REVIEW: Exquisite by Sarah Stovell

Series: N/A

Book Number: N/A

Read this book for: psychological thriller, romance, manipulation, unreliable narrator, keeps you guessing

Quick Review: Beautifully written, gripping and utterly believable, EXQUISITE is truly a piece you want to both savor and find out how it ends. A must-read.

***

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?

EXQUISITE is a psychological thriller told from the perspectives of both main characters – Bo, a famous author, and Alice, an aspiring writer – who experience a powerful romantic attraction to each other… before it all goes wrong. It was truly a joy to read; ‘exquisite’ is a fitting word for this novel.

The plot, to begin with, is one of those simple setups that put a seemingly innocuous everyday situation under the microscope to show in fine detail all the dangerous little pits, traps and dark places that lurk under the surface. The premise of an infatuation, affair and regret, are items that are so common in fiction that they are almost glossed over – but Stovell peels back the layers on such a moment to expose the consequences of such a situation mixed with a manipulative personality. It’s utterly believable, and that makes it even more powerful. The fact that this novel is also about a pair of authors and features their own writing as part of the story also really helps to showcase the utterly lovely command of language that Stovell has.

I want to spend a moment to admire the way Stovell has crafted this novel, just in terms of use of language. This is the aspect of the novel that makes you want it to continue on forever, if only to enjoy the lyrical, almost sensual way that Stovell describes the beautiful landscape around the village, the emotions of the characters, and the subtlety of the way she uses the language to actually manipulate you. You absolutely understand how the characters can second-guess and misread their relationships, because as the reader of both tellings of the story, you aren’t completely sure whose version is the truth.

This adds to the believability of the novel – many psychological thrillers are hard to get into because it is difficult to believe a person can be manipulated in such a way to have a completely different understanding of the situation than it actually is… but when you also experience it along with the characters, you believe it completely. Stovell also does a very subtle and excellent job of constructing Bo and Alice so that you can empathize with them both. There’s no clear ‘villain’ in this novel, which adds to the suspense and draws you deeper into engaging with the story, desperately trying to find out what really happened.

EXQUISITE has been one of my favourite novels of 2017 so far; I absolutely recommend you pick this one up – but set aside a few hours because you will lose yourself in it!

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