When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.
But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane...
That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.
She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?
As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears...
"... you never know anyone as well as you think, do you?"
When Shona McGilvery, her partner Mikey and their baby girl Isla settle in their new home - a fairy tale cottage in the woods, they're excited, happy and in love. The only thing marring this happiness is Mikey's job. Mikey works offshore on an oil rig, which means he will have to be away on two-whole-week shifts every four, leaving Shona alone... in the cottage... in the woods.
Away from humanity, Shona feels lonely and bored and starts to venture out to the nearest town. There she meets a woman named Valentina. The two mothers soon click and a great friendship is born. Valentina is bubbly, chatty, friendly and kind and she soon fills Shona's days when Mikey is offshore on work. Valentina has simply added the missing piece to the perfect fairy tale. But...
"Something was not right, more than not right. Something was wrong. I felt it in my guts."
Okay this is an atmospheric story saturated with lies, sex and secrets that perhaps may sound a bit far-fetched to some readers, but totally doable and possible if you think about it. It revolves around 3 characters: Shona, her partner Mikey and her best friend Valentina.
All three characters are well-portrayed and believable. The setting vividly described. I thought Shona was maybe a bit too naive. My heart went out to her. I wanted to grab her by the shoulders and give her an almighty shake to wake her up and make her see sense.
This book is divided into three parts. As I started it I knew that the 'fairy tale' wouldn't last long. I could feel that something very wrong was brewing underneath and that the Big Bad Wolf would soon make an appearance. I had a strong feeling of where the story was heading and I was curious to see if I'd find some mind-blowing twist that proves me wrong. However that didn't take place and I had pretty much guessed what was happening and what happened by the end of part 1. On the other hand part 2 and 3 were complete mysteries to me. I liked the way the author has tied all the story's loose ends in these parts. The ending - satisfying.
'Valentina' is a book that got me angrier by the minute, page after page. Don't get me wrong, I got angry not with THE book or the way it's written (the prose is excellent, sexy). I got really angry with the story, with what was happening. How could someone be so mean?? If this was the author's intention, she surely succeeded in bringing out the desired emotion in me!!
Despite being a tad predictable, for a debut novel, this book is really good. It is well-written, suspenseful and gripping and I really enjoyed it.
With thanks to Rosalie Love of BlackBird Digital books for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange of an honest review.
After graduating from Leeds University, S E Lynes lived in London for a couple of years before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a producer at the BBC Radio Scotland before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with lecturing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington.