Jun 2 2017 2:00pm

Thornwood Heights Movie & Companion Novel Blend Mystery and Romance

Jennifer and Hayden in Deadly Secrets by the Lake

Enjoy a good cold-case mystery with your romance? Then you won't want to miss tonight's Thornwood Heights Mystery crossover event, which begins with a TV movie (Deadly Secrets by the Lake, airing tonight at 10 p.m. on LMN) and continues in a new romantic suspense novel (Zoe Carter's When Secrets Kill, released today by Harlequin).

The series kicks off with the return of NYPD detective Jennifer Riley to her hometown, Thornwood Heights, 20 years after the still-unsolved disappearance of her best friend, Abby. As it happens, Jennifer's high-school love and Abby's twin brother, Hayden, is back as well...

For a preview of the movie and to get to know a few of the key players in the town, head over to After watching the movie, read our excerpt for the sequel novel, When Secrets Kill, below.

Then let us know what you think! Good, bad, something in between? Did you like the multimedia aspect of the story or do you prefer standalone movies and books?

P.S. If you're digging this Lifetime movie/Harlequin team-up, check out our sneak peek at The Wrong Bed: Naked Pursuit, which also premieres tonight.

Excerpt from When Secrets Kill by Zoe Carter

The story so far...

The Thornwood Heights mysteries begin in the LMN television movie Deadly Secrets by the Lake, which tells Jennifer Riley’s story. The prodigal daughter returns home to Thornwood Heights to prove her sister’s innocence of murder, but is met by her first love, dark family secrets and a longstanding family rivalry fueled by the disappearance of her childhood best friend.

Now Lauren Riley is free and clear and helping Trevor Gallagher find out what happened to his sister.

Rounding out the Thornwood Heights Mystery series is, a rich, immersive site with lots of extras you won’t want to miss, including:

  • a 360-degree virtual-reality experience that lets you explore the crime scenes and solve the mystery
  • a series of videos by Lauren Riley about her ongoing investigation
  • articles from the Townsend Report
  • backstories on the main characters and their rivalries
  • an interactive storytelling app

Visit for all the juicy behind-the-scenes scoop


To: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

From: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Ms. Riley,

I read your recent article in the Townsend Report about young women going missing from Thornwood Heights. My sister—she’s only eighteen—disappeared a couple of weeks ago, and I’m worried sick. The police won’t help; they say she’s an adult. I’m a combat soldier with a week left of my tour in Afghanistan. I’ll be arriving home in Thornwood Heights on June 26. Can we meet? PLEASE.

Trevor Gallagher

Lauren Riley stood in front of Sunnyside Coffee and reread Trevor Gallagher’s email, then glanced at the photo he’d sent so she’d recognize him. If there was a six foot two muscular soldier with slightly grown-in military-cut dark hair, intense blue eyes and a dimple undermining the seriousness of his expression anywhere in the vicinity, she’d have spotted him. She glanced at her watch, then peered in the coffee shop’s window again. He wasn’t in there. Or out here. And he was ten minutes late.

She took another look at his photo and clicked off her email so she’d stop ogling his face and those shoulders. With everything that had happened the past month, with everything she had to prove, she couldn’t get sidetracked by a handsome face and a body that had been honed by the US Army. The new and improved take-me-seriously Lauren Riley would focus only on her job.

That job—as an investigative reporter for the Townsend Report—meant she poked her nose places, asked questions, bothered people. Ever since she’d gotten Trevor Gallagher’s email with the attached photo of Tammy, she’d shown it to people around town. No one recognized Tammy. A few thought there was something familiar about her, but couldn’t recall when or where they’d seen her.

