Welcome to my last book review of the month. I have a number of other posts I want to share—everything from new Cabinet of Curiosities posts to writing updates—but time hasn’t been kind to me lately. I hope to be able to get back on track soon, but in the interim, I hope these reviews pique your curiosity.
by M.J. Hardy
This is a quick read (I blew through it in two sittings), and as the title suggests, great escapist fiction. Three couples, a single man, and a single woman have the seemingly good fortunate of winning all-expense paid trips to a luxury resort on a tropical island.
This is luxury with a capital “L.”
The setting is exquisite—sun-soaked accommodations, turquoise pools, white sand beaches, gourmet meals, boating excursions, and opulent spa treatments. Just reading those passages put me in a tranquil frame of mind. But there’s also a creeping, steadily building sense of what’s coming—because all this pampering and too-good-to-be-true opulence has to lead somewhere, right?
The characters are an assortment of people who either take up lodging in your heart or leave you loathing them. I wasn’t sure where the book was headed, but found the ending a surprise, and also a delight. This is a popcorn read that would make a fantastic Lifetime movie. Definitely a fun, escapist read!
THE SAFE PLACE
by Anna Downes
Emily Proudman is a failed actress who loses her temp job and her apartment, only to have paradise fall into her lap. Her ex-boss, Scott, offers her a job as a housekeeper/companion to his wife and young daughter who live alone on an isolated French estate. Emily is flown, all expenses paid to the property, given her own car, a private house, and a credit card, but there are a few rules—the main being she is never to enter the “family house” where her boss’s wife, Nina, lives with their daughter, Aurelia.
Emily soon discovers Aurelia has a number of ailments, including sun sensitivity, and though she is capable of vocalizing (giggles, shrieks, screams), never speaks. The estate is luxurious and everything Emily hoped it would be. She enjoys plenty of poolside days sipping wine with Nina, who quickly becomes a friend. But there is something off kilter about the situation—about Nina and Scott themselves—and the more time Emily spends poking around the estate, the more she realizes Emily and Scott are hiding something. Scott is rarely there, and when he does arrive, Nina seems anxious.
While a bit slow at the beginning, the novel picks up speed once Emily arrives at the estate and is introduced to Nina and Aurelia. The setting is superb—sun-soaked, but remote. Empty rooms and an underlying odor of rot are used to create a sense of foreboding beneath the bliss.
Chapters alternate between Emily and Scott in third person POV, and an unnamed narrator in first person—though it quickly becomes apparent who that individual is. Through this narrator, the reader gradually sees the past unfold. By the time it connects with the present, the stage is set for all plot threads to tie together for the final reveal. Emily is a good protagonist, and for the most part the story is entertaining.
I was slightly disappointed by the twist—I was hoping for something less predictable—and I felt the ending could have been stronger with a tighter wrap to Emily’s story. Overall, however, I found this a diverting read and worthy of four stars.