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We Were Kings

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Twenty years ago, eighteen-year-old Francis Quick was convicted of murdering her best friend Cora King and sentenced to death. Now the highly debated Accelerated Death Penalty Act passes and gives Frankie thirty final days to live. From the Kings’ own family rises up the one who will challenge the woefully inadequate evidence and potential innocence of Francis Quick.

The at-first reluctant and soon-fiery Nyla and her sidekick (and handsome country island boy), Sam Stack, bring Frankie’s case to the international stage through her YouTube channel Death Daze. They step into fame and a hometown battle that someone’s still willing to kill over. The senator? The philanthropist? The pawn shop owner? Nyla’s own mother?

Best advice: Don’t go to family dinner with the Kings. More people will leave the dining room in body bags than on their own two feet. And as for Francis Quick, she’s a gem . . . even if she’s guilty.


First published February 1, 2022

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About the author

Courtney C. Stevens

8 books874 followers
Courtney “Court” Stevens grew up in the knockabout town of Bandana, Kentucky. She is a former adjunct professor, youth minister, Olympic torchbearer, and bookseller at Parnassus Books in Nashville, TN. These days she writes coming-of-truth fiction by night, is the community outreach manager for Warren County Public Library by day, and runs a hobby farm named Fable Stables whenever there is time. Fable Stables has four dogs, six goats, twenty chickens (give or take), and three babydoll sheep on order. She's humbled by the tiny fleet of novels with her name on the spine.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 319 reviews
Profile Image for julia ☆ [owls reads].
1,629 reviews322 followers
May 29, 2022
We Were Kings started out really really strong and then it took a turn to the dramatic and towards the unbelievable and I just... couldn't deal with it.

I really loved how the mystery and main conflict between Nyla and her mother was set up. The story of Cora's murder and Frankie's situation and how that directly shaped and affected Nyla's life and family dynamic was so intriguing to read about. It was such a big thing in her life and her quest to find answers, at the start, really captured my attention.

The problems started with Sam being introduced as a character and the odd ways in which Stevens seemed to be pushing for a romance? It was all very instant and this lack of time to develop him as a character and their relationship together wasn't a good choice, personally. With this book being around 400 pages, I expected more character, relationship, and plot development.

The really intriguing conflict mentioned above and Nyla's investigation into it? It got so convoluted and disconnected from reality that I couldn't suspend my disbelief long enough to be able to enjoy all of the twists that came about. Some of them were incredibly predictable and others happened with such little built up that they felt extremely abrupt. I really really disliked the ending and how some of the most relevant information about the case were all told to us instead of shown.

The final chapter was wild and not in a good way as well.
Profile Image for Lacie.
31 reviews13 followers
October 28, 2021
With the passage of the accelerated death penalty, time is running out for Frankie, convicted of murdering her best friend Cora King 20 years ago. With scant evidence and a prior conviction of a violent assault, the police pinned the murder on Frankie.

Years have passed and no new clues have surfaced. Frankie’s other best friend Beth, who's also Cora’s sister, insists she’s innocent. Beth's daughter Nyla wants to know the truth, even if her own mother committed the crime. So, Nyla must return to the island where everything took place, searching out the dark truths to serve justice once and for all. With her new friend Sam, who’s father is also tied to the King family, Nyla’s determined to find out the shocking truth of her aunt’s death.

Court Stevens is a master storyteller! We Were Kings is a sharp murder mystery steeped with rich layers of dark family secrets. This book also has some fun Knives Out vibes as the brilliantly crafted main protagonist Nyla searches for the truth of who really killed her aunt and what led her mother to run away from her well-known and wealthy family. Pushing herself out of her shell, Nyla decides to air the King family secrets for all to see with her Death Daze true crime show, and hopefully, exposing the guilty party. However, what happens when the truth leads to more murders?

Thank you NetGalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction. I received a complementary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Profile Image for Olivia Shelton.
44 reviews
April 5, 2022
Wow! Whoever reads this review, stop immediately and pick up this novel. I have read every mystery/murder story you could name and not once did I want to put this book down. Nothing was predictable and there were so many twists!!
Cannot wait to read another book by this author.
Profile Image for Jenn.
1,763 reviews303 followers
March 9, 2023
This one was interesting but then got really weird really fast.