Lauren too. She’d swear she’d seen Tammy Gallagher somewhere. Maybe a week or so before Lauren’s life had fallen to absolute crap and obliterated all thought. Where had she seen Tammy? Fresh-scrubbed—not a stitch of makeup. Light brown eyes. Freckles on the nose. Ash-brown, shoulder-length hair. Petite with boobs. All-American meets...something else, which Lauren also couldn’t put her finger on. Maybe if you hadn’t been drinking so much last month you’d remember where you saw her, she thought, ever great at bitching herself out. Who needed her family or the holier-than-thou residents of Thornwood Heights to wag their fingers when she did it best herself?

Stop it. That’s done. Two stints in rehab might not have made you quit drinking and acting like an idiot—but waking up covered in blood next to the body of your boss with absolutely no recollection of how you got there? Being accused of murder? Locked in a jail cell? Hell yeah, that would do it.

A chill ran up Lauren’s spine. She had that weird feeling that someone was watching her.

A little girl, around nine or ten, was pointing at her, eyes and mouth wide-open in the kind of gawking stare that Lauren had become very used to. Crap.

“Look, Mommy,” the girl said to the woman holding her hand. “There’s the killer!”

“Don’t point, sweetie,” the mother whispered and pulled the girl close, making such a wide swath past Lauren that they almost fell off the curb.

I was exonerated! Lauren wanted to yell from the rooftop of Blake Mining and Exploration, the tallest building in Thornwood Heights. Fully, 100 percent exonerated!

“The real killer is behind bars,” Lauren couldn’t help saying to no one as she put on her big, black, face-obscuring sunglasses.

A middle-aged woman who worked at the library gave Lauren the usual judgmental once-over as she passed by, but at least she didn’t stop to do what most people had since Lauren had been released from jail a week ago: ask nosy, point-diminishing questions about who her cell mate had been and what she was in for, how the food was and if jail was anything like it was on TV.

What no one ever asked was: How did it feel to know that people thought you capable of murder? Your boss’s murder. A man you admired and respected. The first person to give you a chance at making something of yourself.

It felt awful. Stomach-dropping, ugly-cry awful. For the three weeks that Lauren had been in the Thornwood Heights jail, refused bail because she’d been deemed a flight risk, she’d realized that everyone had thought her capable of killing Victor Townsend. Her family, which included the chief of police, had rallied and supported her and told her they knew she had to be innocent. But the evidence had been so startlingly stacked against her that the look in her father’s and sisters’ eyes had given them away.

Oh, Lauren’s in jail? Quelle surprise. Of course she is! What did she do this time?

In fact, her sister Jennifer, a New York City homicide detective, had said exactly that when Lauren had called her from jail, scared out of her mind. What did you do this time?

Lauren had always been the screwup of the three Riley sisters, despite how hard she’d worked to change during the past couple of years since she started working for Victor. But it had all been small-potatoes stuff—partying a bit too much, getting fired or quitting dull jobs and “burning bridges” as her sister Nova would say. Looking for love in places she’d never find it. And yes, last year she’d had one margarita too many at Nova’s annual Memorial Day barbecue and had drunkenly staggered over to her latest “boyfriend’s” apartment building and screeched up at his second-floor window all the ways he’ddone her wrong, tears streaming down her face. Instead of calling her dad or Nova, who also worked for the Thornwood Heights PD, jerk deputy chief Pat Lewton had arrested her for disorderly conduct. Her family had been furious with Lewton but had hissed at Lauren to get her damned act together.

For the past year, she truly had. She had a great job at the Townsend Report, the popular online newsblog that Victor Townsend had founded. Everyone read the Report, whether they admitted it or not. The newsblog had even won two regional awards for investigative journalism. But now the Report was barely hanging on in the aftermath of Victor’s murder. The story she was working on, the story that Victor had been working on, was going to be the story at the Townsend Report. I’ll continue what you started, Victor, she promised her late boss, friend and mentor. To expose the secrets of this town. To report the truth. To find justice for those who no one else will help.

Trevor Gallagher’s sister clearly needed help. So did Trevor.

Lauren looked up and down Main Street, but there was no sign of him. She had hoped to catch him as he arrived so she could suggest talking at a more private location. Sunnyside Coffee was packed and she didn’t want to be stared at—or have their conversation eavesdropped on.

