far, someone is seriously injured and Thomas is expelled from college.

Fifteen years later Thomas hasn’t been heard from again, Scarlett is in Australia and Hannah is married to Evan, who she met in her final year in college and has two daughters. After a recent miscarriage and subsequent hysterectomy, she experienced grief and depression and was hospitalised for a period. Now she’s given up her job and is an unhappy stay at home mum who drinks too much and her husband doesn’t help by constantly pointing out her drinking and her failings at being a good wife and mother. And then Thomas arrives back in her life and they immediately become obsessed with each other again and start playing the Daring Game again.

I find it hard to enjoy a book where all the characters are unlikeable and have no redeeming features – it’s just so hard to feel empathy for any of them. Hannah is clearly struggling with her mental health, but I found her very self-indulgent in many ways, especially jumping straight back into an affair with Thomas and then agreeing to re-start their childish game that caused them both so much trouble in the past. Thomas was also so incredibly selfish and I also found it odd that he jumped back into her life after fifteen years, revealing he'd never stopped loving her (so why wait so long?). Evan was also very unlikeable in the way he constantly picked at Hannah’s faults, even calling her out in public and keeping tabs on where she went during the day. I also disliked the ending which seemed to be pulled out of nowhere after a big lead up pointing in another direction. Some readers might enjoy such a major twist out of left field, but I prefer the author to give a few hints that can be seen in retrospect as setting up that finale.

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After a couple of ARCs running either long or deep, I decided to pick up Jessica Hamilton’s Don’t You Dare today to cleanse the palette with some lovely crime, mystery, suspense, and thrills. It was nice to have something fast-paced, erotic, and suspenseful to read today since I’m kind of wound up and anxious myself (my mom’s having knee replacement surgery tomorrow, so we’re all kind of wound up around here).

I know exactly what it was about this book that drew me in: The commiseration I felt with Hannah (our protagonist) as she realizes she accidentally slept in and her husband has no compunctions about leaving her a passive-aggressive note about how it, and the way he constantly nitpicks at her as if he’s perfect and she should be ashamed of the hot mess she is. The shame mothers the world over feel of not being good enough, of not doing enough or being enough is an almost universal feeling that we can’t help but be pulled in by, as if we want to automatically create some sort of sympathetic bond with a character like Hannah and let her know that we’re all hot messes behind closed doors. Some of us just hide it better than others.

And then what hooked me was how just as it seems Hannah is absolutely headed to self-destruction and deep depression, the man she loved so deeply in college but lost to the combined efforts of a toxic game she, her best friend, and the man she loved played called “The Daring Game” and her vindictive best friend’s vengeful machinations suddenly appears in the city she lives in, saying he’s moved back and why don’t the two of them pick up “The Daring Game” just for fun between the two of them? Wouldn’t it be fun to do silly and daring things before they truly get too old to be daring?

This book plays off a dual timeline: One taking place in the present, and one taking place back when Hannah, Scarlett (the bestie), and Thomas (the friend turned boyfriend) are in college together. Like most dual timeline books, Don’t You Dare plays the present-day timeline off the past timeline. In essence, the past timeline serves to either foreshadow or to outright hint toward what’s coming up soon in the present-day timeline. It’s not so bad the past timeline outright gives away things, but it’s enough that you get an inkling as the book moves along in which direction we might be going. There are genuine surprises here and there, and successful red herrings are deployed, which made me happy.

The pacing of the novel was definitely what I look for in a suspense thriller like this, though I do wish the author could’ve kept up the same pacing while letting us get a better look at the characters. I’m not saying I wanted this book to be character-driven (this book is definitely plot-driven), but it wouldn’t have hurt to get to know some of the characters a touch better.

I’m not going to say this is a strong four star review. It’s just barely a four star review. If I had to put it more clearly, I’d say it’s more like 3.75 stars. That 0.25% deduction comes from the woefully underdeveloped character of Evan, Hannah’s husband. He’s automatically cast as the villain, but rarely is there truly a villain in a marriage in the case of a marriage like Hannah and Evan’s (I’d explain why, but spoilers). I feel like this book would’ve come across a lot better had we understood Evan more.

If you’re simply looking for an entertaining read at the level of a “popcorn movie” (you know, grab some popcorn and curl up on the sofa to just watch a fun movie), then this is a good book for that kind of entertainment. It’s not breaking new ground and it’s not revelatory, but it’s a solid good time.