We Were Kings tackles the ever debatable death penalty. When Nyla's mothers best friend, Frankie, is sentenced to be executed, Nyla's mother all but shuts down. Tired of living in the shadow of Frankie, Nyla just wants her mother to be present and to love her as much as she loves Frankie. But when she sets out to learn more about this Frankie person, she uncovers years of lies and corruption that seem to have no end. Frankie obviously didn't kill Cora King, but with so many suspects, it's hard to prove who did.

The mystery of who killed Cora was a fascinating one. I was invested. Trying to follow the clues and unravel the lies as they came about. As the book went on, the reveals tended to be easy to guess and not surprising at all. The major twist at the end you could see coming a mile away. So while it was fun getting there, there we zero surprises which really made everything just fall flat. Add that to the ridiculous last chapter and I was overall disappointed.

It also seemed like no one was bothered by these MAJOR life altering reveals. Something would happen and they would pause for a moment (dramatic effect) and then just go about their days. And I'm not talking little reveals, these were monsters. But no one batted an eye. Nyla apparently is most level headed teenager who is not affected by anything. I just felt like there should have been more emotions involved with everything that was going on.

Oh, there was one thing Nyla was affected by - Sam. Can we say instalove? From the minute they met they were inseparable. And it didn't make sense. I felt zero connection from them when they met. It was a really weird situation that just escalated from there because suddenly Sam was her person who she told everything to.

It was really hard to rate this one because I liked the beginning and where it was going mystery wise, but everything else was a mess.
Profile Image for Shannon (It Starts At Midnight).
1,189 reviews1,018 followers
January 29, 2022
You can find the full review and all the fancy and/or randomness that accompanies it at It Starts at Midnight

I've never met a book by this author that I didn't like. And this one was among my favorites of all of them! I could simply not put it down. Let's chat about what I enjoyed!

The Concept

Okay so first, can you just see this happening? Girl is found guilty of murder. But no one wants to pay for her to sit on Death Row when they can just kill her sooner, right? So girl, bye. Truly I am zero percent shocked. These same fools that are over here trying to tell women they can't remove a few cells from their own damn bodies be killing folks with little-to-no evidence because money? Yep, it tracks. So when Nyla starts sticking her nose into things, I was here for it. I mean, how could she (or Sam, or anyone really) live with themselves if they did nothing, right?

The Characters and Relationships

I really enjoyed Nyla. Like, at first, she was kind of unsure about getting involved, which absolutely makes sense! Who wants to get involved in something so huge to defend someone she literally does not know? But she has a conscience, luckily, and does decide that she needs to do something, here.

I also loved all the family dynamics that came into play here. Since this is a mystery, I will be keeping my review short-ish, and not telling you too much, but I loved the interactions with Nyla and her mom especially. Her mom is obviously going through a lot- her best friend since childhood is about to be executed, she's thrown back into those memories and her own past, and her daughter has injected herself into the middle of the case. It's a lot! But I love the development of all of these women, frankly.

Nyla's relationship with Sam was fun too- I enjoyed their banter, and it provided a bit of levity in an otherwise very serious situation. And I absolutely loved never, ever knowing who I could trust at any point!

The Plot/Mystery

This book is unputdownable because you simply need to know what happened! Bottom line! The pool of suspects is deep, and while they all have redeeming qualities, they all also absolutely have certain character traits/motivations that make you think "hmm, maybe it could be them...", and this applies to straight up every character in the story, no matter how likable. And it could have been Frankie too, she's not automatically deemed innocent in all this- but you can tell from the disturbing lack of evidence that she shouldn't exactly be on death row, either.

