Learning to Cope—from J.T. Ellison’s ‘Tear Me Apart’ [EXCERPT]

Cancer hair

To help her niece cope with her cancer diagnosis, a loving aunt trims off her long locks in J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart. (Photo by North Caroline National Guard, Flickr)


If you’ve been reading with us for a while, you know that we love J.T. Ellison. Over the years, we’ve discovered that she’s more than just a terrific writer. She’s also a funny lady, an amazingly nice person, a loving wife, a consummate bibliophile and a fellow book nerd, which are all attributes we love about her. That’s why we’re always delighted when we get the opportunity to share her latest book with you. We hope you enjoy this excerpt from her forthcoming novel, Tear Me Apart. It’s the kind of thriller that we love, which blows the roof off a family to see if it can weather the storm. Enjoy! —Jathan & Heather


“Now, tell me more. What kind of cancer? There are a lot of different kinds of leukemia.”

“AML. They’re doing more tests, but they ran the spinal fluid. Aunt J?”

“Yes, baby?”



“I don’t want to die.” The voice is so small, so quiet, Juliet’s heart breaks.

“You aren’t going to. I won’t allow it.”

“My hair is going to fall out. I have to have chemo, and other awful drugs and I have to come back to this godforsaken hospital constantly. How am I going to train? How am I going to make the rest of the season?”

Juliet gestures to Mindy’s leg. “Hate to break it to you, kid, but you’re going to be off your skis for the foreseeable future. I mean, look at that leg. You have rods screwed into the bone. You can’t put weight on that, I presume?”

“No, not for at least six weeks. But…” She shakes her head. “This is stupid. Who breaks their leg and finds out they have cancer?”

“You, apparently. You’ve always been precocious.”

Silence. Juliet lifts the mass of black hair off the pillow, stroking through its gorgeous thick length.

“You know, kiddo, I think you’d look adorable with a pixie cut. If it’s going to fall out anyway, maybe we should take you total punk rock for a few weeks instead of mourning it as it goes.”

“Mom will kill me.” But her eyes brighten, and she grins.

“Really? Word choice, child.”

Mindy giggles and a small weight lifts off Juliet’s chest.

“I hate to say it, but who the hell cares what your mom thinks? If you’re going to lose it anyway, let’s have some fun. I could cut it for you now.”

She moves the thick hair to and fro, arranging, and Mindy looks alive with the idea of doing something naughty.

“Oh, my God. I’ve always wanted short hair. It’s just too damn cold on the mountain. Go find some scissors before she comes back.”

“You’re serious?”

“Aren’t you?”

A dare. Juliet finds a pair of scissors at the nurses’ station but realizes there is no way she’ll be able to get them through Mindy’s thick hair. It is so unlike her own fuzzy blond, even Lauren’s sleekly perfect highlights. No, not highlights. Balayage. Even how she colors her hair must be unique and special.

A nurse sees Juliet rummaging, approaches with a raised brow. “Excuse me. Can I help you?”

Juliet jerks away from the desk. “I’m sorry. I’m looking for scissors. My niece—”

“Oh. You want these,” the nurse says, reaching into her desk drawer. Out comes a pair of professional offset hair shears.

“I can’t believe you have them,” Juliet says, then it hits her. “Oh, wow, of course you do. Sorry about this. I just found out. I haven’t quite wrapped my head around it.”


“Mindy’s aunt. Juliet.”

“Ah. I’m Hazel. Nice to meet you. Mindy’s a doll. She’ll look adorable with short hair. Do you have a ponytail holder? It’s a lot easier to cut if you put it in a pony on top of her head first.”

At the direction, a well-spring of sorrow bubbles inside her. How many little girls’ hair has Hazel cut off for them? Juliet shuts her heart against it. Later, she can be upset later. She has to be strong and cool for Mindy now.

“Bring them back when you’re done,” Hazel calls after her. “They’re expensive.”

Mindy has raised the head of her bed. She is still in an awkward position because of her leg, and Juliet feels badly when she sees her niece wincing at the movement.


“Yes, sometimes the pain breaks through the meds. I don’t know if it’s the cancer, or the surgery. I feel weird. I’ve felt weird for a while, but I figured it was just overtraining.”