I was provided a copy of this title by NetGalley and the author. All thoughts, opinions, views, and ideas expressed herein are mine and mine alone. Thank you.

File Under: Domestic Thriller/Forbidden Romance/General Fiction/Mystery/Psychological Fiction/Spice Level 1/Suspense Mystery/Suspense Novel/Suspense Romance

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Thank you Jessica Hamilton, Crooked Lane Books and Net Galley for allowing me to read this ARC e-book. I love a good book that not only has mystery and suspense from the present but intertwines the past., It truly makes the perfect "who done it" but this book made you wonder who and what was to blame the entire time and it was addicting. Two best friends who add in a third during college and become this strange threesome of dares, deception and misguided decisions. While everyone goes their seperate ways they all become intermingled back together and what happens in the past definitely does not stay and nothing is ever really what it seems.

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If you go into this book thinking it’s a thriller, it’s not. I mean, there’s a sense of mystery but you have to get through the main character, Hannah’s, whining and her explicit activities that takes up more than half the book. Hannah self medicates herself with alcohol which leaves her with self doubt and terrible judgment.

It took everything I had not to DNF because the beginning was as slow as molasses and all the characters were unlikable. I stuck with it to the end, which wasn’t very surprising to me.

I’ve seen a lot of mixed reviews for this book, mine might be an unpopular opinion but I suggest that you read it for yourself.

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Story of the book-

When Hannah and Scarlett meet Thomas at college, they have an instant connection. They become closer while playing the Daring Game, in which each dares is more dangerous than the previous. Scarlett dares Thomas one last time as the trio becomes closer and jealously rises—a daring that ends in tragedy. When Thomas is expelled from school and disappears, it appears that the Daring Game has come to an end.

Hannah is still dissatisfied with her marriage and her life sixteen years later. That is until she receives an enigmatic email about the Daring Game from none other than Thomas himself. When Hannah and Thomas are summoned to the location where they initially played the game, they are greeted with a single dare.

Someone else is in on the game and is aware of their affair, even going so far as to leave a cryptic message in Hannah’s house: Don’t You Dare. Hannah has a big list of suspects: Could it be her loud neighbor, Libby, who has her secrets? Or did her husband orchestrate this as retaliation for the scandalous affair? Is Scarlett back and ready to go? Hannah may be set free by the truth, but only if she is willing to lose all she knows and loves.

My review-

This is an unputdownable, addicting, highly intense psychological thriller that meets sexual romance! This novel was completely bizarre, dark, and entirely amazing. I liked how there was uncertainty about who else knew about the game, adding to the intrigue. Furthermore, I was intrigued by where the narrative would lead, and the turmoil all around me was riveting. This is a non-stop fear journey when one of the trio comes up and happens to be Hannah’s former sweetheart, told in alternating portions of the present and 16 years prior. The past has come knocking, and the sparks are flying.

I find it difficult to like a novel in which all of the characters are unlikeable and lack redeeming qualities – it’s simply so difficult to feel empathy for any of them. Hannah is dealing with mental illness, but I thought her to be quite self-indulgent in many respects, particularly falling right back into an affair with Thomas and then consenting to continue the juvenile game that caused them both so much grief in the past. When it became evident that someone knew their secrets, I wavered back and forth on who the perpetrator was. I thought I had it all figured out but was mistaken, and I enjoyed the plot twists.

Everything wraps up rather fast, which I generally don’t like, but it worked with the book’s excellent pacing. I appreciated both the past and current times, albeit I preferred the latter. I couldn’t take my eyes off the narrative for the rest of the day. This story was really convincing, and I was completely engrossed throughout. This book’s idea appealed to me, and I felt it was a fun, sensual, and engaging read. I’d want to read more by this author since their narrative was original and their writing was intriguing.

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This one was okay. Not quite what I was expecting and felt a little young for me at times. I had a hard time wrapping my head around some of the decisions and events in this one, but hey that’s the beauty of books.

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Don't You Dare spend another second not reading this suspenseful thriller! It was amazing! I had a pit in my stomach awaiting the outcome. I simply could not put it down without finding out how things were going to transpire. It was wonderfully written and totally suspenseful. I loved every word.

