e. denise billups

Book Review: By Chance by E. Denise Billups

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By ChanceBy Chance by E. Denise Billups
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By Chance, written by E. Denise Billups, focuses on three women who have a shared, unknown connection in the beginning of this supernatural story. Although they start out as colleagues working on a TV home remodeling show that gives a house away each year to one lucky entrant, they become friends over time and support one another through multiple difficult, personal situations. They also have varying degrees of paranormal abilities, enabling them to predict what might happen and to recall memories from long ago. When they each receive a peculiar gift one holiday morning, they turn to each other to protect themselves from a harmful entity seeking vengeance.

Enter Tom and his family. He appears to be a man suffering from something awful that occurred in the past. He previously won the home giveaway contest, but after time, things went awry. We never quite know what happened, but he wants to punish the show for its lies and the unfairness it’s caused in his life. He makes a difficult decision to leave his family in order to travel around the country to get revenge against the show, stalking and hunting down the three women (and a few others) who were part of his downfall.

Told from different perspectives, we learn the history leading up to Tom’s anger through the eyes of different situations and characters. At the same time, we watch the women try to discover who is out to get them, as Tom’s notes and presents are purposefully confusing. The women are also unable to clearly see Tom’s identity, and nothing indicates he is past winner, at least in the beginning. As the events unfold, and Tom unravels, he makes mistakes which lead to someone figuring out his identity. But then, they can’t actually find him. They just foresee the final encounter, which doesn’t bode well for their futures. What can the trio do to stop him?

While the supernatural abilities are important to the story, they aren’t what made this such a great read for me. Billups created memorable characters with painful history and wonderful, outgoing personalities. I believed the kindred spirit and friendship among the three primary women, and they kept my attention throughout the tale. The concept of the story was intriguing–a home giveaway contest gone wrong. Or did it? There is a heightened psychological aspect to this story because at times, we are unsure who might be involved in the entire situation. It creates good suspense and makes for a very easy read.

This isn’t a whodunit tale, nor is it focused on what actually went wrong with the house that was given away. It’s more a story of perspective and overcoming challenges. The main plot takes place over about a year, and the subplots are plenty–we see all the new relationships and events in the women’s lives while the stalking continues to occur. Sometimes it’s the things you don’t know that will haunt you in the end.

Tom suffers through a lot, but we won’t find out all the details until much further in the book than you’d expect. I turned the pages quickly on a flight halfway across the country, and before long, it’d ended. Pacing and timing were strong, and I found myself invested in the outcome. The ending was a nice surprise, and I realized how much I enjoy Billups’ writing style. A definite recommend from me for fans of something that blends a few genres and turns out a solid story.

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About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My stand-alone novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. My new book series, Braxton Campus Mysteries, will fit those who love cozy mysteries and crime investigations but with a twist. There are four books: Academic CurveballBroken Heart Attack, Flower Power Trip, and Mistaken Identity Crisis. I read, write, and blog A LOT on this site where you can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

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Blog Tour: Kalorama Road by E. Denise Billups

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I’m very excited to be the first post on a two-week blog tour managed by Jina S. Bazzar for the amazing Kalorama Road by E. Denise Billups. I read the book last month and thought it was a phenomenal story. You must check out my 5-STAR review after reading through today’s post. We’ve got all the links below to get to know the author and the book as well as a special Q&A section where I was lucky enough to ask Billups twelve (12) fun and frisky questions. If you’re a fan of thrillers, mysteries, suspense, and romance fiction, this is definitely one you can’t afford to miss! Let’s learn a little more about this novel… and then click on the YouTube link to watch the awesome trailer, but be ready to bite your nails or grab something to hold while your mind begins to worry what’s going on!

Book Blurb

There something Allie can’t remember, hidden memories bordering consciousness that refuse to surface until one day someone, something, ignites horrifying images of a forgotten night.

