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..
First off, this cover is simply stunning. Definitely one of my favourite cover so far this year, I have grown a slight obsession with it. The typography is simple, allowing the focus to be on the absolutely beautiful illustration of the house silhouette engulfed in flames intertwined with faces. So beautiful and a lovely colour palette.
The first chapter is quite stark and bleak. I’m sure that sounds quite a cutting and negative remark, when actually this book needed that feeling. It portrays the loneliness and isolation Shona feels as she adjusts to her idyllic but very rural cottage. As soon she is Valentina and we get flashbacks to win Shona and Mikey meet, the book warms. Well I say it warms, there is often scepticism in Shona’s mind at Valentina’s eccentric and at times erratic behaviour, but regardless it’s a different tone and feeling cast over the book. That is until you get to the end of a segment, where Shona reflects back on the events and how she should’ve known better. You instantly cool at this, as the confusion and mystery sets in on your mind.
This was powerful, how S E Lynes managed to capture the mood between Shona alone or reflecting on past events, contrasting with Shona with company.
Shona is easy to relate to, particularly to me as I was once in a similar situation. Let me clarify, nothing mysterious or creepy happened, just that I lived on the edge of an incredibly tiny village (with a crap bus service and I didn’t drive) where Simon worked away five days a week so I can understand the isolation Shona was feeling especially with only a baby to talk to. At least I have work colleagues 9-to-5. I can easily see how Shona clung to Valentina, and looked over her strange and at times suspicious behaviour where others might question it.
Valentina is pretty hard to describe, her bubbly and eccentric personality would keep you distracted, so you wouldn’t question anything that she tells you. However there is always something on the back of your mind niggling away at you. Is that the truth, an exaggeration, or just an outright lie? You always second-guessing yourself as to what is real and what is not.
Shona’s husband Mikey seems very hands off at times. He’s obviously wanting what’s best for his family, but doesn’t see that his dream career move could be destroying thing that he’s supposed to care about the most.
Interspersed with the main story you get several passages that speak in a completely different tone, almost poetic with foresight of what’s to come. So you always know something is coming but not precisely what happens or the journey that it takes to get there.
This book was somewhat of a surprise, I expected to enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, but I certainly didn’t think it would be the type of book to keep me up to 1:15 AM (especially with the 9 AM gym session that morning). It was everything that I love about the genre. A stunning debut novel much you should definitely check out.
Published by: Blackbird
Gratefully received from the Publisher for review
Released 1st July 2016