Exclusive Excerpt: Our New Favorite Thriller ‘The Hunting Wives’

For anyone that loves Big Little Lies, Mean Girls, and Desperate Housewives, May Cobb’s upcoming suspense novel The Hunting Wives is our newest obsession, as it’s being hailed as a Desperate Housewives set in Texas. In the novel, out May 18, 2021, protagonist Sophie O’Neill moves from her big-city life in Chicago to a small town in east Texas with her husband and young son. After settling down, she realizes her life is now quiet and boring, and she looks for a little more excitement. Sophie meets Margot Banks, who is a part of an elite clique known as the Hunting Wives. She immediately feels drawn toward Margot and her mysterious world full of late-night adventures and reckless partying. As Sophie’s involvement intensifies, she starts slipping away from her family as she finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation, and loses control over her own life.

Based in Austin, Texas, May Cobb is a novelist and freelance writer. Back in 2015, she won the Writer’s League of Texas Manuscript Contest. Her debut novel Big Woods (2018) was awarded as an Independent Publisher Book Award for Suspense/Thriller. Her writing has also been featured in Austin Monthly and the online edition of Jazz Times. The Hunting Wives comes out May 18, 2021, which I know feels like it’s a million lightyears away—but not to worry, because Betches readers can read an exclusive excerpt below. Preorder The Hunting Wives here.

(Brief setup: This takes place after Sophie’s first time skeet shooting with the Hunting Wives group and their Regina-George-esque leader, Margot, wants to keep the party going.)

Back inside, the lake house feels glaring after the darkness of the trail. Margot sinks the wine into a silver ice bucket and twists the bottle around, chilling it. Callie fetches wineglasses from the cabinet, and fills each glass to the brim.

We toast and sip, but I only take the smallest of sips so I can safely drive home. Margot tosses back half her glass and sets it on the bar.

“So…who wants to go hunting?”

“Always,” Callie says, winding a lock of coarse hair around her finger.

“I’m in!” Tina trills, rocking back and forth on her feet, her coal-black eyes squinting in a smile.

“Where?” Jill asks, demure, her face half-hidden behind her huge wineglass.

“I was thinking Rusty’s,” Margot says.

Jill sets her glass down, crosses her arms.

“Oh, please, Jilly! It’s been forever. Don’t pout. I’ll behave, I promise.” Margot goes over to Jill, puts her arm around her. There’s a perceptible shift in Jill’s demeanor, a small succumbing to Margot’s power.

I have no idea what they’re talking about, but suddenly they’re all looking at me. I take another small sip of wine, swish it around in my mouth.

“Who wants to tell her the rules?” Margot asks, her hip cocked against Jill’s, her exquisitely-shaped eyebrows hiked in a question mark.

“I will,” Callie says. This is the first time she’s addressed me directly, and there’s a trace of a sneer in her expression.

“Rules about what?” I ask, nervously giggling, clasping my wine glass.

“Oh, please,” Callie rolls her eyes. “Don’t act like you’re not bored in your marriage.”

“Maybe she’s not,” Margot says, her voice playful. “Her husband’s a hottie.”

The flush of alcohol and Margot’s hooded eyes on me make my face flame.

“I think everyone here is a little bored, except for Jill,” Callie says.

“Yeah, Jilly, what did Amazon bring you this week? Do tell.” Margot’s unwrapped herself from Jill and crosses over the bar to refresh her wine. “I want to hear all about your latest toy.”

I catch myself gawking at Jill and quickly look away before she notices.

“Ooooh, a new toy,” Callie says. “What role is Tom going to play? Will he be the police officer this time or the victim?” Callie snickers.

“You only wish you still had sex with your husband,” Jill fires back.

For some reason, Callie answers to me, “He chases me around the house, but I’m over it.”

She stretches her long legs across the length of the sofa, takes another mouthful of wine.

“So anyway, we’re all a little bored and have to let it out somehow.”

“Monogamy is so…monogamous,” Margot chimes.

The cold blast from the air conditioning has fogged up the windows, so I can’t see the lake anymore behind Callie, only the clouds of condensation frosting the glass.