Hannah & Scarlett are best friends. They do everything together and no one comes between them. When they meet Thomas he seems to seamlessly fit into their friendship and they quickly become a trio. To keep things interesting they begin playing The Daring Game where each dare becomes riskier than the last and the punishments for not completing a dare can be quite damaging. Thomas' last dare ends in tragedy and he is expelled from school and disappears without a trace.
Sixteen years later Hannah is stuck in the midst of a failing marriage and Scarlett is galavanting across Australia living her best life. When Hannah receives a mysterious email from Thomas inviting her to the Daring Tree she jumps at the chance to see him again and add a little more excitement to her boring days. Sparks quickly fly between them, but someone has been watching them and has other ideas about the secrets they keep and dares them to tell the truth. As they try to keep their secret, the stakes grow higher as the unknown watcher leaves messages inside of Hannah's house and photographs their exploits. Hannah has no idea who she can trust and anyone could be the culprit.

A special thank you to the author, Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for my ARC of this exciting upcoming thriller!

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This successfully created a discombobulated, heady atmosphere as Hannah reconnects with an old college friend and they bring back the dangerous game they played. Hannah's drinking makes her unreliable at times, but readers also get the stress of her depression, her failing marriage, and what that means when Thomas, who she's always had a strong connection to, returns. Solid.

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I could not finish enough of this book to be able to leave a comprehensive review, but I hope it finds its audience and I am grateful to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read an advance copy.

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I don’t even know what to say about this other than I gave it every chance and I just didn’t like it.

This book is trying hard to be a thriller but then there’s just sex all the time whether it fits within that part of the storyline or not - I mean, if you wanna put out a romance then just say that?? Like I’m here for it, but not in the middle of a thriller when it doesn’t make sense. It was distracting and honestly made it feel like it was all over the place but in reality it wasn’t?? I don’t know. I feel like this just wasn’t for me.

Now when I say I gave it every chance I mean it. I received an ebook quite some time ago through NetGalley (as in I got it in 2022) and I started it then but wasn’t feeling it so I left it for later. I started it again and wasn’t feeling it but saw the audiobook was available on NetGalley and was granted access. So I started the audiobook instead thinking maybe I needed the narrator to help me out. This was not the case for this book. I will say I don’t think I’d have finished the ebook, but this was the longest 9hrs 40mins of my life. I mean that’s not true, but it FELT like it so that’s something.

Overall I think this was a promising story that didn’t hit the mark for me. Which is fine - it happens. I definitely did like the narrator and I think she did a great job with it.

⭐️⭐️💫

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This is a steamy psychological thriller. I wasn't expecting the sexy time as that is not normally in the thrillers I read. I love the dual timeline. It is a fast paced read that had me on the edge of my seat.


Thank you Netgalley and Crooked Lane Books for the digital arc.

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Don’t You Dare by Jessica Hamilton is a very daring story! It is told in dual timelines and has characters you will love and some you may not. This is a steamy psychological thriller that is so twisted you will not believe what you are reading. It is filled with mystery, suspense, betrayals, obsessions and deceit. You will be on the edge of your seat through out the entire book, right up to that jaw dropping ending. This is such a crazy suspenseful book and I highly recommend it.

Thank you NetGalley, Crooked Lane Books and Jessica Hamilton for this fantastic book to read and review. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
#netgalley #crookedlanebooks. #jessicahamilton #dontyoudare. #arc. #psychologicalthriller

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This fast-paced thriller was so unique and steamy that I could not put it down. The mystery had me on the edge of my seat and my mind was blown on the final plot twist.

Hannah and Scarlett were best friends from the moment the met. Inseparable. Then, in college, they meet Thomas and the duo becomes a trio. The three make up their own, more dangerous, version of Truth of Dare. Removing the option to choose truth, and dishing out punishments for unfulfilled dares. Simply called, The Daring Game. With each round, the dares grow more and more risky until irreparable damage is done.
Now 16 years later Hannah is unhappily married with two daughters. She hears from Thomas and he wants to restart the game. Why, after 16 years Hannah wonders? Trouble quickly arises and secrets and lies are revealed.

This was a fast read. Full of family drama, rivalry between friends and old flames reignited. I couldn’t stop reading as I needed to see where this story took me. The plot twists just kept coming, making the reader keep reading to see what happens next.

I gave this book 4 stars. I really enjoyed the twists and turns in it. Don’t You Dare by Jessica Hamilton will be released on May 16th, and I would highly recommend you check it out!

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Jessica Hamilton's sophomore novel, DON'T YOU DARE, is an intense, daring psychological thriller of friendship, revenge, and obsession — a darkly twisted romantic suspense — featuring a woman with a past of dark secrets and a dangerous, DARING GAME.

