Jeanie and Matthew are a happily married couple who both have teenage children from previous relationships.
No one said it would be easy to raise a blended family under one roof but Jeanie and Matthew are strong. They will make it work.
And whilst Jeanie’s step-daughter Scarlett rejects her, Jeanie will just have to try harder to win her over.
But Jeanie has a past. A terrible secret she thought she’d buried a long time ago. And now, it’s coming to the surface, threatening to destroy her new marriage.
Someone is playing a terrifying game on Jeanie and she must put a stop to it once and for all.
After all, a fairytale needs a happy ending…doesn’t it?
"...family - they'll either make you, or they'll break you."
In literature and movies, stepmothers are frequently portrayed as wicked, scheming women, all set out to make their stepchildren's lives miserable. However in real life, I'm sure that this is not always the case. Granted, a marriage that brings up children from a previous marriage certainly presents many challenges, but hopefully these challenges won't be of the sort faced by poor Jeanie in this book. This is not just a thriller but a tale in which family dynamics are stretched to their limits... and beyond.
"You can't take two halves of two different things and try to make a whole. It just won't work."
After marrying Matthew, a handsome, wealthy businessman, Jeanie goes to live with him in his house - a big, old house - straight out of a fairytale book. Both Jeanie and Matthew have children of their own. Jeanie takes her teenage son Frankie to live with them and Matthew's teenage twins Scarlett and Luke come and go as they please between both their parents' houses. Is it possible for two families to blend into one? I think yes, but not when there are external forces at play and a dark past threatening to make a comeback.
"... what if someone recognises you? There's always a chance..."
Everything seems just fine in this fairytale life - if for a moment you don't consider Scarlett's cold attitude towards her stepmother and the fact that Jeanie is hiding a shocking secret - even from her husband. However it's not long before strange things start to happen and things start going wrong. Slowly the fairytale house begins to deteriorate into one out of a horror film. Someone seems to know Jeanie's secret and is hell bent on exposing and destroying her. What secret is Jeanie hiding? What has she done? Why didn't she confide in her husband? Why does her sister Marlena fear someone might recognise her? What will Matthew do and think of his new wife if the truth comes out? Who has it in for Jeanie? And what's hidden in the room that's always locked?
The story is quite fast-paced and packed with tension, lies, secrets and strange noises! It is told from the point of view of the two sisters - Jeanie and Marlena. A couple of times the author gives a short hiatus to the tension and interacts directly with her readers, asking them direct questions - this is something I've never come across in other books and I think it's a brilliant idea.
Thanks to the author's vivid descriptions and excellent writing I felt I was part of the story. I could almost see Matthew's imposing house in all its glory with its vast gardens and the roses climbing up the old brickwork and around the windows. And I could sense the sinister aura haunting the place.
All characters are credible and convincing, but the majority of them are quite messed up individuals hiding underlying problems. I LOVED Jeanie with all my heart. She's not a wicked stepmother. She's a lovely woman but unfortunately too much trusting and naive. On many occasions I wished I could squeeze her in a big tight hug to comfort her and let her know that she's not alone.
Even though I wouldn't describe the twists in this book as 'mind-blowing', this is counterbalanced by some nerve-wracking chapters, especially towards the end. All in all, I really enjoyed reading this book and found the plot very intriguing. I think this is a fab psychological thriller not to be missed and I highly recommend it. 4.5 stars!
With thanks to Bookouture for approving my request to read and review this book through NetGalley.
Claire Seeber is a Londoner who started professional life as a (bad) actress and became a documentary maker, a journalist and a writer of, so far, psychological thrillers. The Observer said of her first novel: 'a disturbing debut' whilst The Guardian called it 'powerful'...she keeps writing whilst also studying psychology and (trying to) to manage a home of slightly feral kids and animals. Luckily she's got a very nice partner to help too.