As the evidence begins to unfurl, this whole story becomes even more bananas, and I was here. For. It. Again, I am obviously keeping this vague, but I was just so invested in the case, for several reasons, I think. First, because the characters were so compelling, it's impossible to not care what happens to them. Second, the case itself is, like I said, pretty bananas. Third, there is a lot at stake! Like yeah, Frankie's life, obviously, but this whole bill is vile. And you can just tell that if Frankie dies without fanfare, it just opens the door to kill more folks (especially more potentially innocent folks) from here on out.

Bottom Line: Tons of twists and turns and full of well-developed characters, this was one thriller I absolutely devoured. 
Profile Image for Brian McBride.
Author 9 books194 followers
September 2, 2022
My head is still spinning after staying up late last night to finish this book. Especially those last 2 chapters… 🤯

If you’re looking for a twisty mystery where literally everyone’s a suspect in a twenty year old murder… I highly recommend WE WERE KINGS.

First off, let me tell you this is not a romance. Other than a little flirting between Nyla and Sam, there’s nothing really romantic about this story. For some reason when I read the synopsis, I assumed romance between them would be a main thread, but honestly Sam was somewhat absent throughout the book. But in the end that’s fine. Nyla is a strong main character, who carries the story on her own. Sam and Nyla are drawn to each other and have a natural chemistry, and I like to imagine they do get together down the road. To be perfectly honest, as the plot heats up there’s not much room for a romance, and that subplot probably would’ve made the mystery drag. I’m glad the author wrote it the way they did.

Nyla is our heroine. She is intelligent. She is kind. And for the love of all that is holy, she handles hurt with a maturity we do not often see in YA lit. She finds out her mom’s been keeping a big secret, and rather than go off on her mom - as YA heroine’s are prone to do - she actually processes the information in her inner monologue and makes points in her mom’s defense. She literally tries to understand the situation from her mom’s perspective rather than just become hurt and defensive. I respect that deeply, and it’s so refreshing.

The author’s prose is so natural and effortless. There are times where it’s so poetic, and then there are times where it’s conversational. And it all flows pretty seamlessly.

The first half or so is pretty slow. Not in a way that drags, but in a way that makes it easy to set it down and go do something else. But the last half is simply the read-while-eating and read-while-playing-a-board-game-and-driving-your-family-crazy kind of un-put-down-able.

Any fan of a good murder mystery with a well-done execution of the “family secrets” trope and a respect for quality prose will enjoy this book! I’m surprised I haven’t seen it around bookstagram more with that gorgeous and enticing cover!
Profile Image for kendall ʚĭɞ.
214 reviews148 followers
November 2, 2022
This book was the epitome of YA mystery.

We follow Anna as she tries to uncover the murder of Cora King. It takes place in a teeny tiny town where the Kings are truly the kings of the town.
We are given plot twist after plot twist and they were all pretty shocking. Especially the ending, i was so shocked it was the last thing I was expecting.
It has an easy to follow writing style that keeps you hooked. I enjoyed all the characters, especially Sam and Richard. Anna was a badass who took nothing from no one.
I could have done without the mention of modern day things but, it did make sense considering she ran a youtube channel. it didn’t ruin the book for me but it wasn’t my fav.
it is an emotional book at times and deals with some hard hitting topics that i think the author did well.
overall, it was a good mystery! i enjoyed it.

i received a complimentary copy of this book. opinions expressed in this review are completely my own
Profile Image for Caroline George.
Author 9 books324 followers
July 17, 2021
I am positively obsessed! Court Stevens is a favorite.

Bingeable. Atmospheric. A book that grabs hold and doesn’t let go.

We Were Kings offers a delicious mystery perfect for fans of We Were Liars and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder. I savored every word from beginning to end.

Stevens writes with ease, a testament to her craft. I got lost in the plot and believed every word, the high stakes and masterful pace blurring the lines between fiction and reality.

As a lifelong fan of suspense novels, I found We Were Kings brilliantly fresh while also saturated with a classic feel. A Nancy Drew for modern audiences.