"Good people can do bad things, and in doing so, you dare to lose everything."

Hannah is married to Evan— a bored stay-at-home mom with two children who drinks too much. She receives a letter with a simple message: Daring Tree tomorrow at 12 pm—if you dare. Signed Thomas.

Sixteen years ago. The message has shifted Hannah into no-mans-land between the past and present. What would Thomas think of her now?

Hannah and Scarlett were BFFs in college. They met Thomas, and the three became friends and more. Scarlett came up with The Daring Game, where each would have to complete a dare with certain rules.

All the dares would be logged in a notebook that was to be kept in a hollowed-out tree at St. James Cemetery, the Daring Tree.

They started out simple, and then the dares became tougher, with more at stake.

Then one dare went TOO FAR.

Scarlett is an influencer, and Hannah stalks her social media now. She and Hannah were to travel to Australia together. Instead, there was Evan, the loss of her dad, and she became pregnant. Scarlett left without her.

In response to the letter, tempted—she goes for it. Soon they are playing THE DARING GAME again.

Things get out of control. Someone knows. Making them continue the game. They are in DANGER.

Who is the new person? Someone is watching and knows their secret past and the present. High stakes. Who has the most to lose?

From then to now, dark and twisty with adults behaving badly. This is more of a YA book with a Desperate Housewives-vibe and dysfunctional marriages. A cautionary tale—a dangerous game of obsession when the past refuses to remain buried. Not a favorite, but sure there will be a target audience who will enjoy it.

"Three's no such thing as a harmless dare. If you're not careful, you could lose everything."

Thanks to #CrookedLaneBooks for a gifted e-ARC via #NetGalley for review purposes.

Blog review posted @
JudithDCollins.com
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
Pub Date: May 16, 2023
My Rating: 3.5 Stars
May 2023 Must-Read Books

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In college, Hannah, Scarlett, and Thomas were inseparable, bonded by "The Daring Game." But after one of their dares went too far and Thomas was expelled, they went their separate ways. Fifteen years later, Hannah is a mother of two, unhappy in her marriage and her life, and drowning her sorrows with wine as she cyber stalks Scarlett's globetrotting adventures on social media. But then Thomas reappears suddenly, drawing her back into The Daring Game and into his orbit, which she never could resist. As Hannah and Thomas grows closer, they don't know that someone is watching them, just waiting to unleash a dare of their own.

Don't You Dare is a book that suffers from a bit of an identity crisis; it's part domestic drama, part psychological-thriller-with-damaged-alcoholic-heroine, and part erotica, and I'm not sure how well all those pieces fit together. The pacing is a bit off, with a "now" and "then" structure that takes a long time to get where it's going, and the ending feels incredibly rushed and leaves some things unresolved.

The characters lack nuance, with some of them (specifically Hannah's husband, Evan) coming across as almost cartoonish in their portrayals. The sex scenes are well written and appropriately steamy -- but there are too many of them for a thriller, and they mostly just end up detracting from the plot. I wish Jessica Hamilton had delved more deeply into Hannah and Scarlett's relationship, rather than spending so much time writing about Thomas delving deeply into...well, you know. Scarlett was by far the most interesting character to me, and I wanted to understand her motivations more. Hannah herself is a frustrating protagonist because she is self-destructive and indecisive, and being in her head was kind of exhausting.

All that said, though, I did find it difficult to put this book down; I was eager to know how everything played out, as improbable as it all was. Thank you to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for the early reading opportunity.

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Holy cow! I just finished this book and wow, what an engaging read. What started as a psychological thriller in some ways morphed into a romantic horror. Hannah has her past from college resurface and with that comes the Daring Game. Playing the game again with her old beau. What starts as a nod to their college days and a means to reignite the flames quickly starts a dangerous motion of events, putting Hannah’s family, marriage and mental health at stake when a new player enters the game. As the plot started to come together towards its climax there were several twists that left you guessing who Hannah could trust. For anyone who enjoys a good thriller with a side of romance then pick this up!

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Jessica Hamilton's Don't You Dare takes the childhood game that nearly everyone has played to a whole new level, with adult-sized consequences. The dual timelines of Hannah and Thomas' relationship works perfectly to build the story of not only tragic events of the past, but how they're also affecting their current lives. At times I thought "the lurker" was almost every character in the book, which is the sign of a truly great thriller, when you even start to doubt the things you think you know. Thanks so much for the opportunity to review!

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