There was a sidewalk sale going on today, so the streets of Thornwood Heights were even more crowded than usual in the picture-perfect New York state lakeshore tourist town nestled against the woods. And given the fact that photos of Lauren had been plastered all over the news for weeks, a pair of black sunglasses wasn’t enough to make a tall, auburn-haired ex-jailbird incognito. Everyone had assumed Lauren had killed Victor Townsend because they’d been having an affair and he’d dumped her. With every gawk and point and whisper, it was clear that the people of Thornwood Heights didn’t care that the real killer, the real spurned lover, was finally behind bars. The gossip and rumors, the murder charge, the jail time, the taint left over from being front page news herself wasn’t going away any time soon.

Lauren glanced at the time on her phone. Trevor Gallagher was now twenty minutes late. Where the hell was he? He’d mentioned that he was from Thornwood Heights, so he couldn’t be lost. Maybe his plane had been delayed. She checked the email he’d sent her a week ago—no phone number. Would his military email address still work? Only one way to find out.

At the sound of her least favorite voice, belonging to asshole deputy chief Pat Lewton, booming from down the street, Lauren froze, remembering how he’d accused her. Guilty. You killed him. Murderer! She could hear Lewton’s mouth-frothing judgments echoing in her head like it had all happened this morning. She’d tried so hard to move on. Wasn’t that what the shrink her sister Nova had made her go to had said? Move on. Right.

Copyright © 2017 by Zoe Carter; Reprinted with permission from Harlequin

Learn more about or order a copy of When Secrets Kill: A Thornwood Heights Mystery by Zoe Carter, out now:

Buy at Amazon

Buy at B&N

Buy at Kobo




Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Miss_D
I really enjoyed "Deadly Secrets by the Lake" (less so "The Wrong Bed") and I hope there's a sequel movie.
Heather Waters
2. HeatherWaters
@Miss_D -- Yeah, maybe they'll turn the sequel book into a movie too...

I liked the handcuff scenes in The Wrong Bed, and the concept of them getting to know each other all over again by piecing together what happened, but the mystery/suspense aspect didn't appeal.
jeannie laudermilk
3. jeannie laudermilk
I just watched deadly secrets by the lake. I loved the movie, but could not believe how it ended. Please tell me there is going to be a sequel to this movie and please tell me its going to be soon before everyone forgets what the movie is about.
Heather Waters
4. HeatherWaters
@jeannie laudermilk -- I agree, I was shocked by how much was left unresolved by the ending. That said, I think the book companion that we mention here will answer some of those questions! Not sure if there'll be a sequel movie or not, but I'll update this post if I hear anything!
jeannie laudermilk
5. Purple Lady
Watched Lifetime movie and got excited to read book!
Read book that was very good but very Disappointed that the case was only 1/2 solved. Didn't really make sense at the end with not enough details about calling ton being involved and another person as well. It was like the author got tired of writing. Was the author trying to set it up for another continuing book to finally solve the case? Not happy with the ending if there are no plans to write a follow up and solve the case.
Heather Waters
6. HeatherWaters
@Purple Lady -- I THINK (but am not sure) a series is planned, which would mean more answers are coming. But I will see what I can find out for you!
jeannie laudermilk
7. Laurie foster
Loved Secrets by the Lake. Would love a MOVIE series vs reading sequel books. In my opinion, feel like I am being held hostage to purchase the sequel book. The way in which this was marketed to the public was soley to increase book sales. As a business analyst I understand this but still don't appreciate it. If this movie was really inspired by an actual case? Can you disclose that information or is this strictly a fictional story? I rarely watch Lifetime Movie chanel but will check out more mystery movies in the future.
Heather Waters
8. HeatherWaters
@Laurie Foster -- Completely understand the frustration, and we'll let you know if we hear from Lifetime about another movie.

I don't know for sure, but I don't think this was based on a real case.
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