Maternal Instinct 

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Pub Date 05 Dec 2023 | Archive Date 31 Jan 2024

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Description

Think moving in with your mother-in-law is your worst nightmare? You have no idea . . . A jaw-dropping novel of domestic suspense from the author of the critically acclaimed Brigid Quinn series

"Chilling, smart . . . and what a voice" Gillian Flynn on Rage Against the Dying
"A thriller that must be read" Lisa Gardner on Rage Against the Dying

Don't let them know what you're thinking
, Althea Deming tells herself. It's your best defense. Althea didn't want her good natured but thoughtless step-son Hal and manipulative daughter-in-law Grace to move in with her, relegating her to a corner of the house that was once just hers, but she doesn't have much choice. She's been powerless since her beloved husband Robert's death. According to the will, everything that was hers now belongs to Hal - and to Grace.

Grace Deming didn't want to uproot her family to care for her difficult mother-in-law, but she's determined to make the best of it for the sake of her daughter Shyla's future. Their new home is enormous, the neighborhood prestigious. If the worst of it is that Althea dislikes her, she can cope.

After all, Althea Deming is a sweetheart. Everyone says so. Her husband. The neighbors. And soon, so does Shyla, the once vibrant and happy child now a shadow of her former self. What's wrong with Grace that she can't trust her? But all her instincts are screaming at her that Althea is dangerous, and if she doesn't fight to protect her family from her malign influence, she'll live to regret it . . .

Think moving in with your mother-in-law is your worst nightmare? You have no idea . . . A jaw-dropping novel of domestic suspense from the author of the critically acclaimed Brigid Quinn series

...


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ISBN 9781448311958
PRICE $29.99 (USD)
PAGES 288

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Featured Reviews

After an intriguing start, I’m all in with this latest from Becky Masterman. In the present day, Althea Deming clutches the urn containing the ashes of her husband Robert in one hand and her cat in the other, as she surveys the “renovations“ of her former home. This now belongs to her stepson Hal, her daughter-in-law Grace and their daughter Shyla, all of whom Althea regards as usurpers, albeit legal ones as per the terms of Robert’s will. She is now confined to a corner of the large house in a “grandmother suite“ while Hal etc occupy the rest. To say that Althea resents the changes is an understatement as she watches the three of them at dinner on the first night, not necessarily favourably. However, Hal thinks Althea is a sweetheart, but Grace is not so sure. Why are Grace’s instincts screaming that her mother in law is dangerous?? The story is told from Grace and Althea‘s perspective, so buckle up as this could be a bumpy ride.

Oh my goodness, do not let the somewhat benign start fool you. Initially, I feel all the sympathy for Althea as after all, she’s a cuckoo in her own former nest. Grace sets some rules that would definitely make me want to be naughty, and I’m no Althea. The scene is set really well, you’re jogging along at a steady pace, anticipating some sedate domestic drama. Then a few little bombs are dropped into the storyline which pulls you up sharply. However, it still doesn’t seem too out there and there is one scene where Althea has a delicious response to some tactlessness. The author does a good job at lulling you into a false sense of security.

You also realise that whilst a kind of domestic tug-of-war is going on between the two women, they are both outsiders. Althea in what was once her own home and Grace in a new area they have moved into when taking over the house. They are distantly polite and you start question who is the saint and who is the sinner here. It’s a Mexican stand-off but with handbags.

Then, it really is a brace yourself read as one character shows her true colours in one shocking scene in particular. The Mexican stand-off becomes much more the pistols at dawn variety. It’s very dark, extremely chilling, very powerful, and yes, most certainly disturbing. There’ are several scenes where you are left in no doubt who the sinner is but also what action others may be pushed to in response. The tension could be cut with a knife, although Hal seems somewhat oblivious to this, is he burying his head in the sand preferring not to get involved? He does have his own problems but really??!!

It does escalate, it becomes a little bit bonkers, but it’s bonkers in a good way, although this not necessarily the best choice of words as these characters are very far from good.

This is a tale of the unexpected, so be warned!

With thanks to NetGalley and especially to Severn House for the much appreciated arc in return for an honest review.

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A twisty domestic drama that sees two women circling one another in a house where the power dynamic has dramatically changed. Althea was shocked that her husband left their home to his son and that she's now been pushed in the corner, Grace, her daughter in law, finds Althea as grating as Althea finds her and they both have their day in this novel of escalating behavior which, unfortunately, impacts young Shyla. Mastermind is a good storyteller and this pops along. Thanks to Netgalley for the ARC. You might guess how this is going to go but it's all about the journey.

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A person’s character is shown through their actions, not where they sit on a Sunday. We are about to find out how very true this is!