“The drugs aren’t helping your weirdness, kiddo. You’re on some pretty hefty painkillers.” She brandishes the shears. “I mean you’re under the influence and can’t make a rational decision.”

Mindy laughs. “I’m plenty rational. Cut it.”

“As you wish.” Juliet gathers her niece’s hair into a ponytail on top of her head, then brutally slices through the hair. She tosses the pony on the table, and Mindy shakes her head. The hair falls around her ears. She looks like a pixie.

“Holy cow. You look different.”

“Cut the rest. I want the bangs longer on the right side, okay? So they sweep over my eye. Gotta say, Aunt J. Grandma K was right, you have the touch. How did you end up a scientist instead of a hairdresser?”

“Your grandma insisted I learn a skill. I wanted to go to Space Camp because I was harboring ideas of going into astrophysics. I wanted to work at NASA, to be an astronaut. Your grandma thought my plans were ridiculous, and gave me a choice—slinging pizza for the summer, or beauty school. She said, ‘Learn a skill, Juliet. Space Camp might be fun, but you need something to fall back on if things go south.’”

Juliet gets to work, shaping and shearing, for once mentally thanking her mother, gone five years now, for forcing her into the summer beautician program when she was seventeen.

“I was so furious at the time. I mean, I understand why she made me do it, but I didn’t speak to her for weeks. I ended up studying genetics instead of astrophysics, and I applied to the astronaut program at NASA to be a payload specialist. Made it to the final round before I got cut, too. I had a bunch of job offers, though, and I took the position with the Colorado Bureau of Investigation forensics lab.”

“Was she proud of you? I mean, the CBI lab is a big deal.”

Juliet laughed. “She said how nice it was that I’d have a steady paycheck, but to always keep my beautician license up to date because you never knew when I’d need a fallback position.”


“No kidding.”

Juliet snipped some more. She hadn’t been close to her mother. Kathleen Ryder had raised two girls on her own with no help from their biological father, who Kathleen divorced when Juliet was a baby. Juliet had looked him up once. He lived in Oregon, was married to a dental hygienist who’d produced three strapping sons, and seemed to have conveniently forgotten his first family existed.


The follow-up to her critically acclaimed Lie to Me, J.T. Ellison’s Tear Me Apart is the powerful story of a mother willing to do anything to protect her daughter even as their carefully constructed world unravels around them.


Competitive skier Mindy Wright is a superstar in the making until a spectacular downhill crash threatens not just her racing career but her life. During surgery, doctors discover she’s suffering from a severe form of leukemia, and a stem cell transplant is her only hope. But when her parents are tested, a frightening truth emerges. Mindy is not their daughter.


The race to save Mindy’s life means unraveling years of lies. Was she accidentally switched at birth or is there something more sinister at play? The search for the truth will tear a family apart… and someone is going to deadly extremes to protect the family’s deepest secrets.

With vivid movement through time, Tear Me Apart examines the impact layer after layer of lies and betrayal has on two families, the secrets they guard, and the desperate fight to hide the darkness within.

J.T. Ellison

J.T. Ellison
(Photo by Krista Lee Photography)


New York Times and USA Today bestselling author J.T. Ellison writes standalone domestic noir and psychological thriller series, the latter starring Nashville Homicide Lt. Taylor Jackson and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and pens the Nicholas Drummond series “A Brit in the FBI” with number one New York Times bestselling author Catherine Coulter.

Cohost of the Emmy Award-winning show, A Word on Words, Ellison lives in Nashville with her husband. She invites readers to visit her at her home on the Web at JTEllison.com for more insight into her wicked imagination, like her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

By J.T. Ellison
496 pgs. Mira. $16.99

TLC Book Tours Tour HostPreorder Lie to Me before its release on September 18, 2018! You may order it from one of these fine online retailers: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, IndieBound and Powell’s.

This excerpt is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

Read all the excerpts from Tear Me Apart in order! Follow the tour as listed below:

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to Learning to Cope—from J.T. Ellison’s ‘Tear Me Apart’ [EXCERPT]

  1. Pingback: J. T. Ellison, author of TEAR ME APART, on tour August/September 2018 | TLC Book Tours

  2. Thanks for featuring this excerpt for the tour!

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