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Monday, October 25, 2021

Beneath The Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson (VBT: Book Review / Contest Giveaway)

In association with Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours, Jersey Girl Book Reviews is pleased to host the virtual book tour event for Beneath The Marigolds by author Emily C. Whitson!

Book Review

Beneath The Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson
Publisher: CamCat Books
Publication Date: September 21, 2021
Format: Hardcover - 320 pages
               Paperback - 448 pages
               Audiobook - 8 Hours 31 Minutes
               Kindle - 1665 KB / 303 pages
               Nook - 1 MB / 320 pages
ISBN (HC): 978-0744304206
ISBN (PB): 978-0744304220
ASIN (Audiobook): B09FRGYDV3
ASIN (Kindle): B093X4NL6D
BNID: 978-0744304237
Genre: Thriller 

Buy The Book:

Disclaimer: I received a copy of the book from the author / publisher in exchnage for my honest review and participation in a virtual book tour event hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours.

Book Description:

Playing on our universal fascination with reality TV, Emily C. Whitson’s Beneath the Marigolds is The Bachelor(ette) gone terribly wrong.

When her best friend, Reese Marigold, goes missing after attending Last Chance, an exclusive singles’ retreat on a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, no-nonsense lawyer Ann Stone infiltrates the retreat.

Ann quickly realizes there’s more to Last Chance than meets the eye. The extravagant clothes, never-ending interviews, and bizarre dates hint that the retreat is a front for a reality dating show. Could Reese be safe, keeping a low profile until the premier, or did something sinister occur after all?

Torn between the need to uncover the truth and her desperate desire to get off the island, Ann partakes in the unusual routines of the “journey to true love” and investigates the other attendees who all have something to hide. In a final attempt to find Reese on the compound, she realizes that she herself may never get off the island alive.

Praise For Beneath The Marigolds:

“Cleverly plotted…Whitson’s debut novel is an intriguing new entry in the women’s suspense genre, driven by dual first-person narrators and tension-filled parallel timelines.”— Carmen Amato, Silver Falchion Award Finalist and author of The Detective Emilia Cruz Mystery Series

“Exhilarating twists and turns…a fast-paced psychological thriller that mashes up the reality series The Bachelor with Gone Girl.” — Helen Power, author of The Ghosts of Thorwald Place

“A fun, propulsive read…this book cleverly combines the archetypes of “reality TV” and the “trapped-on-a-remote-island” mystery that will perpetually keep you guessing.” — Marcy McCreary, author of The Disappearance of Trudy Solomon

Book Excerpt:


I knew too much. On that island, on that godforsaken singles’ retreat. I knew too much.

I ruminated on that thought, chewing it carefully, repeatedly, while Magda, the makeup artist, transformed me into a life-size nightmarish porcelain doll. Ghastly white face, penciled-in eyebrows, blood-red lips. I’d look beautiful from a distance, she had told me, leaving the other part of the sentence unspoken: up close, it’s frightening. She tsked as she dabbed my damp forehead for the fourth time, her Russian accent thickening with frustration.

“Vhy you sveating so much?”

I worried my voice would come out haggard, so I shrugged, a little too forcefully. Magda shook her head, her pink bob sashaying in the grand all-white bathroom as she muttered something foreign under her breath. My gaze danced across the various makeup brushes on the

vanity until it landed on one in particular. I shifted my weight in the silk- cushioned chair, toyed with my watch.

“Magda, what do you want out of this retreat?” No response.

Did she not hear me, or did she choose not to respond? In the silence, I was able to hear Christina’s high-heeled feet outside the bathroom.

Click, clack. Click, click.

When I first met the host of the singles’ retreat, I was in awe of her presence, her unflappable poise. Shoulders back, she walked with a purpose, one foot in front of another, and though she was a couple inches shorter than I was, she seemed larger than life. Her icy eyes, colored only the faintest shade of blue, seemed to hold the secrets of the world—secrets she intended to keep. But I had stumbled upon them just a few short hours before, and I was now afraid her gait represented something more sinister: the march of an executioner.

Click, clack. Click, clack.

Her stride matched the even tick of my watch, and a drop of sweat trickled down my back. Was I being ridiculous? Surely Christina wouldn’t hurt me. She had been reasonable with me earlier, hadn’t she? “One meenute,” Magda shouted at the retreat’s host. She doused

my fire-red curls in hairspray one last time before asking me if I was ready to go.

“I just need to use the bathroom.” I wheezed through shallow breaths. “I’ll be right out.”

Magda exaggerated her sigh before shuffling out of the white-marble immurement, closing the doors behind her with a huff. My last remnants of safety and rational thinking left with her.

I shoved the vanity chair underneath the door handle. I grabbed the makeup brush with the flattest head and hurried to the bathroom. I gingerly closed the lid of the toilet and slipped off my heels before tip-

toeing on top so I could face the window. After removing the beading, I inserted the head of the makeup brush between the frame and glass. The brush’s handle cracked under the pressure, but it was enough to lever the glass out of its mounting. I placed the glass on the floor as gently as I’ve ever handled any object, trying not to make even the slightest sound, before hoisting myself up and through the window. I jumped into the black night, only partially illuminated by the full moon and the artificial lights of the mansion. I allowed my eyes to adjust.

And then I ran.

The loose branches of the island forest whipped at my cheeks, my limbs, my mouth. The soles of my feet split open from fallen twigs and other debris, but the adrenaline kept the pain at bay. I tripped over something unseen, and my hands broke my fall. Just a few cuts, and a little blood. I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it.

I jumped up, forcing myself to keep moving. The near darkness was blinding, so I held my bloody hands up, trying to block my face. The farther I ran, the more similar the trunks of the trees became. How long had I been running? I gauged about a mile. I slowed down to gather my bearings. Behind me, the lights of the mansion brightened the sky, but they were only the size of my palm from that distance.