Readers will devour page after page to answer the question: Who killed Cora King?
Profile Image for Aly.
358 reviews18 followers
May 30, 2023
This was an enjoyable ya mystery thriller. I found the story to be rather interesting and I truly didn’t see a lot of what happens coming. This book started out really strong, but it did get a little harder to follow as it went on. I still enjoyed it, but I wish it would have kept my interest a little more later in the book. Overall this was a quick read and definitely worth looking into if you love a good mystery.
Profile Image for Alexandra.
349 reviews12 followers
August 27, 2022
This was a mystery family drama thriller it was well written for a ya book Nyla I can't spell was a good main character I enjoyed the characters more then the actual mystery murder part and the ending yes and I did cry a little so not me lol
Profile Image for Lydia Wallace.
380 reviews49 followers
January 19, 2022
What a great thriller. I couldn't put this book down. My family were waiting for dinner and I ordered take out. I finished this book in three days. This book kept me guessing. What a great storyline. I felt connected to the characters in this thriller. Great writing, fast pace and a suspenseful plot.

I really liked our MC and she had a good head on her shoulders. I really liked our MC and she had a good head on her shoulders. I liked how she went on search for answers and didn’t take what everyone said lying down. The side characters were interesting too. Sam was funny and the boy next door, but I also liked the family and the mesh of personalities they had too. What a wonderful ending. If you want to read a fast pace thriller this book is for you. Highly recommend.

Profile Image for Alex Nonymous.
Author 23 books422 followers
October 14, 2021
Thanks to the publisher for providing an eARC of We Were Kings in exchange for an honest review.

Honestly, I don't have a lot to say here. Normally I try to find at least something in every book I can form a strong opinion on in one way or another (especially with ARCs), but this is a very average YA mystery. Sometimes the characters sound like actual teens, sometimes they sound too old. Sometimes the mystery is gripping, sometimes its not. Sometimes I wanted to know what would happen next, sometimes I couldn't wait for the book to be over. This book was just a whole lot of sometimes.
Profile Image for Alaina.
6,423 reviews215 followers
May 10, 2022
I have received this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

After devouring The June Boys, I was very excited to get my hands on We Were Kings. Unfortunately, I ended up taking my sweet time before finally diving into it. Now I'm a little disappointed in myself for waiting so long but I'm so happy that I read it today. Seriously, this was so freaking good.

The overall mystery kept me on the edge of my seat. Did I think I would somehow figure it all out before the big reveal? No, seriously no. The number of clues that I tried to keep track of just confused me. Mostly because I would almost zero in on a suspect and then bam - something sparkly would catch my eyes and I would be suspicious of someone completely different. I am definitely the worst detective/cop ever invented. In my mind that is.

Since I'm sticking with my day job (for now), I'll just let you know that the family drama was completely entertaining. The King family is just something special and hard to look away from. It's definitely hard to see who you should or shouldn't trust. Spoiler alert: No one in the King family should be trustworthy. Just saying.

In the end, I really did enjoy the mystery being unfolded before my eyes. Nothing felt super predictable to me. Or predictable at all since I was suspicious of every single person. Loved the Knies Out vibes I got from this and can't wait for the next book that Courtney writes! Seriously, the murder mystery books are amazing!
Profile Image for Morgan Giesbrecht.
Author 1 book74 followers
November 11, 2022
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around everything that happened. Even after finishing this story, I’m still thinking about it and the puzzle pieces are still clicking together. All I can say is wow!

This 20-year-old murder mystery was everything I hoped and more. The very slight romance thread was sweet. The mind-blowing twists were superb. And in many ways I was reminded of Caroline George’s The Summer We Forgot (which I also loved!).

Did I see that final plot twist coming? Yes. Did I still love it? Absolutely.
Also, the moment when the title makes sense? Golden.

I read this book in two sittings but totally would have binged it in one, if life didn’t happen, haha. It was that immersive!!

Content: euphemisms; mild language (crap; 1x p*ssed); two girls are holding hands (hints that it might be of a romantic nature but not actually clarified); mentions of a hospital for recovering meth addicts; mentions of an affair; girls trafficked for slave labour
Profile Image for MamaBearsBookshelf.
225 reviews74 followers
January 14, 2022
Wow Wow WOW!! This book was absolutely awesome and so interesting. The mystery in it is pretty cool and I love the setting of the story. This book was a roller coaster of emotions from start to finish. I very much enjoyed the different perspectives of this murder mystery and it had many twists and turns just the way I like it and you didn't see them coming (even better). Oh, and you can't forget that ending!!! so perfect. I really enjoyed this book and the author's writing and fabulous!.

