It’s kind of interesting how the cover suggests a certain kind of story and yet the content tells a different one. Not sure if that was intentional, but it is certainly a smart marketing ploy. Why? Well because what you see isn’t what you get, and Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is all about a complex chicanery of personality hidden within a friendly invitation to connect.
About the Author
Sarah Stovell was born in 1977 and spent most of her life in the Home Counties before a season working in a remote North Yorkshire youth hostel made her realise she was a northerner at heart. She now lives in Northumberland with her partner and two children and is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Lincoln University. Her debut psychological thriller, Exquisite, is set in the Lake District.
About the book
Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops…Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
Insidious would be a better way to describe this story, as opposed to exquisite. It creeps up on you like a sea roke appearing along the coast.
The author balances the crazy in a way that keeps the readers guessing. Is Alice an insecure little girl with mental health issues or is Bo a sandwich short of a picnic? To be fair at times it seems as if they are both in need of some therapy.
Bo is an established and popular author, who holds retreats for aspiring scribes. Being a minor literary celebrity means you have to put up with the occasional persistent fan or stalker, so Bo isn’t a stranger to unhealthy relationships based on misplaced obsession. Alice is vulnerable, impressionable and open to the uplifting encouragement of the older woman.
I really enjoyed the fact Stovell didn’t go for the obvious male/female scenario. It made the whole ‘who do you believe’ aspect of the plot more intriguing and fresh.
Stovell has a Machiavellian mind-set, which is evident both in the plot and her characters. What you see isn’t what you get, and Exquisite is all about a complex chicanery of personality hidden within a friendly invitation to connect. The tendrils of her sick mind try to pull the woman towards her whilst simultaneously pushing her away in an attempt to eradicate her. No, I am not telling you who She is.
Be prepared to doubt your initial response to either of the main characters. There is no black or white, and quite a few grey areas. The author intentionally keeps the readers in the dark about the real villain, it truly is a 50/50 bet until the end. You just never know what is hidden beneath a perfect exterior.
I really enjoyed the viciousness of the plot. It is ruthless and perhaps a tad too realistic, if you know what I mean. Brilliant read, Stovell is definitely one to watch.