by S. E. Lynes
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…
A hauntingly intelligent, addictive psychological thriller from debut author S. E. Lynes.
Shona and Mikey, a young loving couple, have moved to Aberdeen with their daughter Isla, to start a new life. Mikey has just got a job working offshore on the oil rigs, and they have moved into a beautiful, but isolated, cottage.
When Mikey starts his job on the rigs, Shona finds life difficult. The lack of friends and family, the solitude, leaves her feeling lonely and vulnerable.
Enter Valentina: independent, strong-willed and mysterious.
Shona meets Valentina whilst dropping Isla off at nursery and the two become firm friends. From the prologue we know that something bad is going to happen, so it is not giving anything away to say there is something unnerving about Valentina. It is not too difficult to see where the story is going and yet it still feels incredibly tense.
There are not many characters in the book, infact only three main ones. Shona, Mikey and Valentina. Shona I really liked, she loves her family and wants nothing more than the three of them to live happily together. She starts off as quite a strong lady, but circumstances lead her to become vulnerable and needy.
Mikey is an enigma. He appears to be the loving husband, but you always feel there is something more to him.
I really didn’t like Valentina from the start, controlling and bossy, she ingratiates herself into Shona’s life and because of Shona’s loneliness it is difficult for her to see what is real and what is a lie.
There is a great sense of place with the granite city of Aberdeen juxtaposed with the isolation of the cottage situated in the surrounding countryside, leaving you with an ominous atmosphere.
I really enjoyed this debut novel. It is a tense psychological thriller, dealing with trust: what it takes for you to start disbelieving everything your life is based on and loneliness: how easily can the strongest person be manipulated when lonely.
Even though it is quite easy to see the direction the story is going, it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of the book at all. The author handles the characters really well and you find yourself holding your breath for their reactions.
An unbelievably assured debut with an excellent ending. highly recommended.
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Many thanks to Blackbird Digital Books for sending me a copy in return for an honest review.
Valentina is published on 1st July 2016, if you would like to purchase a copy click here