A year after graduating from Emsworth University, a mysterious email appears asking Allie one single question. What happened at 1414 Kalorama Road? Allie has no memory of that night and has tried to recapture what happened when a classmate went missing at an off-campus party. Someone wants her to remember, and they’re getting closer and more insistent. Forgotten memories gradually start to surface with gruesome images and a revelation that could ruin the reputation of her esteemed alma mater, Emsworth University.

Book 7 Kalorama Road

Book Excerpt

It’s coming. I know it is. Restless and awaiting the hour, I watch seconds tick . . . Fifty-seven . . . Fifty-eight . . . Fifty-nine . . . Midnight, my cell phone chimes. It’s here, an anonymous email that comes every month for two years posing an unanswerable question. The torture of not knowing, an insistent reminder from an anonymous sender who won’t let me forget one memory-less night is unbearable.

A night I wish never happened haunts dreamlike, vaporous, appearing and receding with crushing anxiety, preventing me from seeing clearly. I should have listened to my instincts and never gone to that off-campus party. But as Grandma Blu always said, what’s done is done.

Moments before a lousy decision always remain vivid, leaving me pondering “what ifs” and wishing time could rewind. I revisit indecisive minutes pacing my dormitory’s vestibule, debating staying or going to the off-campus party. The latter choice taken, I bolted from the dorm into the chilly autumn night toward a waiting car. Approaching the Jaguar’s tinted windows, Grandma Blu’s warning, “Never get into stranger’s cars,” roared loud.

But the person behind the wheel isn’t a total stranger, although we’d never spoken before she invited me to the party. For an entire semester, we sat two rows apart and barely acknowledged each other’s existence until she appeared one day after class. Lively and wielding a smile, she approached with inquisitive eyes, staring me up and down like a tailor. Quickly sizing me up, she invited me to a party, but her odd approach left me more than hesitant. Why after three months the sudden interest? She introduced herself as Belle, a sweet and innocent name unbefitting someone so brazen. But she was beguiling, upbeat, and fun and I couldn’t resist and accepted her invitation. In retrospect, I should have said no. But you didn’t, Allie.

Nearing the car, Grandma Blu’s warning grew stronger. “Never get into a stranger’s car unless you’re one-hundred percent sure.” I lacked one percent assurance of the blond from Literature 301.

Cautiously, I approached the Jaguar, searching tinted windows for the obscured driver. The car door flung open, Belle leaned toward the passenger side, lips curved a smile. “Girl, it’s freezing, get in.” I did with awe of her stunning transformation. She was no longer the fresh-faced nineteen-year-old student in jeans and T-shirt. Dressed in a tight black dress, heavy charcoal eyeshadow framed thick, false eyelashes, and hair, blown silken blond, transformed Belle into a sexy siren.

As we drove past Emsworth University, she grew silent. The farther we traveled from campus, the more anxious I became. Most off-campus parties are within walking distance, but this I hadn’t expected. Past Kalorama Square, I’d wanted her to turn the car around. My instincts in overdrive reared me conscious of landmarks in case I found myself without a ride back to the dorm.

As a girl, I often imagined what I’d do if kidnapped by dangerous strangers grandma alluded to. I devised a plan to memorize surroundings, street signs, and landmarks, but a foolproof escape was never conceived. Thinking about it now, the imagined getaway was incredibly comical. But the farther we traveled from campus, the higher my alarm. I revisited childish musings and studied the route past Kalorama Square.

The car slowed at an impressive home, swiveled into the driveway and through retracting garage doors. At the time, I believed it was Belle’s family’s home given access inside. When the car halted, and the garage door closed, I began to worry. We entered a space more grandiose than its exterior and much too extravagant for a student party. I’d expected a home swarming with college students, not silent halls. I thought we were the first to arrive until voices emanated from remote spaces.

Belle led me into a billiard room through sparse guest, delivering me to a wide-eyed teenage girl seated at an open bar. “Allison,” Belle said in a sweet, apologetic voice, “I have to take care of an urgent matter.” She motioned to the puckered-browed girl, “She’ll take care of you until I get back.” She leaned into her ear and whispered quickly. The girl shook her head; I assumed a yes to whatever was said. Belle smiled. “I’ll be back in a jiffy.”