Hal Deming, his wife Grace and their daughter Shyla have inherited Hal’s father Robert’s, not unsubstantial house, in a prestigious neighbourhood, but it comes with its own set of problems. Firstly it’s hours away from where they currently live, so it will mean moving, with Hal giving up a job that he loves, Grace having to leave all her friends and support behind, whilst Shyla will have to start a new school - basically they’ll all have to start a new life when they’re perfectly happy with the one they have.

So why don’t they just sell the house and stay where they are you ask? Well here’s the catch - Hal’s father stipulated in his will, that Hal’s stepmother Althea be allowed to stay in the house, and not only that, but Hal and Grace would have to move in and look after all her needs. Althea still manages to get to the shops, and attends mass at the Catholic Church every week, but she’s not quite as able as she was, and Robert wanted to ensure she was cared for in the coming years.

Everyone seems to like Althea, including Hal, but Grace has never liked her and thinks there’s something very dark beneath that sickly sweet exterior. Grace is right, because Althea may attend mass every week, but behind that veil there is a monster at work.

One can feel sympathy for both parties initially - Althea is no longer mistress of all she surveys, whilst Grace is having to live with someone she’s never liked. Grace tries her best to smooth the transition for both of them, but Althea is never going to let that happen. Welcome to all out war with the Deming’s!

A good domestic thriller featuring the mother- in-law from hell, who resents the changing power dynamics in a house that was once entirely hers and her husband’s.

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Oh, the tangled webs that families weave!
Althea Deming has buried her husband, Robert. His will left their house to his son Hal with the provision that he and his wife Grace will move in and take care of Althea. But when Althea sees all the changes they made to her house and that they are now sleeping in her old bedroom, well, it’s just too much. Sure, they made her a new, lovely suite,but everything they say or do makes Althea see red. She doesn’t blame her stepson, oh, not at all. Obviously, this debacle is all Grace’s fault. I had no doubt after reading the first chapter that this was not going to be a family with a happily ever after ending.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say that Althea on the outside seems perfectly pleasant and it’s hard to see why Grace distrusts her. However, Althea’s internal dialogue is, shall we say disturbing. It doesn’t take long for traumatic events to surround and threaten to destroy this family.
Buckle up because it’s going to be a heck of a ride. I may not have been a huge fan of how this ended(though to be fair, it seems like I don’t really enjoy how many books end), but I really enjoyed the Cray Cray journey.

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I guess I'm one of the lucky ones. My mother-in-law and I got along very well. But I never moved into what she considered her home and started changing everything. And she certainly never stirred up as much trouble as Althea does for Grace. In this fictional story of a blended family thrown into guaranteed turmoil by the death of Althea's husband, who leaves their home to his son and daughter-in-law, each day brings new surprises. Neither Grace nor Althea are happy at this situation, but Althea is determined to insure Grace knows who is Queen of this roost. As they carefully manuever around each other, the tension builds and.......well, you really are going to have to read the book. It's very good.

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This was a crazy ride- in a good way. While Momya is clearly evil, no one else is a real peach either. I was waiting to watch it all burn down but then the crazy ramped up and we got the perfect ending! Definitely recommended.

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I hope everyone;s belly is full of turkey and love from being surrounded by family.

I personally, can only stomach "guests" for a certain period of time, then I need to go hide with my books in the closest bathroom.

Maternal Instinct

This book has been on my radar for quite some time and boy oh boy my only regret is waiting so long to pick it up. What the heck was I thinking?

Becky Masterman, is quite literally, a mastermind.

Masterman, has taken the book world by storm and I am so here for it.

Check out this teaser :

Don't let them know what you're thinking, Althea Deming tells herself. It's your best defense. Althea didn't want her good natured but thoughtless step-son Hal and manipulative daughter-in-law Grace to move in with her, relegating her to a corner of the house that was once just hers, but she doesn't have much choice. She's been powerless since her beloved husband Robert's death. According to the will, everything that was hers now belongs to Hal - and to Grace.

Grace Deming didn't want to uproot her family to care for her difficult mother-in-law, but she's determined to make the best of it for the sake of her daughter Shyla's future. Their new home is enormous, the neighborhood prestigious. If the worst of it is that Althea dislikes her, she can cope.

After all, Althea Deming is a sweetheart. Everyone says so. Her husband. The neighbors. And soon, so does Shyla, the once vibrant and happy child now a shadow of her former self. What's wrong with Grace that she can't trust her? But all her instincts are screaming at her that Althea is dangerous, and if she doesn't fight to protect her family from her malign influence, she'll live to regret it . . .

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MATERNAL INSTINCT
BY: BECKY MASTERMAN

Spoiler Alert!

About 4.5 Stars!

