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UnderCut by Lisa J Lickel is a Shake Off Winter Doldrums pick #medicalthriller #mustread #giveaway

Title: UnderCut


Author: Lisa J Lickel


Genre: Medical Thriller


Book Blurb:


When you are loved, you have everything to lose...


Lily Masters was born with a deformity that shaped her life. When she, white and rural-raised, and Cam Taylor, a biracial army medic and literary professor who left his work under a cloud of suspicion, meet, fall in love, and get engaged, Lily decides it's time to take control of her body in order to feel whole. She schedules plastic reconstructive surgery in Texas and leaves Cam and her nephew Kenny, also of mixed heritage, who they're planning to adopt, back home in Wisconsin to wait.


The nightmare begins when Cam can't get a response about Lily's condition from the hospital and both his friend Matt the newspaper editor and his sister Georgia send him a horrifying news story about murder and mayhem at the Southern Shore Medical Center in Houston where Lily is supposedly under the knife.


But whose knife? A terrifying ring of human organ black marketers harvest organs from unwilling victims to meet the demand for transplants as the procedures become less risky and the race to create engineered organs fails.


In Lily's case, she's not only the victim of black marketers, she's a target for revenge. The international terrorist family, the Limms, want payback for the loss of a favored son when Lily helped expose their international sex-trafficking operation. Her plastic surgery was the only success when she wakes without kidneys.


"You'll never see the face of your lover again," Old Man Limm promises. "And your body will slowly rot in its own poison."


As their friends and family gather around them, Cam and Lily wonder about their future together and whether being whole is a solitary or communal endeavor.





Chapter 1

On the first achingly bright morning of summer, Lily Masters stood ready to conquer her source of shame. She posed in front of her mother’s rusty, full-length wall mirror in her Wisconsin childhood home and hesitantly opened her robe. She kept her eyelids welded shut before she endured a last lengthy look. A quick, shallow inhale did nothing to balance her nerves as chills ran the length of her arms to her fingernails. She squinted, daring herself. Then Lily caught a flash of her diamond engagement ring, the reason she could finally make the decision. She forced her gaze back toward her torso.

Taunts in her mother’s creaky voice echoed in a shroud of childhood phantom sounds.

“You’re a freak! You’ll never get a man! Better be smart, reject. Learn to take care of yourself ’cuz I’m not feeding and housing you as a freeloader forever when you finally figure out no one could love you.”

Lily had long ago stopped needing anyone to take care of her. Except last summer when she had crawled back to Barter Valley. Downsized. Her magazine editing career in the Twin Cities dried up and home meant moving in with her stepbrother Art. Mom had moved to the cemetery twenty-two years ago when Lily was six and Berta two and a half.

Wincing, she let the edges of her robe fall across her shoulders. She reached to finger the ravages of the defect. A puddled baby soft mound of flesh over a protruding march of ribs instead of a left breast. Misaligned nipple. No armpit hair to shave was the only positive. That, and it didn’t hurt. On the outside. No scars…not yet.

She inhaled and watched her normal right breast rise and pucker. Stepmom Marge had joined the family a couple of years after Mom left. Marge never bothered to look at her new stepdaughters much. Lily and Berta learned early not to need anyone. Until Cam.

An ethereal vision of Lily’s fiancé appeared behind her in the mirror. Cam stared into her reflected eyes while his slow smile made her toes tingle.

Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look…

His spectral arms reached around to enfold her. She shivered as she imagined the solid weight of his chin resting on her shoulder. She was helpless to halt the downward sweep of his eyes, a lover’s regard that would soon be filtered through the lens of wedding vows. Worse than the expected revulsion was his brow-crinkling sorrow. She never wanted to make him sad.She thrust her elbows backward and Cam’s image evaporated.