She vanished, leaving me in a room of mismated young women and older men, which looked like a secret society. And from their stares, I sensed I was the evening’s main course. Belle never returned, and the young woman abandoned me at the bar.

A fiftyish looking man slid into the empty stool beside me and introduced himself as Pennington. His eyes consumed every inch of me, and I grew anxious. Pennington placed a drink in my hand. A delicate flute with a cobalt rim contained a mixture much too sweet—sugared I assumed to conceal alcoholic potency. When I finished, he refreshed my glass with more intoxicating liquid.

Soon, strangely disoriented, figures blurred, my body, a distant island, appeared detached from my head. An urgent need to flee swept over me. Then Pennington refreshed my drink again. His fingers stroked my arm as if sampling a delicate fabric. I smiled and glanced away, sensing his eyes on my body. He whispered, “Don’t be afraid, everyone’s here to have fun. Just relax.” Then I felt his hand on my thigh.

Incensed, I pushed him away and staggered from the room in search of Belle. Stumbling through the home, I wandered upstairs on invisible legs, floating with a giddy high arriving at the landing. Approaching a small alcove, moonlight revealed a concerned man who mouthed “Sweetheart, are you okay?” His words sounded miles away. My lips parted but words wouldn’t come. On wobbly legs, I continued down the hall in search of Belle, following echoing voices to the first door. With fading hands, I twisted the knob, and the door squeaked open. Several images blurred into view, shadows I couldn’t distinguish. Like a camera lens, my mind snapped shut and opened the next morning. The previous night was a blank canvas.

Several months later, rapidly advancing and receding images reemerged fuzzy snapshots. I’ve never determined the number of people in that room. However, I’ve pondered inebriated double vision. Though never certain, I suspect something evil happened in that house, and the resultant amnesia acts as a shield, protecting me from wicked horrors.

With a deep sigh, I drag my mobile from the nightstand, and as I’ve expected, my anonymous sender’s address appears with a single, bold, small-capped question.

DO YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED AT 1414 KALORAMA ROAD?

Book Links

 Amazon

Goodreads

YouTube

 

About the Author

An author with a rare mixture of Southern and Northern charm, E. Denise Billups was born in Monroeville, Alabama and raised in New York City where she currently resides and works in finance. A burgeoning author of fiction, she’s published three suspense novels, Kalorama Road, Chasing Victory, By Chance, and two supernatural short stories, Rebound, and The Playground. An avid reader of mystery and suspense novels, she was greatly influenced by authors of that genre. When she’s not writing or reading, you can generally find her training for road races and marathons. She’s s a fitness fanatic who loves physical challenges of all types (running, biking, yoga, dance, and more) a discipline she uses to facilitate the creative writing process.

 

Denise Cropped for Wix

 

Social Links

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Special Author Q&A Interview:

  1. Where do you live? Country, city, area, type of home, etc. Whatever you feel comfortable with… just an opportunity for readers and fans to picture where you spend much of your time. 
  • I was born in Monroeville Alabama, USA, home to author Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird and Truman Capote, In Cold Blood. At nine-years-old, I moved to New York City and have lived on the Upper East Side for many years. However, I still have strong ties to the South where my extended family remains. I’m a city gal, but every so often, I long for a quieter existence. After years of living in a culturally vibrant city, I don’t believe I could ever return to the south, but I do visit occasionally. 
  1. You have several books available… tell us a little bit about your past work and the genres you most enjoy exploring.
  • Southern culture steeped in folklore, superstitions, and ghost stories, inspired my writing.  As a child, I’d sit around the fireplace listening to my grandmother’s supernatural tales. Those stories scared the bejesus out of me but also got my adrenaline flowing. My short-lived childhood in the South is why I gravitate toward supernatural stories. I’m a multi-genre writer with a paranormal bent. I love psychological thrillers, science fiction, and mysteries. In my first novel, By Chance, I wrote about three clairvoyant women of South Carolina and threw in a bit of the paranormal present in all my books except my second novel, Chasing Victoria.  Strictly suspense, there’s no hint of paranormal … well, there’s a little fortune-telling but that’s about it.  When I started writing Kalorama Road, my intent was to write a straight thriller without ghosts, but my muse had a different idea. I’ve published two supernatural short stories, The Playground, and Rebound.  Presently, I’m working on several short stories.
  1. Name a few favorite authors or influencers as well as someone you are always impressed by in the literary world.
  • My fascination with books began in grade school. Anything I could read, I’d read. As a teenager, it was mainly classics, Emily Bronte, Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald and the list goes on. Since Harper Lee was a hometown native, To Kill a Mockingbird was compulsory reading. Bram Stoker, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Edgar Allen Poe, Ira Levin, Ray Bradbury… Jeez! The list goes on. Every author I’ve read has impacted my writing.
  1. What’s your next writing project?
  • Currently, I’m working on several short stories. I’ve also drafted an outline for another supernatural novel, one involving a Southern haunted house. I know… another haunted house story. Perhaps I can put a new spin on an old, clichéd topic. I hope to publish the short stories in a couple of months. The novel requires further research with a publication deadline of eight to twelve months.
  1. Besides writing novels, what keeps you busy?
  • If I’m not reading or writing, I’m working out. Fitness has been an import part of my life. Trained professionally as a dancer, I’ve carried this discipline throughout my life. I’m a fitness enthusiast and for years trained for endurance sports such as marathons. I’ve run both domestic and international marathons (Ireland, France, and London). My goal was to run a marathon on seven continents, but life has a way of changing goals. Now, I’m content to run locally, practice yoga, have my morning cup of coffee, and just write. I’ve recently left a time-consuming career in finance to pursue my writing passion. I’m also a Freelance Columnist at Conscious Talk Magazine.
  1. What’s the most frustrating part of the book publishing process – anything that comes to mind from the beginning to the end?
  • Marketing, marketing, marketing… I enjoy writing, but promoting my work is the hardest, although it’s necessary. I’m not big on self-promotion, something I strive to overcome. The marketing skills I’ve learned from my Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree have been helpful in crafting a marketing plan, but it’s still a daunting effort.  I believe every writer would prefer just to write and leave marketing to someone else.
  1. Have you ever co-written a book or considered doing it? How would that work?
  • I’ve never co-authored a book. I’ve often wondered how that would work with two or three unique writing styles, especially writing a novel. I’ve read anthologies and would love to collaborate with authors using this format whereby each author contributes a short story.  It’s something I’d consider down the road.
  1. What type of characters do you love and hate to write?
  • I like writing flawed female characters thrust into danger that challenges and makes them stronger women. I’ve yet to encounter a character I hate to write. I guess because I write only what inspires me. In Kalorama Road, I had the opportunity to write a male POV which I thought would be difficult. But I enjoyed writing about this chivalrous, determined, and ethical man.
  1. How much research do you usually put into your writing before and during the process?
  • It depends on the story. I’d love to travel to areas I’m writing about, but sometimes that’s not possible. If I know the state, town, or city used in my work, I recall memories to represent the locale—sight, smells, and sounds. If it’s a topic I have little knowledge of, for example, science, medicine, and law I’ll research facts to create authenticity. I believe research provides writers with ideas they hadn’t conceived and improves the story’s quality.
  1. How did you come up with the name “Kalorama Road” for this book?
  • Kalorama Road, originally titled A Blog Affair began as a romance mystery. However, my muse derived another plot—a paranormal thriller. Because the main plot takes place in a Washington, D. C.’s residential area, (a real neighborhood) and is mentioned throughout the novel, Kalorama Road is an obvious and fitting title.
  1. What’s a perfect evening out for you?
  • Aww! The simple things in life are the best. A perfect evening is sharing good food, good conversation, and a glass of wine or two at a cozy restaurant with close friends.
  1. What do you want to accomplish with your writing and books?
  • Honestly, writing isn’t about money or becoming a best-selling author, but self-fulfillment. I love creating worlds, putting them on paper, and if others enjoy the story, that’s even better. I love the freedom and control self-publishing provides, but if by chance a publishing contract appears, I won’t ignore it.  I will always write regardless of the avenue I take.