Don't Let Althea fool you. Her motto is don't let anyone know what you're really thinking because that's her best defense. She comes across as a nice 70 year old step- grandmother to Shyla. Hal's step-mother. Grace's Step-mother-in-law. Althea has been living in an assisted living place after her husband Robert died. Robert left their grand home in Florida in a prestigious neighborhood to his son Hal. Him and his wife Grace and their only daughter Shyla have left behind their friends and Grace's mother to renovate Althea's and Robert's home.

They have remodeled and made renovations to completely change this two story home most likely to Grace's taste. They have included a suite for Althea to live in a corner of her former home. As Althea walks in inspecting the new furniture and with everything redecorated she lets the reader know that she doesn't like the changes one bit. She blames her step-daughter-in-law Grace for replacing most of her furniture and the pieces that are kept are not the way Althea likes them. In her mind she silently scoffs inside to herself that everything is in bad taste and not to her liking.

In the beginning of this crackling whip smart novel Althea is carrying an urn of her deceased husband Robert's cremated ashes and her cat named Ruth as she walks through the door of her house. She is thinking to herself that all of the new decorative features are beneath her good taste from when this used to be her home. She doesn't approve of any of the new changes that have been made while she inspects everything on the walk through on her way to her new bedroom. She has now been relegated to a fraction of space on the first floor where she will reside. She is thinking of how terrible everything looks now in this new version of what used to be her domain only. Althea is thinking to herself how wrong every new decorative feature is. From the new paint on the walls, to the replaced ornaments on the Christmas tree to the flooring that she views is just wrong.

Althea was Robert's second wife and he has left the house to his son Hal with the stipulation that Althea be given a place to stay on in the house. Hal is a baker and he doesn't think that there is anything wrong with the way Althea acts. She treats Hal a lot nicer than his wife Grace who Althea blames for all of the rules that have been put in place. Hal is very passive and Grace has made it a rule that Althea isn't allowed to go upstairs on the second floor of the house where they have Althea's old master bedroom.

At first I felt sorry for Althea because of her losing her autonomy of keeping her home the way she had formerly lived. She raised Robert's children from young teenagers in that house and I thought that the house should have gone to her instead of Hal and his family. Althea had converted to the Catholic religion when she married Robert and she attends church regularly and says her prayers regularly to her rosary beads. She is friendly with the priest and bakes brownies for her neighbors who all love her.

Grace who is close to her mother Fiona who she often faces time regularly on her cell phone is the only one that seems to see through Althea's facade. She confides to her mother often how things are not going well and they joke about Althea. Then I found myself not liking Althea or her step-daughter-in-law Grace or Grace's mother Fiona. The restaurant where Hal worked closed so now he is without a job and seems checked out of life because he is depressed. Grace who cleans vacation properties on the beach is the only one with an income and tries to urge Hal into opening his own business as a bakery. She is worried about the money running out of their savings as she is the only one working.

Before Hal lost his job and while everybody wasn't home Althea ignored Grace's rule of going upstairs. Althea again is unhappy with what she sees and while she snoops in the master bedroom's bathroom cabinet noticing that the expensive perfume that she gave Grace is unopened. Not only that Althea sees her gift and is unhappy that it sits behind what Althea calls Grace's perfume "toilet water." So she takes Grace's perfume everyday outside and spritzes the atomizer in the back yard. That way nobody will be the wiser by being able to smell that she is slowly draining Grace's cheaper perfume everyday. Why didn't she just ask her daughter-in-law if she liked her gift?

Shyla has a tortoise that's cage sits on top of a piece of Althea's furniture. She has watched Shyla feed it a strawberry often and Althea coaxes it out of its cage with a strawberry while nobody is home. She lets the tortoise loose and it grabs onto Althea's cat Ruth's ear and chews a piece off. Althea gets revenge on Shyla's pet tortoise by coaxing it out of its cage with another strawberry and cuts the tortoise's head off with a knife. She returns it to its hut inside the cage hiding what she has done. When Shyla who isn't making friends easily discovers what has happened to her pet tortoise she is devastated, but nobody knows that Althea did what she did.

Christmas comes and Grace skimps on gifts trying to stretch out their money. Althea is always thinking that her clothing is superior and her taste in gifts also she feels are of a higher quality. Fiona Grace's mother arrives with glossy Christmas wrapping with perfect ribbons and bows on her abundance of gifts. With morale being low Fiona urges Grace and Hal to take a little getaway away from home promising to watch Shyla. Grace is lulled into a false sense of safety, thinking with her mother staying at the home keeping an eye on things Grace agrees to go away with Hal. Grateful for some time away together Grace thinks it will be good for both her and Hal. She thinks it might help Hal to take the initiative to either open his own bakery or find another job.

