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A Horrific Discovery at a Hot Springs Retreat - an Editorial Review of "What Happens in Montana"

Book Blurb:

“...a beautifully written tale of strong female relationships that draws you in from the beginning and won’t let go. Reading this book is like spending the afternoon with comforting friends. Enjoy the experience.” –Diane Dickinson, author of Final Transaction

A ghost's antics, a harrowing moose chase, a hypnosis session, and smuggled booze lead to spilled secrets and betrayal, but do they also lead to murder?

At a hot springs retreat in Montana, whiskey-swigging Maude, the nearly eighty-year-old chef, longs for the glory days when the retreat hosted martini-sipping celebrities instead of long-haired hippies who refuse to wear deodorant. Brooke, feisty, adventurous, and a bit reckless, proposes a reunion at the retreat with her best friends to get away from the chaos of her life with teenagers and the emotional aftermath of her postponed wedding. One of those friends, Tracy, has devoted her life to her children and her husband despite her excruciating boredom. But a long-held secret could cost her the most important friendships in her life. Haunting the place is a ghost who, in life, dealt with tragedy by turning to prostitution which led to her murder over 100 years ago at the very place they all are staying.

What Happens in Montana explores friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness with blunt truth and witty insights. Together, these friends learn to navigate empty nests, infidelity, deception, and poltergeists. Most importantly, they learn their friendship is strong enough to get them through it all.

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Editorial Review:

In this captivating tale of Montana, K. McCollum introduces us to the enchanting world of

Bridger Hot Springs Retreat, where deep and mysterious characters unveil the secrets of the

place, marked by tragic events. The garden, transformed by the new owner, becomes a

symbol of local changes and subtly reflects the tensions between old and new. The

protagonist becomes a silent witness to the evolution of her soulful place, and the encounter

with the enigmatic Simone adds a fascinating touch of suspense and mystery. The discovery

of a corpse at Bridger Hot Springs Retreat completely alters the course of the story,

revealing the tragic impact on the local community. With a clever blend of mystery and

reality, "What Happens in Montana" offers a captivating journey through the landscapes of

Montana and the spirals of intrigue, keeping the reader engaged until the last page.

Interestingly, the author also addresses aspects of daily life, such as wedding plans, family

relationships, and the need for escape. These elements add depth and authenticity to the


In the days leading up to the tragic discovery of the corpse at Bridger Hot Springs Retreat,

the story becomes even more complex, introducing new characters and revealing varied

perspectives of visitors seeking an apparently idyllic refuge. The amusing description of a gift

shop with Montana stereotypes adds a light note in contrast to the mysterious atmosphere of

the story. The presence of huckleberries, reinterpreted in various ways, lends authenticity to

the place.

Tracy faces a surprising disappointment at Bridger Hot Springs Retreat, contrasting with the

expectations created by the resort's website. The deteriorated complex and its aging history

bring a nostalgic and melancholic sentiment to the story. Brooke, although dissatisfied with

the resort experience, tries to make the best of it, managing misunderstandings with her

fiancé. Interactions with the new character, Max, add a flirtatious and uncertain note,

highlighting the complexity of relationships and the desires of the characters. Against the

backdrop of personal intrigues, the tragic discovery in news articles adds tension and

amplifies the mystery surrounding Bridger Hot Springs Retreat.

The story then presents the poignant tale of Simone, the ghost haunting Bridger Hot Springs

Retreat. Her past, marked by tragedies and prejudices, adds a profound emotional

dimension to the entire context of the book.

No one hopes to become a prostitute. Little girls don’t lie in their beds at night dreaming of

lecherous men slobbering on their necks stinking of whiskey, yellow teeth flashing. They

don’t play dress-up in tasteless black lingerie meant to lure philanderers, nor do they

practice posing in windows while tapping on the glass with a come-hither wink. As a young

girl, I didn’t hope to decorate my room in red velvet with dim light emanating from a beaded

bedside lamp. But it was where I ended up. Little is involved in becoming a prostitute.

Involuntarily, life turns you into one.”

Simone, turning to prostitution due to unfortunate events in her childhood, becomes a

character with intricate layers. Her story illustrates the harsh reality of life and the influence

of others' decisions on an individual's destiny. The revelation of her tumultuous relationship

with family and societal prejudices adds depth and tragic context to Simone's character.

Simone interacts with protagonists Brooke and Tracy, bringing mystery and tension to the

story through her childish play and lack of clear communication. The narrative explores the

complexity of the relationship between past and present, highlighting strong emotions and

reflections on life decisions.