My stomach registers a red-hot signal of danger; I don’t know how I feel about all this. Graham and I have never been anything but monogamous and I’m certainly not bored with him. Am I? I’m just bored, I think. But if that’s the case, why am I so drawn to Margot and why can’t I get her out of my head? If I’m honest, there’s part of me that, despite the sense of alarm that looms in the air, likes listening to them. It excites me. Makes me feel alive. Maybe the most alive I’ve felt since moving back. No, not maybe. Definitely.

“So. The rules.” Callie sits up now, rests her elbows on her knees. “There’s only two, really. We only use our first names. And, we don’t go all the way.”

I nod dumbly as if being read the instructions to a board game.

“So, you’re in,” Callie says matter-of-factly.

Again, that pinprick of danger at the back of my neck. And before I have a chance to respond, Margot fishes a set of keys off the wooden coffee table, stashes her Louis Vuitton clutch under her arm, and heads for the front door.

“I’m driving. Everyone load up,” she says and everyone rises and trails her to the entryway.

I take out my phone and check the time. 8:45. I should go home; I know I should.  I certainly don’t want to get trapped all night by riding in Margot’s car. But then, I don’t want them to think I’m a scaredy-cat, either.

“I’ll follow in my own car,” I hear myself saying. My voice squeaks out of high-pitched and thin.

Margot freezes, turns around, and frowns at me.

“Early day tomorrow,” I say, casting my eyes toward the floor.

She twists back around and steps out the open door. “Suit yourself.” The others trickle out behind her. I follow.

Everyone is weaving towards Margot’s Mercedes but Tina spins around.

“I’ll ride with Sophie! In case she gets lost.” 

14

Before Tina climbs in the Highlander, I dust a constellation of Cheerios off her seat. How Jack manages to scatter them everywhere, I’ll never understand. Tina’s perfume, powdery and floral, fills the cabin and she’s so buoyant, she seems to spring into the seat next to me.

Her husband, Bill, she tells me with a lick of pride, lifting her voice, is a home-builder. One of the biggest contractors in Mapleton.  They live in a sparkling new development north of town. I’ve driven by and it’s all castle-like homes with spires and arched windows.

As we wind through the lake roads, tracking the red eyes of Margot’s taillights, I’m struck by how utterly dark it is out here and I notice, as we approach the country highway, that Margot is turning away from town, not toward it.

“So, what’s Rusty’s?” I ask.

“Oh, it’s a little honky-tonk on the outskirts of town. Margot likes to pick out-of-way spots. For obvious reasons.” She flicks down the mirror on the visor and applies a fresh coat of pink lipstick. “We don’t go much, though.”

“Hunting or to Rusty’s?”

She scrunches her curls with her fingers, studies her hair in the mirror.

“I was talking about Rusty’s specifically, but we don’t go hunting that often either. Maybe twice a month. But sometimes more. Depends on Margot’s mood,” she adds, snapping the mirror shut and darkening the interior of the car. “Margot’s appetite for men is insatiable. You’ll see.”

I instantly like and feel comfortable with her but chew my bottom lip as I ask the next question. “So, do you, you know,” I’m fumbling, can’t spit the words out.

“What? Cheat on my husband?” she asks, her voice bright and cavernous. “No. I mean, I kissed another guy once, the first time I went out with them, actually, but I hated myself for it. Bill and I are high school sweethearts. I can’t imagine being with anyone else. So, no. I’m just here to watch the train wreck.” She rubs her hands together in excitement.

The highway is empty but well-lit. Giant trees surf past us, cut by the strobe of fluorescent streetlights.

“Anyway, Margot’s in some kind of constant war with her husband, a who can one-up each other battle. Have you ever seen him?”

I shake my head no, though of course, I’ve seen him on Facebook. Just never in person. Those scorching eyes, his bronzed complexion.

“Well, he’s gorgeous. I mean, dead hot. But Jed cheated on her once in such a stupidly-typical way, with his secretary. Got caught, too, in a stupidly-typical way: sloppy texting. Margot paid the poor girl a visit to her apartment and ran her out of town. This was three years ago, but Margot does everything she can to punish him still,” she snorts, shakes her head. “She keeps him under lock and key.  I’m pretty sure he hasn’t stepped out of line since, but Margot surely has.”

