Horror, Psychological, Suspense, Women

The Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz


Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.

But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she must discover the truth—or suffer the same fate.

A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female relationships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.

My Thoughts

I’ve read several reviews of this incandescent debut comparing it The Plot, The Secret History, and other novels. But I am here to tell you that this is like nothing you’ve ever read before.

This is psychological mayhem at its very best.

All I’m going to say is READ THIS!

Advance Praise

Sex, suspense, and the supernatural fuel this propulsive debut.” —People
“Darkly satirical and action-packed….An absolutely splendid debut!” —Wendy Walker, nationally bestselling author of Don’t Look for Me

“I loved this chilling, tightly plotted, feminist, seriously effed-up thriller…and not just because my brilliant sister wrote it! Can’t wait for everyone else to fall in love with this wicked debut.” —Andrea Bartz, NYT bestselling author of Reese’s Book Club pick WE WERE NEVER HERE

“A sexy, thrilling, compulsive mediation on art and competition amongst women who ought to be sisters, only something malignant gets in the way.” —Sarah Langan, award-winning author of GOOD NEIGHBORS

• “A wild ride from page one . . . This thrill-packed story brims with secrets, intrigue and murder. I dare you to put it down.” —Janice Hallett, internationally bestselling author of THE TWYFORD CODE

“THE WRITING RETREAT is bonkers in the best way, and it left me with a brutal case of author envy.” —Layne Fargo, author of THEY NEVER LEARN

“NIGHT FILM meets THE SECRET HISTORY in Julia Bartz’s bold, brilliant, and genuinely scary debut . . . Palpable atmosphere, sinister characters, full-body chills, jaw-dropping twists, and stay-up-all-night suspense. I am obsessed with this book. I never wanted it to end.” —Megan Collins, author of THE FAMILY PLOT

“Equal parts nightmare and erotic fantasy as five would-be writers are pulled deeper into the secrets of Blackbriar and its inhabitants.”—Jennifer Fawcett, author of BENEATH THE STAIRS

Book Tour, iRead Book Tour, Mystery, Suspense

Underneath the Fireflies by Marianne Scott

On Tour April 17- May 12, 2023

Book Description

No matter where Grace Walker goes, her extra sensory power goes with her. She’s an empath and she sees things — terrible things. After a tragic accident at the place where she works, she decides to take a mental-health break on a remote West Coast island. But she no sooner gets to Galliano Island when a vision of the murder of an Indigenous woman draws her into a disturbing and threatening dilemma.

My Thoughts

Marianne Scott has produced an intricate and thoughtful mystery/suspense novel that features characters who weave in and out of two distinct plotlines. Protagonist Grace Walker is a complex character who wrestles with an unwanted empathic ability which has affected her since she was a child. Scott introduces the two plotlines almost immediately – the horrific “accident” that happened to Grace in Toronto and the even more horrific murder of an Indigenous woman that took place on the remote island where Grace is retreating to find peace from the former.

As a new reader of Scott’s, I immediately thought that the Toronto plotline was the subject of an earlier book, but that does not seem to be the case. The basics of that plot are a bit far-fetched (control of workers via microchip) and seemed out of place in this solid murder mystery, but I remain convinced that Scott should definitely write that book. I want to know the details of that story!

As the story progressed, the Toronto connection to the Galliano Island plot becomes much clearer, with all the loose ends tied up neatly, leading to a very satisfying conclusion.

Scott blends great characters with a lovely location and a story that keeps you reading late into the night. The vivid descriptions of Galliano Island and it’s inhabitants add depth to the dialog and characterizations. The bad guy here is really bad, and descriptions of his behavior made my skin crawl. Short chapters provide a easy reading experience, although the print version of this is pretty hefty.

I’ll be recommending this as a good summer read this year, on par with Nora Roberts and Elizabeth Lowell. One trigger warning, though – there is a rape scene, but it’s handled with sensitivity.

Book Details:

​Book Title:  Underneath the Fireflies by Marianne Scott
Category:  Adult Fiction (18+),  496 pages
Genre: Murder Mystery / Thriller
Publisher: Crowe Creations
Release date:  January 2023
Tour dates: April 17 to May 12, 2023
Content Rating:  PG-13 – Colloquial expressions in dialogue.

Amazon.ca ~ Amazon.com
add to goodreads

Meet the Author

Marianne Scott is the Canadian author of four mystery thrillers and is currently working on her fifth novel, a sci-fi/thriller. She has a BA and a Diploma in Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University. She studied creative writing through Conestoga College and Humber College. She enjoys writing workshops such as those offered by Brian Henry, publisher of blog, Quick Brown Fox and One Lit Place, a writers’ hub by creator/editor Jenna Kalinsky. She has an author’s website and blog. She is a full-time writer who lives in the historic small Canadian village of Hespeler Ontario (now amalgamated with the city of Cambridge).  

connect with the author: website ~ twitter ~ twitter ~ facebook instagram goodreads