In "What Happens in Montana," Simone's interactions suggest subtle and mysterious

connections between the living and the afterlife. Her presence introduces themes such as

regret and the search for identity in eternity.

In this chapter, the discovery of Max Williams' corpse deepens the mystery and heightens

the tension in the atmosphere of Bridger Hot Springs Retreat.

The body of the man found at the bottom of the balcony stairs at Bridger Hot Springs

Retreat two days ago has been identified as 28-year-old Jeremiah Ulrich. Jeremiah, who

used the alias Max Williams, worked as a seasonal employee of the retreat as a yoga

instructor and hiking guide.”

The main characters experience paranormal events, and Simone's presence adds

suspense. Max's peculiar relationship raises suspicions, and Simone's desire to

communicate keeps curiosity alive. The story blends mystery, drama, and supernatural


Simone, the perpetual specter, adds an emotional dimension, attempting to warn about

Max's dangers. Maude contributes intuition and a desire to prevent tragedy, revealing

fragments of her own past. Brooke, Krista, and Tracy embark on unexpected adventures,

bringing humor and vulnerability. Romantic intrigues and self-reflections provide readers with

a deeper insight into the characters' world.

In the continued intriguing story of "What Happens in Montana," connections between past

and present deepen, revealing layers of mystery and suspense. Simone's appearances

beyond the realm of the living become more tangible, unveiling her tragic story in this eerie


Max Williams becomes a captivating focal point with his enigmatic past and influence on

those around him. The ambiguity of the characters and their progressive development

maintains the mystery and suspense of the novel. "What Happens in Montana" continues

to captivate with its unpredictable narrative and complex characters, unveiling

interconnected and thought-provoking stories.

The revelation of Max's past as Jeremiah Ulrich shocks the community and complicates the

relationships between the characters.

Police have released new information about the hiking guide who died at Bridger Hot

Springs Retreat two weeks ago. Jeremiah Ulrich was facing rape allegations in Casper,

Wyoming. [...] Police hadn’t yet located him when his body was found at Bridger Hot Springs

Retreat. He was working as a seasonal employee under the alias Max Williams.”

This section deepens the mystery, outlining characters with profound humanity. The writer

continues to surprise and captivate with each revelation, and the evolution of the plot makes

readers eagerly anticipate the next twists in the story. Tracy struggles to cope with the

effects of the hypnosis session, triggering an emotional avalanche and questioning the

secrets of her past. Meanwhile, Simone attempts to communicate with the otherworldly,

adding an intriguing supernatural element. Interactions between characters become more

complex, testing relationships and alliances in the face of shocking revelations.

Simone unveils mystical tragedies, and Tracy confronts a devastating secret. The book

maintains intense suspense, addressing profound themes. Simone and Maude become key

figures in revealing the darkness of Max's past. Journalistic discoveries add excitement to

the story. The epilogue brings emotional conclusions in Vegas, highlighting life and

friendship lessons. Maude and her friends discover unexpected joys in Vegas, avoiding the

hustle for the tranquility of Quinn's house, vividly describing the story's specific atmosphere.

The modern portrayal of Quinn's house adds contrast to the characters' past, and Maude's

ironic observations about Vegas reflect her personality. Entering Quinn's house symbolizes

distance and intimacy, while the Uber driver's dialogue adds humor and wisdom,

emphasizing the contrast of life in Vegas.

The story's surprising ending maintains suspense until the last lines. Although Simone is no

longer physically present, her memory and influence are felt in moments of connection and

understanding between characters. In this epilogue, the theme of friendship is underscored,

and characters express gratitude for the strong bonds they've developed.

Tracy's proposed toast brings a touch of melancholy and gratitude, emphasizing the value of

friendship in life: "To friends who make this life worth living." Revelations about the

characters' lives, such as Tracy's challenging journey and reconciliation with her family, add

a realistic and emotional element.

Maude's final line adds humor and warmth to the conclusion, revealing an authentic side of

the character. Acknowledging that she is accepted and loved within this circle of friends adds

a tone of joy and satisfaction.

In conclusion, "What Happens in Montana" provides readers with a captivating story,

featuring complex characters, dramatic conflicts, and moments of authentic friendship. The

epilogue brings a satisfying and emotional conclusion, leaving readers with thoughts about

the power of friendship and resilience in the face of life's adversities.


“What Happens in Montana” by Kim McCollum receives four stars from The Historical Fiction Company


To have your historical novel editorially reviewed and/or enter the HFC Book of the Year contest, please visit 


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