Tina’s fingers dance over the screen of my satellite radio. “Oooh, I love this song, mind if I turn it up?”

It’s “Brass Monkey” by the Beastie Boys and after she cranks the volume, she lowers her window and warm night air oozes through the car.

“Nights like these,” she shouts over the music, “I feel like I’m eighteen again!”

I roll my window down, too, and we both dance in our seats to the music.

As the song ends, I realize we’ve lost sight of Margot. I turn down the volume.

“Ummm, I don’t see them anymore.”

“No sweat, we’re almost there, just one last turn.”

I roll my window up, smooth my hair down, re-adjust my bra.

“So, what’s Callie’s story?”

Tina pauses for a second, seeming to consider as she fingers the silver hoop dangling from her ear. “She doesn’t like anyone who Margot might like. If you’re getting chilly vibes from her, that’s why. I think it was a full six months before she even acknowledged me. Just ignore her.”

We’re approaching a light. Tina waves for me to turn left. We head down a two-lane road.

“She’s all Single-White Female with Margot. Lives on the opposite end of the street from her, and drives the same make and model car. She wants to be her; she’s a bit obsessed with her. Her husband Trip is just a big oaf with a lot of family money. Fishes all the time. Manages the family finances. Could pass for okay-looking, though, if he dropped some weight.”

(I’ve seen him, too, on Facebook. Sort of a heavy, pasty Ben Affleck.)

I see the lights of the bar flickering in the distance. I slow the car and pull into the gravel parking lot.

“Callie and Margot went away together senior year of high school. Left Mapleton and went to that chi-chi boarding school in Dallas called Hockaday. Jill told me once that there were rumors that they were “together” while they were away. Not sure if there were ever a thing between them but Callie sure acts like it.”

5 Unrealistic Parts About ‘Desperate Housewives’ That I Can’t Stop Thinking About

Obviously we aren’t watching TV shows for their accuracy, right? Even reality shows are completely absurd. I’m sorry, but am I really expected to believe that 25 women are all truly enthused to make out with the same clown for three months and actually be in love and get engaged at the end of it? They don’t even know who the Bachelor will be when they sign up to be on the show, for f*ck’s sake! I digress. My point is that television shows are supposed to be a pleasant escape from our own hellish lives, which I appreciate—especially right now. However, some shows completely miss so many cues from real life that I can’t help but wonder how these writers managed to keep their jobs. I’m talking specifically about Desperate Housewives, a show from the early 2000s that I’m rewatching because I just got a Hulu account and all of the seasons just so happen to be available.

It’s one of those shows whose first two or three seasons are absolute fire, but then it goes downhill really fast. However, I’m so far in that I feel like I can’t stop. As Jack Twist would say, “I wish I knew how to quit you!” One of the funniest things of Desperate Housewives, aside from the fact that there is as much murder as there is on The Sopranos, is that it’s just so painfully unrealistic for very specific reasons. And I don’t mean the obvious, like how none of the legit plot points would ever happen IRL. Here are some petty things that have been bothering me about this show.

Sex Always Lasts Five Seconds

The first time I realized this was in the third season premiere, when our favorite Flamin’ Hot Cheeto-haired Christian experienced her first orgasm at 44. Congrats, Bree! Just how far into her and Trey MacDougal’s foreplay did Bree become a woman, you may ask? Approximately five seconds. I’m sorry, but seriously? I know we are watching a television show, which means that there’s a fine line between a steamy sex scene and straight-up porn, but come on, ABC.

Gabrielle, too, always manages to climax in less time that I take to turn my vibrator on. When Carlos is messing with her birth control to try to get her pregnant, ABC plays a cute compilation of them having sex from start to finish (wink, wink), and each time, they’re both orgasming at the exact same time and after a few seconds. The same thing happens with her and the gardener (remember, the one she was statutorily raping?). They’d be doing it in his garage (ew) and she’d finish instantly. Are these dudes just incredible at sex? Probably not.

All of the Housewives are guilty of aggressively short sex sessions, not just Bree and Gabby. Edie, who is perhaps the most experienced in the bedroom, also starts moaning and screaming within seconds of mounting her latest victim. Why, ABC, why?

