Cold Hearted marks Staub’s first digital-only novella—a surprise of sorts, given the New York Times bestselling author has published more than eighty books in a prolific career that has spawned twenty adult suspense titles, numerous accolades (including the RWA Rita Award, the RT Bookreviews Award for Career Achievement in Suspense, the RWA/NYC Golden Apple for Lifetime Achievement, and four WLA Washington Irving Awards for Fiction), and a pseudonym (Wendy Markham) or two (Wendy Morgan), not to mention a few top secret (and not-so-secret) ghostwriting assignments.
A prequel to The Perfect Stranger (out 7/29 from Harper)—the second book in the author’s social media-themed trilogy following last summer’s The Good Sister—Cold Hearted introduces readers to the enigmatic Johanna Hart, who will reappear as one of the leading ladies in Staub’s upcoming novel. Here, she takes center stage (literally) after having reinvented herself as the glamorous actress Jenna Coeur. Of course, every good role requires a juicy backstory, though Jenna—raised by ambivalent grandparents in the Midwest after being abandoned by her teen mom—will stop at nothing to keep her true identity from being revealed before the prying eyes of Tinseltown.
Meanwhile, Olivia Schmidt has her own history to keep hidden, but she is overjoyed when Johanna’s manager, Cory, recommends her for a personal assistant position. Though initially reluctant given the circumstances of her last PA’s departure, Johanna feels an immediate affinity for the young woman upon meeting her—perhaps because she recognizes something of herself in the Olivia’s single-minded determination. Comfort is soon replaced by caution, however, as secrets threaten to spill out—all leading up to humdinger of an ending that rivals any Staub has written.
While similar projects by other authors have come off as gimmicky, serving as merely the bait used to hook readers for an impending full-length release, Staub delivers a story that is both fully satisfying as a standalone read and intriguing enough to leave her audience with the desire to revisit the character in present day. That’s no easy feat, yet one she pulls off with aplomb. Cold Hearted is suspenseful, savvy, and surprising, which makes it just about the perfect short interlude to heat up your spring reading. Kudos to the author for continuing to take risks—and for proving that doing so can indeed pay off ...