Althea has right from the start known that Fiona and her daughter Grace talk about Althea on their phone calls because she has been eavesdropping. Althea is jealous of Fiona because she has swooped into their lives on a Christmas visit and promised to take Shyla out to buy her a new tortoise. Althea also overheard Hal saying to Fiona how he considers her a mom. Althea overhears another phone call between Grace and her mother making fun of Althea.

Things take a turn from the worse to a horrifying new level while Hal and Grace are gone. To say that Althea is a nightmare is putting it mildly. I've never come across a mother-in-law that seems to fool everyone in the community how wonderful she is when she is anything but innocent. She's either evil or insane. She talks to Robert and he responds by talking to Althea in her bedroom suite. Grace's and Shyla's life is irrevocably turned into a nightmare all because of Althea's jealousy. Hal is the only one besides Shyla and the community to think that Althea is harmless. What she has already done and what she did while Grace and Hal were away, left me wondering how can this religious 70 year old woman like Althea grow increasingly more dangerous? While she gets away with shattering both Grace and Shyla's life to the point of no return from trauma again.

Grace grows suspicious but can't talk to her passive husband about what she suspects because he thinks Althea is wonderful. She left all of her friends and her mother to move into a nicer home but is it worth it when you're afraid for your daughter's safety? Grace thinks that she'll sound like the crazy person because Althea has everybody fooled. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this wickedly clever suspense driven domestic family thriller. Even while reading it the only person I liked was the friendless adolescent daughter Shyla. Things continue to spiral and I was feeling like the person driving by the scene of an accident not wanting to witness it, but finding myself unable to look away. I'm so happy that I took a chance on this *Read Now* on Net Galley. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my Good Reads friend Maureen E. for her terrific review leading me to discover this. I really enjoyed this even though I feel guilty admitting it. There is quite a bit to discover that I've purposely left out so as not to give away spoiler territory. Let's just say that being held captive while reading this in one sitting was a guilty pleasure. Trigger warnings are cruelty to animals, murder, elder abuse, and kidnapping. I still would highly recommend this if you can read it without getting triggered.

Publication Date: December 5th, 2023

Thank you to Net Galley, Becky Masterman and Severn House for generously granting me my eARC in exchange for a fair and honest review. All opinions are my own.

#MaternalInstinct #BeckyMasterman #SevernHouse #NetGalley

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This is a novel told from the dual perspectives of Althea and Grace - two women suddenly placed in uncomfortably close proximity to each other, with neither of them happy at the prospect.

Upon her husband Robert's death, his widow Althea's life is turned upside-down as she discovers that living with the arrangement whereby Robert has left his home to his son and daughter-in-law is far from easy.

Hal is Althea's easygoing stepson and is reasonably fond of her, but his wife Grace is an entirely different matter. She is intuitively suspicious of her mother-in-law. As it turns out, with good reason.

One condition of Robert's bequest is that his son's family move in and help to look after Althea, as she is getting on in years. But the latter sees them as usurpers, and comesincreasingly resents their presence in the home that was once hers and Robert's.

Meanwhile, as the stakes get higher in the simmering conflict between Grace and Althea, the fallout will include the effects on Hal's young daughter, Shyla, who is transformed from an outgoing young girl into a shadow of her former vivacious self. But why...?

While this story is in a way predictable, given the likely outcome, the journey that unfolds is interesting enough. Brace yourself for a real monster-in-law tale from a writer that embraces the darker side of human nature.

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This was great! It's unique and I enjoyed the writing style. Overall, this was fun entertaining book I would recommend. Special Thank You to Becky Masterman, Severn House and NetGalley for allowing me to read a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

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I have enjoyed other books by Becky Mastermind, but this one is very different. If you have a good relationship with your mother-in-law/daughter-in-law be grateful as you read this book. Grace, the daughter-in-law is not happy because when her father-in-law died he left the family home to his son and wife together, and Grace is not happy in her new neighborhood. Althea, the mother-in-law feels uprooted from her house. Grace makes an effort, but Althea is determined to not be happy. The son stays out of the whole thing. My personal sympathies were with Grace, but I will leave your decisions up to you. Thanks to NetGalley for an arc, and for not influencing my review.

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This book has one of the most narcissistic, annoying, evil villains I have ever seen. Grace, the main character, definitely had all my sympathy in trying to deal with her. My mouth actually dropped open a couple times while reading this - there were some unexpected shocks for sure. Overall, this was a really enjoyable read and very engrossing p.

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Dark Domestic Suspense..
A battle of wills and way, way more in this dark and disturbing domestic suspense. Since the death of her husband Althea has been feeling powerless, never more so than now following her relegation to a small corner of her beloved home by her step son and daughter in law. As familial tensions rise, the warfare begins. A tension filled ride through a terror of domesticity gone wrong with a deftly drawn and keenly observed cast of characters and a propulsive plot laced with a sense of impending dread.

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