Sisters Amanda Foster and Erin Turner have little in common except the childhood bedroom they once shared and the certainty each feels that her way of life is best. Amanda follows the rules—at the school where she works; in her community; and as a picture-perfect daughter, wife, and mother-to-be. Erin follows her heart—in love and otherwise—living a bohemian lifestyle on a shoestring budget and honoring her late father’s memory with a passion for music and her fledgling bath-products business.
The sisters are content leading separate but happy lives in their hometown of Potomac Point until everything is upended by lies that force them to confront unsettling truths about their family, themselves, and each other. For sisters as different as these two, building trust doesn’t come easily—especially with one secret still between them—but it may be the only way to save their family.
Title: If You Must Know Author: Jamie Beck Release Date: June 1, 2020 Publisher: Montlake
Click on title below for direct Amazon buy link: If You Must Know: A Novel (Potomac Point Book 1)
Q & A With Jamie Beck:
How do you describe your newest novel If You Must Know?
This book is a “beach book” in the best sense. It’s not angsty, yet it has a page-turning plot and a bunch of interesting, relatable characters. I think it’s entertaining and heartfelt at the same time, which is exactly what many enjoy reading while on vacation.
What inspired the novel?
The external plot came to me as a result of the influence of two people in my life. My dear friend’s husband is a forensic accountant, so some of his stories about how people hide money and flee their families provided one point of inspiration. The second is my mother’s best friend who, in her seventies, sold her house and bought a boat, which she and her husband live on full-time. The impetus for the oil-and-water sisters was to provide myself an opportunity to explore the sibling-rivalry dynamic.
Tell us about the two main characters in the story—sisters Amanda and Erin.
Amanda is the middle child. She’s diligent, earnest, hard-working, and generous. She wants the people she loves to be happy and feel her love. Her weakness is a deep-seated insecurity—a sense that she is not interesting enough to be lovable. This leads her to overlook when she is being taken for granted because her need to be pleasing is omnipresent.
Erin is the baby of the family and her late-father’s pet. She is outgoing, fun-loving, and views her average intelligence as a blessing (rather than lamenting that her siblings are smarter). She is willful and has her own way of moving through the world. The big weakness she has is her impulsiveness, whether with jobs or relationships. As she approaches her 30th birthday, she’s looking to mature and create a more stable life for herself.
What kind of relationship do the sisters have?
I think they share a typical relationship insofar as their differences cause many misunderstandings and instill in each a sense of being judged by the other, and yet they do care about and love each other, too. They simply do not know how to be true friends and trust the other—at least not at the outset of this tale.
This book focused on the main female characters growing and learning about themselves. What prompted this ‘women’s fiction’ approach to the story?
Partly market forces and partly my own need to stretch. At 53, it was becoming more difficult to write a 20-something woman facing the challenges of dating. The shift to women’s fiction allows me to write late-30 and early 40-something characters, which comes more naturally to me. I also enjoy exploring family and friendship dynamics, and absolutely love having endless options for story arcs (as opposed to having to follow a traditional romance arc).
What does your new Potomac Point series have in common with your previous books?
All my books to date have focused on critical relationships and some type of redemption theme. I find damaged people to be very interesting and believe that there is good in most everyone, so I prefer to populate my stories with flawed people who must confront their inner demons in order to be happy. My new books will also focus on relationships and redemption, but the non-romantic relationships (or even the relationship with one’s self) will be more central.
Meet Jamie Beck:
Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author Jamie Beck’s realistic and heartwarming stories have sold more than two million copies. She is a two-time Booksellers’ Best Award finalist and a National Readers’ Choice Award winner, and critics at Kirkus, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist have respectively called her work “smart,” “uplifting,” and “entertaining.” In addition to writing novels, she enjoys hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah and dancing around the kitchen while cooking. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family. Fans can get exclusive excerpts, inside scoops, and be eligible for birthday gift drawings by subscribing to her newsletter at http://eepurl.com/b7k7G5. She also loves interacting with everyone on Facebook.
Website – https://jamiebeck.com/ Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/JamieBeckBooks/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/writerjamiebeck Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8020971.Jamie_Beck
Read an Excerpt:
I rolled onto my side with a groan, coming face-to-face with one of my favorite family photos. We’d taken our annual family summer trip to Hilton Head—the one real splurge my dad had made sure we enjoyed every year. We had a tradition of having lunch at a little open-air cabana bar and restaurant called Coco’s on the Beach.