I heard the hum of a moving car come and go. I must have been near the road. I was about to start moving again when I heard the snap of twigs. Footsteps. I stopped breathing. I swiveled to my left and right, but nothing. I exhaled. It was just my imagination. I continued away from the lights. Away from the retreat.

And then someone stepped toward me: Christina. Her face was partially obscured by darkness, but her pale eyes stood out like fireflies. “It doesn’t have to be like this,” she said. Her expression remained

a mystery in the darkness.

I turned around, but one of her handlers was blocking that path.

Christina took another step forward, and I jerked away, tripping over the gnarled roots of the forest in the process. My head broke the fall this time, and my ears rang from the pain.

Her handler reached for my left hand, and for a moment, I thought he was going to help me stand. Instead, he twisted my ring finger into an unnatural position. As my bone cracked, my screams reverberated through the woods.

It was showtime.


Excerpt from Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson. Copyright 2021 by Emily C. Whitson. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.

Book Trailer:

My Book Review:

In her debut novel, Beneath The Marigolds, author Emily C. Whitson transports the reader to Phaux Island, a remote island off the coast of Hawaii, for an intriguing thriller that will keep the reader guessing and turning the pages.

The story centers around Reese Marigold, who disappeared after spending a month at Last Chance Retreat, an exclusive singles retreat on Phaux Island, off the coast of Hawaii. When Reese had been missing for thirty-one days, her friend Ann Stone, a corporate attorney, knows something terrible has happened to her friend, and she is determined to go to the island and find out what happened to Reese. After checking into Last Chance, Ann soon discovers that the resort is more than what it claims to be, it has the feel of a reality dating show like the Bachelor / Bachelorette. Can Ann keep a low profile and go along with the retreat's program while searching for the truth of what happened to Reese, or is there something more sinister happening on the island that could put her in danger as well? 

In her debut novel, author Emily C. Whitson weaves a slow-building and suspenseful tale written in alternating first person narratives that follows both Reese's and Ann's stay at the retreat. Reese's storyline follows her stay on the island leading up to her disappearance. Ann's storyline follows her investigation into Reese's disappearance, as well as discovering that the strange retreat program has taken on an appearance of a reality dating show. As the reader follows both Reese and Ann's time on the remote island, incidents at the retreat and the flashbacks to Ann's past reveals an interconnection that has a lot of drama, tension, and a threat of danger around every corner, and where everyone is considered a suspect. 

The reader is easily drawn into this well written story with its richly descriptive plot and setting. It is filled with enough family drama and secrets, motives, possible suspects, action, a touch of unexpected romance ala reality dating show style, and intriguing twists and turns that definitely keeps the reader guessing until the surprising conclusion.

This was a really interesting story to read! The author does a wonderful job of providing enough clues to engage the reader, and I found myself so caught up on trying to figure out who is behind Reese's disappearance, and why there was so much drama and intrigue surrounding the retreat's program. I loved how Ann used her expertise as an attorney to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. I was absolutely stunned by the conclusion, I never saw it coming! I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I also loved reading about Reese and Ann's backstories, both are broken people who had to overcome their traumatic pasts in order to move forward with their lives. 

Beneath The Marigolds will definitely take the readers on one heck of a thrilling roller coaster ride.


About The Author

Emily Whitson received a B.A. in journalism from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as a marketing copywriter for six years before pursuing a career in fiction and education. She is currently getting her M.Ed. at Vanderbilt University, where she writes between classes. She is particularly passionate about women’s education and female stories. This interest stems from her time at Harpeth Hall, an all-girls college preparatory school in Nashville, Tennessee. When she isn’t volunteering, writing, or in the classroom, Emily can usually be found with her dog, Hoss, in one of Nashville’s various parks. Beneath the Marigolds is her debut novel.

Contest Giveaway

 Win A Print Copy of Beneath The Marigolds

This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Emily C. Whitson & CatCam Books. There will be 1 winner of one (1) print edition of Beneath the Marigolds by Emily C. Whitson (US, Canada, and UK Only). The giveaway runs October 1 through November 2, 2021. Void where prohibited. 

Virtual Book Tour 

Tour Participants:

10/02 Review @ Pat Fayo Reviews

10/05 Review @ From the TBR Pile

10/07 Interview/showcase @ The Reading Frenzy

10/08 Interview @ Author Elena Taylors Blog

10/09 Showcase @ Silvers Reviews

10/11 Showcase @ Celticladys Reviews

10/13 Guest post @ Novels Alive

10/14 Guest post @ The Book Divas Reads

10/15 Review @ I Read What You Write

10/16 Review @ Savings in seconds

10/17 Review @ Blogging With A

10/18 Review @ Novels Alive

10/20 Review @ Buried Under Books

10/21 Showcase @ The Bookwyrm

10/22 Guest post @ Nesies Place

10/23 Review @ Booking With Janelle

10/24 Review @ Book Reviews From an Avid Reader

10/25 Reviews @ Jersey Girl Book Reviews

10/26 Guest post @ Quiet Fury Books

10/27 Review @ Curlygrannylovestoread

10/27 Showcase @ CMash Reads

10/28 Review @ Lynchburg Reads

10/28 Review @ One More Book To Read

10/29 Review @ Nat Reads

10/29 Review @ The World As I See It

10/30 Review @ Books with Bircky

10/31 Review @ Books Blog

10/31 Review @ Margaret Yelton

10/31 Showcase @ Brooke Blogs

11/22 Podcast @ Blogtalk Radio

11/22 Review @ Just Reviews


  1. Thanks for the great review! I haven't had a chance to read this one yet but it is on my wish list1