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.”
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.”
2020 has been off to a rough start, to say the absolute least, but one thing we can all look forward to is a bunch of new books coming out. TG, I needed something to continue showing up at work for (I read during my commute, for those of you who didn’t get the joke). For all my fellow nerds out there, 2020 is going to be a great year for reading (my middle school librarian would be ecstatic at that sentence). From exciting debuts from first-time authors, to new books by writers you are already obsessed with, there is a ton to add to your reading list. Because I’m so nice and I know you guys hate when I only include books on a list that aren’t out yet, I have done you the favor of highlighting one late 2019 release and some that were released earlier this month. But seriously, people, that’s why they invented preorder!
Good Girls Lie by J.T. Ellison
Out December 30, 2019
I never went to boarding school because I/my parents were not fancy like that, but it is easy to imagine in this book. Good Girls Lie takes place in an elite boarding school with a checkered past—aren’t they all, though? Enter new girl, Ash Carlisle, who struggles to figure out how TF these rich girls operate. Since she DGAF, she, of course, gets tapped into one of the school’s famed secret societies, and things start spiraling out of control from there. I won’t spoil it, but I will tell you that two people wind up dead, and it’s not what you think.
One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus
Out January 7, 2020
The sequel to One Of Us Is Lying is here, and tbh, I recommend re-reading that before diving into this one, so you remember who all the characters are and their relation to the OGs. Because Bayview High hasn’t been through enough since fellow student Simon died and four of his peers almost got framed for his murder, a new Truth or Dare game has popped up all over the school, and the rules are simple: either do the dare, or one of your darkest truths gets revealed to the entire school. It’s not long before the dares turn deadly—meaning it’s up to the younger siblings of the original Bayview Four to figure out who’s behind this, and stop it before it’s too late.
Average Is The New Awesome by Samantha Matt
Out January 7, 2020
Are you intimidated by all those people on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list? Aren’t we all, though? Even though our parents told us we could be anything if we just put our minds to it, let’s be real, you’re probably not going to become a full-time influencer at 30 unless you go on The Bachelor. Samantha Matt gets this, and instead of writing a “just practice 10,000 hours a day” type self-help book, she, through hilarious stories and insightful advice, offers encouragement to us “average” folks and assures us that being good really is good enough.
Third Rainbow Girl: The Long Life Of A Double Murder in Appalachia by Emma Copley Eisenberg
Out January 21, 2020
On June 25, 1980 in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, two middle-class women were murdered as they were hitchhiking their way to a festival called the Rainbow Gathering (obviously, they never arrived). For 13 years, there were no arrests, although people suspected the West Virginia locals, who were cast by the media as poor, backward, and dangerous. (Hmmm where have I seen this before…?) In 1993, a local farmer was convicted of the murders, until a known serial killer came forward and confessed to the crime. That’s not a spoiler because these murders actually happened, making this a true crime book. Writer Emma Copley Eisenberg explores divisions of gender and class in America through the lens of this double homicide in Appalachia and the reactions it spawned.
The Other People by C.J. Tudor
Out January 28, 2020
Nobody believes Gabe’s daughter Izzy is still alive, except Gabe, who swears he saw her being driven away in a strange car. Four years later, he spends his days driving up and down the freeway, hoping to find her. His search for his daughter leads him to an enigmatic man who calls himself The Sandman, a secret society, and it will expose to him the dark underbelly of humanity.
Behind Every Lie by Christina McDonald
Out February 4, 2020
If you read and loved The Night Olivia Fell like I did, then you’ve probably been waiting with bated breath for Christina McDonald’s next book. Well, you can exhale now, because it’s (almost) here! Here’s the gist: Eva Hansen wakes up in the hospital after being struck by lightning (I know, stick with me) and discovers her mother has been brutally murdered. Well, guess who was found unconscious down the street from her mom’s house? Yep, Eva. Uh-oh, not a good look. The problem? Eva doesn’t remember what happened, so it’s up to her to try to piece that night together and, like, avoid going to prison for her mother’s murder. No pressure!
Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
Out February 4, 2020
Becky Albertalli, the best-selling author of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (that became the movie Love, Simon) teams up with bestselling author of Amal Unbound, Aisha Saeed, in this novel about the power of love and resistance. It’s like any joke that starts “a Jew and a Muslim walk into a bar,” only both people are 17 so they wouldn’t be allowed in a bar, and that bar is volunteering for their local state senate candidate. As the polls get closer, so do the two main characters. *Wink emoji*
The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons
Out February 4, 2020
You’ve been ghosted before, right? (If you say no, you’re lying.) Well, in this debut by Amy Bonnaffons, the protagonist gets literally ghosted… in that she has sex with a ghost. Yep, ghost sex, we’re going there. It’s 2020, why not.
Love, Unscripted by Owen Nicholls
Out February 11, 2020
It’s London 2008, on the eve of President Obama’s election. Amid the fizzy glow of hope and change and promise, Nick and Ellie meet and fall in love. Nick is a film projectionist who wants his love story to live up to his favorite movies, and he quickly casts Ellie as his leading lady—metaphorically speaking. It’s all sunshine and rainbows until one day when Ellie inexplicably moves out, and Nick is forced to reevaluate the relationship, without the rose-colored glasses.
Postscript by Cecelia Ahern
Out February 11, 2020
Sixteen years after her bestselling phenomenon PS, I Love You, Cecilia Ahern is back with the sequel (and you thought you were a procrastinator). Fast-forward to six years after Holly Kennedy has read her husband’s final letter, and she’s moved on with her life at last. That is, until her sister has the genius idea to have her start a podcast (how millennial of her) where she retells her story of reading her late husband’s letters. People start connecting with the podcast, specifically terminally ill people who want to leave their loved ones messages after they’re gone. It’s your classic “just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in”.
The Antidote for Everything by Kimmery Martin
Out February 18, 2020
In this charming novel, two doctors are forced to choose between treating all their patients and keeping their jobs. Basically, it’s set in Charleston (you can probably guess what’s coming) and the clinic at which the characters work is demanding that all their doctors stop treating trans patients. Along the way there’s love, blackmail, office politics, and a little bit of mystery too. And the main characters, Georgia and Jonah, are adorable and friendship goals. I imagine it’s a little like Grey’s Anatomy except I wouldn’t know because I never watched that show.
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Out March 3, 2020
This book is actually based on the life of Erdrich’s grandfather, who worked as—you guessed it—a night watchman and who helped fight against Native American dispossession in North Dakota, taking that fight all the way to Washington, D.C. The book takes place in 1953 on the Chippewa Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. Night watchman and Chippewa Council member Thomas Wazhashk is struggling to understand a proposed “emancipation” bill that’s making its way to the floor of Congress. Thomas doesn’t know much, but he does know that with this “emancipation” his people are likely not gonna be free—more likely, the opposite. Meanwhile, Pixie “Patrice” Paranteau (also a member of the reservation) is on a quest to find her sister who moved to Minneapolis and then disappeared.
The Mirror & The Light by Hilary Mantel
Out March 10, 2020
History buffs, you’ll love this one. The Mirror & The Light is the third book in the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, after Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies. Now, let me set the scene for you: the year is 1536. Anne Boleyn was just beheaded. Cromwell goes back to his master, Henry VIII, to celebrate his victory… which proves to be short-lived, because there’s rebellion brewing at home and traitors plotting abroad. All this while Cromwell is trying to plan his own ascent to power… it’s a lot.
The Herd by Andrea Bartz
Out March 24, 2020
You know those girls who just seem to have it all? Beautiful, a million Instagram followers, started their own company? Yeah. Meet Eleanor, the founder of The Herd, an all-female co-working space (that is very similar to an IRL all-female co-working space, just saying). But it isn’t all glitter and positive affirmations. Soon after opening, The Herd is vandalized with sexist messages—and then its beloved founder, Eleanor, winds up dead. This leaves Eleanor’s equally beautiful, slightly less accomplished friends to find out what happened to her.
Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Out March 31, 2020
Okay, the title alone is enough to convince me to pick up a copy of this book of essays, because it basically describes my mood 24/7 these days. Now, don’t get scared away by the word “essays” because these are f*cking hilarious. They range in topic from bad friend dates (relatable) to being disillusioned by inspirational Instagram quotes (more relatable) to “being a cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person” (still relatable somehow even though I’m from New York).
It’s Not All Downhill From Here by Terry McMillan
Out March 31, 2020
Welp, that title is the positivity I need today. #1 NYT bestselling author Terry McMillan, who wrote Waiting To Exhale, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, and more, returns with this novel that women’s fiction lovers will, well, love. In it, 68-year-old Loretha Curry is living her life—she has a thriving beauty-supply empire, a loving husband, and awesome friends. That is, until an unexpected loss turns her whole world upside down and she’s gotta get by with a little help from her friends.
God Shot by Chelsea Bieker
Out April 7, 2020
Honestly, this plot kind of reminds me of Holes, but with a Jesus-y twist. 14-year-old Lacey May and her alcoholic mother live in the town of—get this—Peaches, California, a once-thriving agricultural hub that has since gone dry. Now, it’s the site of a work camp/prison for juvenile delinquents. Just kidding!! In their desperation, the residents turn to a cult leader, Pastor Vern, who promises to bring rain by doling out secret “assignments” to the Peaches residents. But when Lacey’s mother runs away, Lacey begins to uncover just what the Pastor has been doing, and she has no choice but to set out to find her mother.
That’s Not A Thing by Jacqueline Friedland
Out April 14, 2020
Fans of Emily Giffin will love this romantic novel that’s not overtly saccharine. Protagonist Meredith Altman has it all: a loving fiancé who’s a doctor, a high-paying career as a lawyer, and she’s about to set her wedding at a new trendy Tribeca restaurant… until she meets the owner of the restaurant. It’s her ex. Not just any ex—the ex. You know, the one who f*cked up her life and made her think she’d never be the same again without him? That ex. As she spends more time with the ex, Meredith questions everything she values, and she’s going to have to choose which life she’s going to have: the one before her, or the one she used to want?
He Started It by Samantha Downing
Out April 28, 2020
From the author of My Lovely Wife, He Started It follows a family of scammers who are on a forced road trip to claim their grandfather’s inheritance. If you thought your family was crazy and dysfunctional, just wait until you get a load of these people. Every chapter brings a new secret and twist to the story, and even I couldn’t predict this one. Stay tuned for an exclusive excerpt, just for Betches readers!
Beach Read by Emily Henry
Out May 19, 2020
Yeah, I know, I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, but for good reason! Pre-order it now so you can have it in time for your first beach day. Once I started Beach Read I legit did not put it down. Romance writer January Andrews believes in the power of love (can’t relate) until a devastating family secret upends her entire worldview. Cold horny-boy literary fiction writer (you know the type) Augustus Everett is cynical and matter-of-fact. They hate each other… until they’re forced to spend the summer in adjacent beach houses, and they come up with a little bet to swap genres. I think you know what’s going to happen between these two, but it’s not supposed to be mysterious anyway.
Images: Nicole Wolf / Unsplash; Amazon (20)
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