 

Trivia

Kalorama Road is  the author’s third novel.

Originally, Kalorama Road was titled ‘A Blog Affair’.

The ending was crafted long before the author wrote the beginning.

The inspiration for Kalorama Road came from an article the author read about men and women finding true love through blogging.  The idea intrigued her skeptical mind.

The scene the author grapple with the most was the murder scene

The author is an avid coffee drinker and she’s written about coffee in most of her novels.

 

Blog Tour Banner - Kalorama Road 07-10-2018

Book Review: Kalorama Road by E. Denise Billups

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After reading a few articles written by E. Denise Billups in Conscious Talk Magazine, I found myself intrigued with her writing style and voice. After some research, I noticed she’d written a few books, so I selected the one that appealed to me the most, Kalorama Road. If you’re a fan of mysterious character connections, someone with memory loss trying to unearth what happened during a missing 24-hour period, or a subtle tense feeling of “uh oh” while reading, you will definitely enjoy this one!

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The story takes place in modern day NYC (blocks from where I live) and the Washington DC / Virginia area. Allie, an editor at a big publishing company, can’t remember what happened one night at a party during her college years. She remembers being invited by a strange girl, showing up and seeing some peculiar behavior, but then all she knows is that her roommate saw a handsome guy drop her off the next morning. What happened overnight? Well… Allie’s been getting monthly text messages and emails asking her what happened at Kalorama Road that night. They scare her but also intrigue her. Is it someone else who doesn’t recall? Is it someone who wants her to remember? Is it the person who took her there who has since disappeared? It all begins coming back together when she’s let go from her publishing job and begins writing a blog. Someone submits a book for her review but it seems like a real life mystery, then it begins to resemble her own experience at Emsworth University. Allie never told anyone but she’s compelled to reveal all the details to her former colleague and the former roommate. At the same time, Allie’s sister has a secret she wants to keep hidden and a new man enters Allie’s life that seems very familiar. How does everything come together?

The book jumps back and forth between a few main characters, sharing their stories and actions over the course of a few weeks. We see a few memories from the past and learn who is really connected to who. As each chapter unfolds, a piece of the puzzle gets more clear but also opens up more confusion to leaf through. Throw in a powerful senator and his family, a suicide, a newspaper reporter trying to find out what happened in the past, a murder, and a family with a large endowment given to the university yet some secrets worth protecting, there’s bound to be a few explosive moments. What a wild ride, both in terms of how all the connections are revealed and in the build-up of tension between all the new people suddenly just appearing in Allie’s life as she’s trying to solve the puzzle of her missing memories.

Billups drew me in from the first few chapters. I’m a sucker for a lost memory story, but when it straddles that line of “oh, this seems obvious” but then throws you a curve where you’re like “wait, WHAT?” it’s even more appealing. It takes a lot to plan a story where you reveal things bit by bit. It’s also difficult to cover a story from multiple points of view without confusing readers. Billups handles both with great aplomb and talent, as it came together solidly without any concern.

Her character sketches of different women and men in their 20s, living in NY, were on point and realistic — there were moments were they annoyed me because of typical behavior, but that’s a good thing as it means Billups has evoked intense emotion and a strong connection to the story. I enjoyed the slow-build romance and potential eerie connections with her new friends, but I also could tell she had some blinders on when it came to all the ‘coincidences’ going on in her life. And there’s an explanation for it… as the tidbits of history we learn about Allie and her sister’s lives growing up clearly show why they act the way they do now. A great way to make things seem quite reasonable in a story that has you guessing who to trust.

I’m quite intrigued by what else might come from the author’s clever mind. I’ll be taking another look at her previous books and seeing if I can find out what’s coming up next… as I’ll definitely be reading another one this year. And I don’t want to wait a year for another book! 🙂

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My novels, Watching Glass Shatter and Father Figure, can be purchased on Amazon as electronic copies or physical copies. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators. Follow my blog with Bloglovin.