In this game, even winning can be deadly. . .
Amy Whey has worked hard to establish her ordinary life and its simple pleasures. Her family brings her boundless joy: her devoted husband, a respected professor; her fifteen-year-old stepdaughter with whom she enjoys a close relationship; her adorable infant son. And, of course, her steadfast and supportive best friend, Charlotte, who runs the neighborhood book club with Amy’s assistance. Amy also teaches diving lessons part-time, bakes cookies for new neighbors, and thrives on the sweetness and peace that her uncomplicated life provides.
Everything begins to unravel when a temporary new neighbor, Angelica Roux, arrives unannounced for book club.
Angelica is mysterious, sultry, and magnetic. She quickly beguiles the neighborhood women with her feral charm. She keeps the wine flowing and lures them into a game of spilling secrets that they all think is just naughty, harmless fun.
But Amy knows better. Something wicked has come her way — a she-devil in a pricey red sports car who knows the terrible truth about who Amy really is, what she once did, and why she so desperately wants her secrets to remain hidden.
Roux declares that if Amy doesn’t accede to her demands, she will make Amy atone for her sins. One way or another.
To protect herself and her family — and preserve the life she’s built — Amy must beat the devil at her own clever game by matching wits with Roux in an escalating war of hidden pasts and unearthed secrets. Amy knows the consequences and is terrified because she could lose everything . . . even if she wins.
Betrayal, deception, temptation, and dark twists punctuate author Joshilyn Jackson’s tale of what happens when the transgressions of our past come back with a vengeance.
Author Joshilyn Jackson takes readers on a thrill ride full of surprising plot twists, secrets revealed at deftly-plotted moments, and a shocking conclusion that most readers will not see coming in Never Have I Ever.
Amy Whey is an empathetic protagonist. Her sweet best friend and neighbor, Charlotte, awkwardly struggles to maintain control of her marriage and the local book club she founded. To assist, Amy hosts the meeting at her home. But the meeting is crashed by Angelica Roux, an exotic beauty who quickly hijacks it, much to Charlotte’s consternation. Amy is intrigued by Roux, even as alarm bells sound in her brain. Roux is not just stylish and articulate. She drives a flashy red sports car and claims that she is renting the most run-down home in the neighborhood temporarily while she is in town on business. But Amy immediately knows that there is much more to Roux’s story, especially after she gets the book club members to play a version of “Never Have I Ever, but for grown-ups. We skip the coy denials and go right to confession. You start by telling everyone the worst thing you did today.” From there, participants are expected to reveal the worst thing they did last month, last year, and so on. But Roux’s gaze seems to bore right into Amy when she asks, “Think back. What’s the worst thing you ever did?” As Amy brings the game to its overdue conclusion, Roux tells her, “You would win. Come by my place. Soon. We have a lot to talk about.” At that moment, Amy knows she has “cracked open the past.”
Amy was involved in something horrible when she was just fifteen years old. The event changed not just her life, but the lives of her best friend, Tig, and the Shipley family. There were consequences as a result of Amy’s behavior that night, and ever since that fateful evening she has endeavored to keep her carefully restructured life on track — and her past a secret. “It was diving that saved me,” she relates in the first-person narrative through which Jackson tells Amy’s story. “It was prayer. It was a meditation. It was a stillness and a silence.” Diving enabled her to quiet her mind and function. She established herself as a local scuba diving instructor, and it was through her stepdaughter Maddie’s desire to learn to dive that Amy met her husband, Davis. Now Amy is the mother of adorable little Oliver. And she’s never before had so much to lose.
So begins a contemporary game of cat and mouse. Roux reveals that she knows a great deal about Amy’s past and plans to expose Amy’s secrets unless Amy pays her. Somehow Roux has also discovered that Amy has a trust account — funds she has earmarked for very specific purposes and plans to use only in the event that certain contingencies require her to access the money. Of course, Roux is impatient and threatens that if Amy does not transfer the money to her within a very short time frame, Roux will ensure that the life Amy loves so much is completely and irrevocably dismantled. Davis has no idea about Amy’s past, and Amy is convinced that if he learns what happened so many years ago, their marriage will be over, along with her relationship with Maddie, who has virtually no contact with her biological mother. And she could lose custody of Oliver.
In the midst of Roux’s machinations, her son, Luka, befriends Maddie and begins spending a great deal of time in Amy’s home. He is purportedly home schooled, so he does not attend classes with Maddie. He seems more sophisticated than Maddie and, despite his polite demeanor, Amy discovers some disturbing behavior that causes her to suspect that Roux’s stories about Luka and his father are not true.
Diving had taught me how to be present only in each moment. Under the waves there was never anything but breath and now.
Never Have I Ever is a tautly-crafted mystery, related through Amy’s present-day narration which is interspersed with her memories of her childhood and, in particular, the night that changed everything. The pressure on Amy to uncover exactly how much information Roux possesses and how she learned details about Amy’s past mounts as the deadline imposed by Roux looms. Amy frantically scrambles to discover Roux’s true identity and history, and figure out a way to out-smart Roux and keep her from revealing the devastating truth about Amy’s history. Along the way, Amy learns that her memory may not be entirely accurate, and assumptions she made so many years ago might have been misguided, as well.
Never Have I Ever is a fast-paced, compelling exploration of a woman who has worked very hard to be perceived by the world as ordinary when, in reality, she is anything but. And how far she will go to preserve the carefully constructed life she has built for herself, not just because her normalcy is critical to her survival, but because she has learned what it is to truly love. Amy is a fully-formed, multi-dimensional character who is capable of feeling tremendous guilt and shame, loving deeply and completely, but also diabolically meeting the threat Roux poses head-on with strength, resilience, and a surprising willingness to do whatever is necessary to save her family — and herself. Never Have I Ever is compulsively fascinating and will inspire readers to ponder the worst secret they are keeping . . . and how far they would go to keep it from being uncovered.
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