Thanks to Netgalley and Thomas Nelson for this incredible ARC in exchange for my honest review!
Profile Image for Kori Potenzone.
707 reviews63 followers
February 16, 2022
If you have not read a Court Stevens book yet, you have no idea what you are missing out on.

Having read the June Boys, I knew when I saw We Were Kings, begin to circulate, I had to have it. This book was absolutely insane from the minute I picked it up.

I finished this book in one sitting and was completely consumed from chapter one. You think you have family drama? You can not even hold a candle to the drama that unfolds amongst the King family.

I have never read anything like this but I was completely obsessed with this book. I highly recommend this book to EVERYONE.

"Best advice: Don’t go to family dinner at the Kings’ estate. More people will leave in body bags than on their own two feet."
Profile Image for Rebecca.
812 reviews25 followers
February 1, 2022
Thank you to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

Nyla's mom is obsessed with Frankie Quick, the woman who was charged for the murder of Cora King. The death penalty has sped up, and Frankie has 30 days. When Nyla finds out that her mom's real name is Beth King, and that Cora is her mom's sister, she realizes that her mom might be right about Frankie not being the killer... but there's 30 days before Frankie is gone for good. If Frankie didn't kill Cora, who did?

This book was extremely interesting and had me until the very end. The very twist was a bit too much, but the rest was done perfectly. I was able to guess some things before they were revealed, but I think that just tells how well they were written. This book was lots of fun. Definitely recommend for fans of "A Good Girl's Guide to Murder" who wanted a more loveable main character. Nyla is the coolest.
Profile Image for Stefanie.
23 reviews42 followers
February 5, 2022
What a great mystery! I always appreciate a stellar twist and this book delivered. It was a quick and neat read - recommended for some jam packed fun!
Profile Image for tia.
284 reviews2 followers
February 15, 2023
3.5⭐ (this 0.5⭐ is solely for the cover)

did most of this go over my head? yes. do I think it could've been better written? yes. did I love it? also yes.

ps can we talk about how absolutely gorgeous this cover is? like, I need that on my shelves—
Profile Image for Kirby.
645 reviews32 followers
December 24, 2021
The June Boys was my first experience with a novel by this author, and I really didn't end up enjoying it. However, I typically love a really well done young adult mystery, and the synopsis of this one definitely had me intrigued. I figured I'd give one more of her books a try, and hopefully end up liking this one much more than I did her last.

Unfortunately, this book didn't end up being anything like what I was expecting, and I think I've sadly come to the conclusion that this author is just not for me. I will say that the storyline did pull me in right away, and I honestly ended up reading the majority of the book in one sitting as I was couldn't bring myself to put it down until I figured out what on earth was going on.

However, I thought the characters weren't developed enough, and I kept getting characters confused with one another, and never really did end up thinking that we received enough background information as to why the crimes had all happened in the first place.

I was also really disappointed in how the big build up for the mystery is the majority of the story, but the ending wraps up so fast that I actually had to go back and reread it twice to make sure I understood what had actually happened.

I have to agree with other readers that I don't believe Nyla's character is believable at 18 years old, and if you had skipped over the sections where this is mentioned, you'd definitely think the protagonist was at least in her mid twenties.

Too many plot holes, content I could have done without, a rushed ending, and characters that all blended together kept me from enjoying this one, and I didn't really feel like it lived up to its amazing potential. Nothing about it stood out, and at the end of the day, it felt like a million other young adult mysteries that have also failed to live up to the hype surrounding them.

It's not a book I'll be rereading or recommending, and I think in the future I'll know that this author's books aren't for me.

Final Rating: 2/5.

Thanks so much to Thomas Nelson for allowing me to advance read and review this!

