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New Release Review: SECRETS OF HALLSTEAD HOUSE by Amy M. Reade

A new romantic suspense, set in the picturesque Thousand Island region of New York state!

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Title: Secrets of Hallstead House
Author: Amy M. Reade
Publisher: Kensington Publishing Corp.
Pages: 255
Genre:Romantic Suspense
Format: Kindle

Purchase at AMAZON

“You are not wanted here. Go away from Hallstead Island or you will be very sorry you stayed.”

Macy Stoddard, a nurse from Manhattan, comes to Hallstead Island in the North Country of New York to escape a haunting pain.  It is here that Macy discovers secrets that were not meant to be shared – secrets that reach back into Macy’s past and that will change her future and the futures of the people on Hallstead Island.  There are those, however, who will stop at nothing to keep the secrets that are hidden there.



My favorite part of this book by far is the setting. The Thousand Islands region of New York (or, to be more accurate, 1,800-some islands, as one of the character points out) is an absolutely gorgeous area. The islands, the vacation (and otherwise) homes, and the river all offer so much fodder for stories. So–a romantic suspense set in one of them? Complete with an isolated island, a big and somewhat creepy house, loyal but hostile-toward-outsiders employees, guests with questionable motivations, and an elderly employer with secrets of her own? All the better, right?

(Oh, and a visit to my favorite tourist destination in the area thrown in for good measure–Boldt Castle.

(Click to get a virtual tour! It's not quite as awesome as the one Macy gets, but it'll have to do...)
(Click to get a virtual tour! It’s not quite as awesome as the one Macy gets, but it’ll have to do…)

Could this get any more ideal, I ask you?)

Yes, the potential is here, but overall it was somewhat lacking in execution. The romance was sweet but pretty light, without a lot of buildup or even warning that it was coming. The suspense too wasn’t as developed as it could have been–many of the scenes seemed to be included for the sole purpose of increasing the creepy factor instead of advancing the overall suspense plot. Some of the actions and motivations of the characters didn’t quite make sense–one character was downright threatening for 95% of the book, just to do a complete turnaround at the end. The justification for the earlier ‘tude felt like it should be coming from a much younger person instead of a grown adult.

Still, there’s definite potential here, and it’s a decent first effort. If you’re looking for a fairly easy read with a touch of suspense in a fantastic setting, give it a try…

Rating: 3 stars / C+

I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.


Book Excerpt:

My journey was almost over.

It was raining, and I looked out through the drizzle across the blue-gray water of the Saint Lawrence River. Only a few boats were out on such a raw and rainy day. From the bench where I sat on the Cape Cartier public dock, I could see several islands. Each was covered with trees—dark green pine trees and leafy maples, oaks, birches, and weeping willows. In the chilly late September air, the leaves were already tinged with the colors of fall: yellows, reds, oranges, browns. I could glimpse homes on the islands, but I didn’t see any people. It was beautiful here—so different from the city I had just left behind.

Even though twenty years have come and gone since that day, I can still remember the calm that settled around me as I waited for my ride to Hallstead House in the middle of the Thousand Islands. My nerves were still ragged, but the river had an immediate and peaceful effect on me. I was only twenty then, but I had been through so much. Though I had been traveling for just a few hours, my journey to this place had begun six long weeks earlier.

As I listened to the raindrops plunk into the river, the sound of the motor from an approaching boat cut into my reverie. It was an older boat of gleaming mahogany with a large white awning covering most of it, protecting the cabin and the pilot from the rain. It puttered up to the dock slowly and in a few moments had pulled alongside, close to where I sat. The pilot moved to the stern and climbed out quickly, securing the boat to the dock with a thick rope. He turned to me with a questioning look and said, “Macy Stoddard?”


He shook my hand curtly. “I’m Pete McHale. I work for Alexandria Hallstead. She sent me here to pick you up. That all the luggage you brought?”

“Yes, that’s it.”

He shot me a disapproving look and said, “I hope you brought some warm stuff to wear. It starts getting cold up here pretty early in the fall. It’s colder here than it is in the big city, you know.” He smirked.

Determined to stay positive, I ignored his look of reproach and replied that I had plenty of warm clothes. Once he’d stowed my two large suitcases in the boat under the awning, he helped me on board, where I chose a seat in the front so I could see where we were going and stay dry. I had been in a boat once as a child when a furious storm blew up, and I had hated boats ever since. Still, though I was unhappy and nervous to be riding in one, there was absolutely no other way to get to my island destination. Pete untied the boat and we slowly pulled away from the dock. As he scanned the river and began turning the boat to the north, I glanced at his profile. He looked like he was in his mid-thirties—medium height, with light-brown, windblown hair, and green eyes with creases in the corners that made it look like he squinted a lot. He wore faded jeans and a Windbreaker.

When he had steered the boat out of the small, sheltered bay at Cape Cartier and into the more open channel, he glanced at me and said, “We’ll be at Summerplace in about ten minutes.”


“That’s the name of the house on Hallstead Island.”

“Oh. I thought it was called Hallstead House.”

“Its official name is Hallstead House. The people who live on the island just call it Summerplace.”

We sat in silence for several moments, and finally I asked, “Why is it called Summerplace?”

Pete sighed. Evidently he didn’t relish playing the role of tour guide. “It’s called Summerplace because it used to be a summer retreat for the Hallstead family. Now Miss Hallstead stays there for as much of the year as she can. In early to mid-October she moves the household over to Pine Island and spends the winter there.”

To keep my mind off my abject fear of being on the water, I turned my attention to the islands we were passing. Each one had a home on it, and all of the homes were beautiful. Some looked empty, since their occupants had probably left after the summer ended, but some still had boats tied to docks or housed in quaint boathouses. The homes themselves, most of which were huge and had large, welcoming porches, were surrounded by the ever-present trees. Several had bright awnings over the windows.

In the face of Pete’s apparent ambivalence, I had determined not to ask any more questions. But as I sat looking around me I forgot my self-imposed rule. “Are there really a thousand islands in this area?” I blurted out.

“There are actually over eighteen hundred islands in the Thousand Islands,” he replied. To my surprise, he seemed to warm to this subject and continued. “In order to be included in the count, an island has to be above water three hundred and sixty-five days a year and support at least two living trees.”

I continued to draw him out, asking, “What do you do for Mrs. Hallstead?”

His attitude changed again, becoming colder. “It’s Miss Hallstead. She never took her husband’s name.”


About the Author:Amy M. Reade 2

Amy M. Reade is a debut author of romantic suspense.  A native of upstate New York, she grew up in the Thousand Islands region and was inspired by the natural beauty of that area to write her first novel, Secrets of Hallstead HouseShe now lives in New Jersey with her husband, three children, a Bouvier des Flandres named Orly, and two rescued cats who refuse to answer to their names of Porthos and Athos.

Having practiced law in New York City, Amy soon discovered that her dream job was writing.  In addition to volunteering with school, church, and community groups, Amy is currently working on her second novel, The Ghosts of Peppernell Manor, set in the area around Charleston, South Carolina.

Though Amy lives within sight of the Atlantic Ocean, she is partial to the blue waters of the Pacific and spends as much time as possible on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is the setting of her as-yet-unwritten third novel.


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