Between the deck and the volleyball court in the sand stood a tall pole with colorful arrow-shaped signs pointing in different directions. Each one was painted with the name of a different city somewhere on the globe, along with the mileage to get there. We’d dream about all the places we might go, and after high school I’d had the chance to see many. In this picture, our whole family is standing around that sign, smiling at the camera. My dad has his hand on my shoulder, and if you look closely, you can see Amanda holding my hand. I must’ve been only five or six—young enough that she hadn’t given up trying to be my second mother. At the time, I’d felt smothered by her attention, but looking back, I’d also felt loved.
I grabbed my phone and called my sister, but it went to voice mail. A heaviness pressed on me, but I couldn’t tell if it was from looking at that picture of our family that would never again be whole or from the fact that I’d disappointed my mom and sister today.
They loved me in their way even if they couldn’t love and accept me as I am. My dad had, though, and to honor his memory and wishes for our family, I couldn’t continue to drift out of their lives as I’d been doing.
After the beep, I said, “Hey, it’s moi. Surprise! My plans have changed and I’ve got a little time. If you get this message, let me know where you are and I’ll try to catch up.”
I hit “End,” my feet restlessly kicking the foot of my bed. The small bedroom seemed claustrophobic, but I didn’t want to talk to Max. Not that I could avoid him in here, either, where his dirty laundry, sandals, and other items lay about. Rather than take a match to it all, I decided to organize some of his things to help with his packing. Hauling myself off the bed, I then went to the armoire to get to the vintage albums my dad had left me in his will.
Some were fairly valuable, like the Beatles collection box set from 1982, valued at roughly a thousand bucks. Or the Led Zeppelin first pressing with the turquoise label, which should net around eight hundred or so dollars. U2’s Joshua Tree collection box set from 1987—maybe worth six or seven hundred. Then there were others worth less than one hundred dollars. But each one had infinite sentimental value.
Every song resurrected a specific memory of time spent with my father playing cards, washing cars, grilling hot dogs … anything. Whatever he’d wanted to do, I’d done with him, and he’d always chosen the perfect background soundtrack for every activity. Those stolen moments had also been a great way to escape my mom’s endless lectures and demands. She’d never yelled at me for skipping out on chores or being messy when I’d been spending that time with him. Probably because he wouldn’t let her.
At present, my restlessness matched the mood of a typical Bob Seger song, so I grabbed Beautiful Loser and slipped the record from its sleeve, resisting the urge to hug it as if it were my dad. I set it on the old turntable he’d also left me. As the few first drumbeats clangored, my heart kicked an extra beat or two—partly happy, partly sad. I glanced toward the bedroom door, picturing Max on the sofa, and then got to work.
It didn’t matter where life led me next. I had faith because my own personal angel was looking out for me now.
Que será, será.
Sisters Amanda and Erin shared a bedroom as children, but are as different as night and day. Erin, the younger sister is a free spirit, never went to college, and has had a variety of jobs to make ends meet, but never a career. She shared a special bond with her late father, while being outside the circle formed by her sister and her mother. Amanda felt that the birth of Erin usurped her place in her father’s affections, and always tried to be perfect at everything. She’s organized, educated, and the perfect wife and mother-to-be. She has the perfect home life and husband, until one day she doesn’t.
When Amanda’s husband, Lyle, is unreachable while on a business trip, Amanda, now six months pregnant, begins to panic. Her calls lead her to find that Lyle has gone off to parts unknown with another woman. She receives, of all things, a letter in the mail from Lyle, stating that he believes he’s in love with someone else, and needs time to figure things out.
Meanwhile, Erin is barely making ends meet since her live in boyfriend, Max, lost his job. After enduring his lying around the apartment watching television for two months without any financial support, Erin has had enough. She orders Max to pack up and leave.
The financial situation of both sisters is shaky, and they end up moving home with their mother, who has recently had several instances of forgetfulness, or, possibly, something much worse. Amanda’s situation is especially dire, as it appears Lyle has now totally deserted Amanda and their future child, and he has some definitely shady, possibly criminal, financial activity.
IF YOU MUST KNOW details the three women living together, supporting each other, and learning to appreciate their differences. The sisters, especially, begin to see how their own actions colored their relationship, and begin to share and give ground where they never had before. I found Erin’s actions in particular to be way above and beyond to help Amanda out of her horrific situation. I also enjoyed seeing their mother make more of an effort to become closer to Erin. I’m sorry to say that this isn’t a romance with a happy ever after, though Erin finds a lovely man who seems very promising. Readers who are fans of women’s fiction should enjoy this well written book which focuses on family relationships, finding strength during adversity, and personal growth and understanding. ~Rose
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