Trauma Doesn’t Affect Them

As described by Rotten Tomatoes, DH is as follows: “Behind the facade of a postcard-perfect subdivision live four women whose lives are anything but idyllic.” In other words, a lot of f*cked up sh*t happens to this group of seemingly normal women. To be honest, that’s a great plot and leaves a lot of room for some crazy things to happen. I’m in. However, a lot of legit traumatizing events happen to these women who literally do not react at all to said trauma. They kind of just carry on living their suburban lives as if everything is fine. For instance, remember when Susan’s husband was in not one, but three massive car accidents? The first landed him in a coma, the second killed a young mother and her child, and the third was the work of Major Creep Dave Williams. Why do the women not talk about this literally all the time? I got in a fender bender when I was 18 and still have nightmares about it.

Susan isn’t the only one who brushes death under the rug! Let us not forget when Bree’s psycho boyfriend faked his suicide because he expected her to come to his rescue, but instead she just sat there and let him die. Also, remember when her son was in a little hit-and-run that killed Gabby’s mother-in-law? Of course, we can’t forget about that time when she found a bag of her husband’s mistress’s teeth in his ex-wife’s pantry! Ah, just fun, suburban things!

Having Kids Is NBD

If I had a kid, I would turn into Rachel Green in the episode of Friends where she calls her pediatrician every time the baby does anything aside from sleep. The ladies of Wisteria Lane, however, have kids and then just kind of go back to accidentally shooting people (classic Susan!), going to fancy soirees at their country clubs, and plotting against the new neighbor. Guys, no! I know this absurd show isn’t meant to be a really accurate portrayal of the harsh realities of parenting, but come on! They seem to be pregnant for years at a time and then once they pop out the kid, we never see it!

Their lives don’t really seem to change after having children, and we never really see them taking care of said children. Yes, the kiddos are in a scene here and there, but they’re never having a good ol’ family meal, doing their homework or really anything with their parents. Are these kids just really self-sufficient in the face of absentee parenting?

They Never Repeat Outfits

I respect Lizzie McGuire for boldly repeating her middle school graduation outfit, because that is what people do: they buy a shirt knowing that they will wear it more than once. Like, I have a Rent the Runway membership, which essentially means I never have to wear the same thing twice, but I still rewear outfits. That is like, the point? The Desperate Housewives’ clothes are pretty normal, so I’m confused as to why they can’t wear them more than once. Is there something so offensive about Bree donning her magenta sweater set in more than one episode?

Also, Susan is low-key a lingerie queen and she never wears the same bustier twice. I don’t understand this! Lingerie is f*cking expensive and her whole identifier, aside from being a total f*cking idiot, is that she’s broke, so how is she affording all of the matching sets she breaks out literally every time she has sex? I have one piece of lingerie that I purchased at a La Perla sample sale and have lost count of how many times I’ve worn it. That’s normal!

Their Makeup Is Always On Point

Sex and the City is in my top three least relatable shows, but I found myself actually clapping at my tv during a specific Carrie moment that was the truest scene in the whole show. She’s standing over Big in one of her weird little crop top outfits and says, “I don’t wake up looking like this. I actually need stuff to look like this.” Girl, preach. The women in Desperate Housewives, on the other hand, wake up after what I can only imagine was a nine-hour snooze fest with perfectly rouged cheeks, long lashes, and a glossy lip. Wrong! Are they Mrs. Maisel-ing themselves and secretly waking up at an obscene hour to do their faces, so they wake up looking pretty for bae? How is this happening?

There you have it, the most annoying aspects of one of the best shows on television. Even though I love to sh*t on these women, I really do love them. Did I miss anything?

Images: carrie-nelson / Shutterstock.com; Giphy

The Throwback TV Shows With The Messiest Hookups

Anyone who knows me knows that I think Gossip Girl is the holy grail of terrible TV, and in these times, it has brought me a lot of comfort. Seriously, when I’m down and feeling blue because I haven’t seen another human being IRL since mid-March, just got laid off, and have been subsisting on DiGiorno for way too long, I think about that episode when everyone found out that Blair boned Nate and Chuck, and even Jenny didn’t want anything to do with her. Like, what’s a pandemic compared to Blair Waldorf’s slow and painful demise in the first season??