Lily was absolutely ready to fix this. Decision made. No going back. The plastic surgeon had shown her pictures of what she and her team could do to make Lily normal. Create a fold along her armpit that everyone took for granted, build a normal breast, even make that wretched nipple match the other. It wouldn’t be useful, as in letting a baby suckle, but replacing the savagery of the Poland Syndrome would erase her lifelong sense of humiliation. The worst part would be healing from the surgery to take muscle from her back to transplant in her chest wall. Small price. She would soon be proud of her body and gladly share it after Cam became her husband.

Cameron Taylor had been a stranger in the woods who’d rescued her when she’d gotten turned around in a blizzard six months ago. They hadn’t been able to resist their attraction in the storm-fueled intimacy of being snowed in together. Their bond was borne of patient discovery and mutual agreement to respect the act of marriage, and in his goodness, he’d accepted her ten-year-old nephew Kenny as part of her package. Cam told her he didn’t care about the Poland Syndrome, and Lily believed him. But all of her life she’d been a freak with a body even her mother couldn’t love. She’d taken such care to hide herself away and strapped on a padded bra to cower behind. No more.

Lily had planted Dear Old Jailbird Dad and horrible Stepbrother Art next to Bad Mom and Wicked Stepmother six months ago. Quite the little family plot the Masters clan had going in Peaceful Rest Cemetery. Lily couldn’t wait to shed the Masters name and move out of this tainted house.

Lily pulled her robe up over her shoulders and went to finish packing for her stay at the medical complex down in Houston. After a little slicing and repackaging, she’d come home, better than new. A few weeks of healing and therapy and she’d be racing down the aisle come September. Kenny would be theirs, and they’d have more kids together to fill up their cabin in the woods. They would be a family at last.

A normal blended one. No more fostering, not kinship care, not being forced to take government funds to raise her own nephew or having to report to an impersonal caseworker. Berta had Kenny the first ten years of his life. Lily hoped it wasn’t too late to save him from embedded dysfunction.

The cheap flight meant spending most of the rest of the day traveling to one layover after another hop-skipping around the States. Tomorrow was more pre-op and prep. The next day, bright and earlier than decent, loomed the first day of freedom from freakhood.

On the way out of the door, she stopped to caress a photo of her and Kenny with Cam, surrounded by his dogs, on the front porch of his home in the woods.

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What’s your favorite activity to shake off the winter doldrums?


+Bird watching!


The migratory and nonmigratory wild birdlife in my rural acreage is astonishing. After the snow arrives, bluebirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks and robins and waxwings, orioles, flickers, warblers, red-headed woodpeckers and sandhill cranes fly south, making way for the little black-and-white juncos with their yellow beaks, and the sassy, bossy bluejays who bow only to grayish, tufted female cardinals. The male cardinals seem to glow against the dull background of dead grass and leafless trees. Downy, Hairy, and Redbelly woodpeckers let us know they’re hungry, and gold, yellow, house finches and nuthatches and chickadees flit up to the birdfeeders and back again to their hideouts. I could spend hours enjoying the fun.


Why is your featured book a cure for the winter blues?


UnderCut: For a good old-fashioned murder mystery with a twist, check out a medical thriller, UnderCut, with all of its underlying juicy issues of adoption, trauma, organ theft and transplant, race…what’s not to love?


Giveaway –


One lucky reader will win a $35 Amazon gift card



Open internationally.


Runs March 1 – 31, 2024


Drawing will be held on April 1, 2024. 


Author Biography:


Lisa Lickel writes from the peaceful rolling hills of Wisconsin’s driftless area. A multi-published and award-winning novelist, she also writes short stories and radio theater, articles, is an avid book reviewer, blogger, and freelance editor. She loves books, collects dragons, and encouraging authors. She’s a member of the Wisconsin Writers Association, the Chicago Writers Association, and Assistant Director and book coach for Novel-In-Progress Bookcamp and Writing Retreat, Inc. She manages the Wisconsin Writers Association Press and edits Creative Wisconsin magazine. Lisa and her husband enjoy gardening, travel, spending time with their family. They have two grown sons, daughters-in-law, and lots of adorable grandchildren.


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1 Comment

Lisa J Lickel
Lisa J Lickel
Mar 28

Thank you! It's been a fun month.

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