Book Title: The Stepmother
Author: Claire Seeber
Genres: Mystery, Suspense, Psychological Thriller, Domestic Fiction
Date Read: 7/10/16
Pub Date: 7/15/16
The perfect wife. A fairytale family. Don’t believe your eyes…
Jeanie and Matthew are a happily married couple who both have teenage children from previous relationships.
No one said it would be easy to raise a blended family under one roof but Jeanie and Matthew are strong. They will make it work.
And whilst Jeanie’s step-daughter Scarlett rejects her, Jeanie will just have to try harder to win her over.
But Jeanie has a past. A terrible secret she thought she’d buried a long time ago. And now, it’s coming to the surface, threatening to destroy her new marriage.
Someone is playing a terrifying game on Jeanie and she must put a stop to it once and for all.
After all, a fairytale needs a happy ending … doesn’t it?
I finished this book (as of writing this) three days ago and I’m still trying to catch my breath. This, my friends, is how you write a psychological thriller! I had seen the fantastic reviews pouring in, so I was hopeful that it would be a great read, but I’ve read so many great books lately that I figured I would enjoy it and move on easily enough. I was wrong. I am STILL thinking about this book constantly; the characters, the setting, the tension is still knotted up deep in my brain somewhere and refuses to leave. This very well might be one of my top reads of 2016!
“Mirror, Mirror, here I stand
Who is the fairest in the land?”
– Wilhelm Grimm, Grimm’s Fairy Tales
I’m a sucker for fairy tales, so when this was the very first phrase found, I knew I’d be a happy camper. The story is loosely based on the tale of Snow White and how maybe our perceptions of the story are off. What if in reality, Snow White wasn’t as pure as she was made out to be? What if the Wicked Stepmother was just misunderstood or being manipulated? This is the thought carried throughout as the tale unfolds via two points of view- Jeanie, the stepmother, and Marlena, Jeanie’s younger sister. We jump into the story directly following a hasty courtship and marriage between Jeanie and Matthew, and are privy to fly on the wall conversations, as well as Jeanie’s private thoughts, that reveal a tiny crack in the fortress of perfection that has been created. You see, Matthew has children from his previous marriage to Kaye, twins named Luke and Scarlett, and Scarlett seems to be holding a grudge toward Jeanie. Jeanie also has a child from a previous relationship; his name is Frankie and he seems to be the only character with a lick of sense.
As we learn a little more with each chapter, we start to realize that Jeanie is holding a dark secret from her past. This secret is the key to everything; it is the basis for all the unexplained offenses against Jeanie. Sure, they start out slow and somewhat explainable, until the tension becomes so great that you want to strangle every character and choke some sense into them (HELLO-MATTHEW?!?!). I won’t give away any spoilers, but this was one crazy ride. I thought I was going to have a dag bloomin heart attack by about 80%; it was nearing midnight and I just had to finish because WHAT THE HECK IS GOING ON?!?! I will say this; the ending did not disappoint and I sure didn’t see it coming. To some degree, you have to kind of guess who is involved because there are few people to choose from, but I was completely taken aback by the ending.
Here is where I was really impressed though- the characters. I read the author’s book 24 Hours last year, and while I thought it was a great story, I wasn’t wowed with the character development. The Stepmother blew me away in a sense of showing how much an author can grow in their writing in such a short amount of time. I found I actually had feelings for these folks; I ranged from intrigued, to engaged, to angry, to proud, to sad, all the way back to “DANG why is it over already?”. I can’t remember the last time I have felt such a wide range of emotions in a thriller! As I’m writing this, I’m still feeling emotions for this wacky cast of individuals- I can picture (clearly my imagination’s version of) the house, the countryside, even the vehicles they drove. Needless to say, if you are on the fence about this one, just go for it. I would give this more than 5 stars if I could! The cover is absolutely breath taking, the characters are so brilliant that you just love to hate them, and the pacing and tension are unbelievable. Well done Claire and Bookouture; you both are clearly on a winning roll this year!
* I received my copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. So grateful for the opportunity to read this outstanding novel!
Claire Seeber’s TV career has seen her move from in front of the camera to behind it, and from MTV, to chat shows, to documentaries. Her work has taken her all over the world, but home is in London with her partner and two children. Claire writes features for a range of broadsheets, last year began studying psychology, and has had four novels published by HarperCollins.
Facebook: Claire Seeber Author