Anyway, if it isn’t clear, I re-watched the entire series over the course of the last two months and am blown away by the fact that none of the characters are bothered that everyone hooks up with everyone’s exes! Like, am I too old-fashioned for not wanting my best friend to f*ck my ex?? This got me thinking: GG definitely isn’t the only show whose cast is horny af for each other. So join me in taking a walk down memory lane.

‘Gossip Girl’

I obviously had to start with the messiest show of all time. In the first and best season, the couples kind of make sense since the characters are all supposed to be juniors in high school and the writers have lots to work with. Nate and Blair have allegedly been dating for 10 years (which means they started seeing each other when they were six, k) and Dan and Serena start dating. Again, this all seems normal. I stan! But then, the rest of the seasons happen and it is very clear that the writers were just kind of like, “idk whatever.”

Without going into too much detail because I have a word limit, I’ll just say that pretty much all of the guys in this show are eskimo brothers. Dan and Nate both hook up with Blair, Serena, and Vanessa; Jenny hooks up with Chuck and Nate; and Ivy, a random character who doesn’t matter, hooks up with Dan, Nate and Rufus (!!). I’m not necessarily judging because everyone on this show is disturbingly attractive, but still, it’s a little crazy. These people are supposed to live in New York City and can’t find anyone outside their social circle to hook up with? Unrelated, but after season four, everyone just stopped going to college and no one acknowledges it.

‘Friends’

There is definitely some cross-contamination here even though it’s more subtle than that of GG. On a show with 10 seasons, it’s easy to forget who hooks up with whom, but luckily, I remember. Obviously, the two main couples are Ross and Rachel and Chandler and Monica, but there’s some overlap I haven’t forgotten about. Yes, I’m talking about Rachel hooking up with Joey. Let’s not forget that Phoebe also kissed Joey, although they never ended up together, even though Joey did propose. I’m also convinced that Monica and Chandler only got together because the writers didn’t feel like bringing in a new character crazy enough to date either of them.

There obv aren’t so many inter-cast relationships on Friends as there are on Gossip Girl, but there are def a few instances of the Friends dating the same people. For instance, Joey and Ross both dated the hot science lady, Charlie, and Joey and Chandler both dated Kathy. Ugh, come on, you guys!

‘Desperate Housewives’

I truly believe this was one of the best shows literally ever. If you haven’t watched it because you were too young to understand what was happening when it was on TV, give it a watch now. It’s on Hulu. Anyway, as its name implies, the main characters are all married, but there is one singleton who I absolutely live for. Edie Brit is the Samantha Jones of Desperate Housewives, and she has loves to f*ck her friends’ ex-husbands. Is it just me or does that sound like an intro on a Bravo show? She dates Gabby’s ex, two of Susan’s exes, and makes out with Bree’s ex. Yikes! Even though I love Edie as much as I love this show, which is a lot, I always thought that plot line was kind of weird and pointless.

‘Girls’

There were two really weird love triangles in this dumpster fire of a show: Adam/Jessa/Hannah and Ray/Marnie/Shoshanna. First of all, the whole premise of Girls is that, at least for a little while, they’re all bound by their strong female bond, so why are they all so quick to date each other’s boyfriends? Also, I’m confused why two gorgeous, cool, impressive women are both so into Old Man Ray. We’ll never know.

‘One Tree Hill’

Unlike my experience with Gossip Girl, I watched this show when it was on television and have not thought about it since, so my knowledge of inconspicuous details is pretty unimpressive. However, one thing I’ll never forget about this iconic mess is the love triangles. First we have Lucas/Peyton/Brooke then we have Nate/Peyton/Brooke. Uhhhhhh. Brooke and Peyton are the Blair and Serena of the early 2000s, so I guess it makes sense that they’re both down to hook up with each other’s boyfriends. The Nathan/Brooke situation was never super serious, but Lucas and Peyton got married! After she seriously dated Nathan! What! Does that make them the Dan and Serena of this show?

What did I miss? Are there any other shows where the cast loves to bang each other? Let me know in the comments!

Images: Everett Collection / Shutterstock.com; Giphy (5)