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary advance reader copy of this novel from the publisher (Thomas Nelson) via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Profile Image for Leonie.
928 reviews41 followers
January 4, 2022
This was an okay book and a rather quick read — I finished it in one sitting.

The mystery and investigation aspect of the story was interesting and I liked that Nyla’s mother was involved in the investigation as well.

The characters themselves weren’t very fleshed out and stayed rather bland throughout the whole book.

I didn’t like the HP references and how over the top the book got. It felt really unrealistic to me. In addition, the ending was extremely rushed.

Overall this was a mediocre YA thriller that didn’t live up to it’s potential.

[I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.]
Profile Image for Teri.
Author 5 books145 followers
January 7, 2022
I’ve wanted to read this author’s books for quite a while (she also has several published under Courtney C. Stevens), but just hadn’t been able to fit them it. When I saw her newest release pop up on NetGalley, I immediately requested it and was so excited to be approved.

I couldn’t pry the Kindle from my fingers with this novel. In fact, I was so caught up in the last 20% I was late meeting a friend for dinner – I needed to know how it would end. No way could I wait until later that evening to find out.

Nyla’s been raised my her mother (no father is in the picture), and they’ve lived with a family friend for the past several years. After her mother’s best friend receives the death penalty for a murder whe allegedly committed twenty years ago, secrets upon secrets are spilled about her mother’s past and what happened all those years ago. Nyla and her new friend Sam (whose dad was a friend of Nyla’s mother growing up) soon dive deep into the mystery of who really killed Cora King. Once Nyla meets the King family, they all come under suspicion at some point during the story. They’re one dysfunctional bunch with plenty of skeletons stuffed in the closet.

The buildup to the big reveal had me suspecting almost everyone, and the twists are whiplash-worthy. And the scene of the reveal itself – shocking and so vivid I could see it playing out in my mind as if I was watching it on screen.

We Were Kings is a fast-paced mystery full of secrets, surprises, and maladjusted family dynamics. I’m just sorry it took me this long to read a book by this author.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Profile Image for Courtney Grimaldi.
218 reviews1 follower
March 19, 2022
This one sounded great when I read the summary but I don’t know if it was me, the timing or what but I just didn’t enjoy it. It dragged on for what felt like forever and the only reason I finished it was because I was so far into it already and felt like I was just waiting to read the twist. The characters, to me, didn’t have a lot of depth and thus I kept getting them confused and made me not feel connected to anyone or the ending. I am sure it’s a great mystery but it just wasn’t for me at this point.
Profile Image for Katie Warren.
Author 3 books139 followers
April 25, 2022
im a thriller girl through and through. and i even like YA thrillers.... i read them often. i thought i'd love this- i really did. but i didn't.

i felt like this author had no passion in what she was writing. that may be a harsh statement. i felt like she felt like she was writing an essay for school that she had to write and she didn't care about it at all.

i was confused most of this book. i was confusing characters left and right. id forget who was who by the next page. this NEVER happens to me. i think the author didn't develop them enough and it just lead to straight name dropping. there were also several passages i had to re-read in order to understand what the eff just happened. and of course, the confusing passages were the most important ones.

i don't like being confused this often while im reading a book. point blank. it makes me feel dumb. and y'all, i promise im not dumb.

i would not recommend.
Profile Image for isabel.
218 reviews
June 11, 2023
This was…okay. I didn’t care about a single character. The romance was horrible. The generations were too hard to keep track of. The plot was convoluted and the ending lowkey didn’t make any sense. But also…it kept me hooked through a ton of boring lifeguarding shifts so it can’t be that bad?

>>> 3 stars

P.S. This is literally the most minor thing but there’s a character in this book who speaks Spanish and as someone fluent in Spanish it really bothered me that everything he said (down to what eventually became the final piece of the puzzle—“no muerta”) was actually grammatically incorrect…I mean I know he’s technically still learning Spanish but come on, if you’re going to put Spanish in your story than at least make it good? Like, I don’t know if this is intentional or not but “no muerta” actually makes no sense, it needs to be “no está muerta” and it really, really frustrated me. Especially since that phrase plays a huge part in the ending…
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