Review: Imperfect Women

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**3.5 Stars**

“Marriage is very strange. It’s as full of hate as it is love. We can’t possibly speculate at what happens between any couple when all the doors are shut and all the curtains are drawn.”

“Anger is often not cruelty…it is more often love.”

I was excited to get an advanced reader copy of Araminta Hall’s newest book, Imperfect Women, as I really enjoyed her book, Our Kind of Cruelty, last year. Hall’s writing, especially at the beginning of the book, was first rate. There are some jewels scattered throughout the book, too, that I highlighted and certainly won’t forget. She has a gift for prose and for writing things that really hit home for me as a woman and working mother.

So why the 3.5 stars? I so wanted to like this book, but about 25% of the way in it seemed to go on a number of tangents. I think heavy-handed editing could have helped the narrative, as Hall often has her characters go into long diatribes on life and feminism. This is certainly not a bad thing in my book, but all of her characters are deeply introspective people who make questionable choices despite their reflectiveness. I am not confident that most people operate with that level and depth of self-awareness on a daily basis, and that’s probably what struck me as the most problematic part of the book.

The book is about three female friends who met in college and are now coming of age (despite being of middle age like myself). The friends find themselves tethered to one another when one of them disappears and then is found dead under what is believed to be suspicious circumstances. As the friends investigate what happened, betrayals and unfaithfulness are revealed, making the reader wonder how these three women ever stayed together and trusted one another in the first place.

I’ve read other reviews of this book now that I’m done with it, and some people have complained that everyone in the book is “imperfect” (hence the title) and irredeemably flawed. Every person out there is flawed, so I don’t see this as a big problem. What is a problem, in my opinion, is how self-absorbed all the characters are despite being “friends.” They seem to be so flawed that they lack a moral compass needed to have friends – maybe that’s Hall’s point, that all of these characters were drawn together because they were missing what makes them human. I am not sure.

Nevertheless, I will definitely read Araminta Hall’s next book because I enjoy her writing style so much. The plot is where the book fell short for me.

Thank you to Araminta Hall, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of the book!

Review: The Safe Place

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**4 Stars**

Emily is broke. Her dream to become a successful actress is fading as her bills are past due and piling up day after day. She has one last chance to get back on her feet and start auditioning again when she gets hired at a post investment firm as a secretary.

But then she blows it big time and gets fired. Rent is due. Her landlord is ready to give her the boot. Her roommate is on her heels to pay her for her portion of rent. To make matters worse, her adoptive parents won’t bail her out anymore. She has asked for help one too many times.

Kicked to the curb, Emily is beyond desperate. Out of the blue, she receives an invitation from Scott, the owner of the investment firm for which she worked. He asks her to meet to discuss an unusual but promising business opportunity.

With nowhere to go and nothing to her name, Emily meets Scott, who apologizes for firing her. Scott comes off as charming, attractive, and brilliant. He offers her what seems like a once in a lifetime job: move to France to assist his wife in renovating their chateaus and nannying his daughter, who, he says, is ill. Emily is enchanted by the life he promises her – a pool, the French countryside, miles of private hiking trails, her own house, delicious French wine and food, and an unspeakable amount of money to spend at her leisure. What could go wrong?

Emily immediately jumps at the chance to leave the country and start a new life. Initially, everything about her new job in France seems beyond perfect. Scott’s wife welcomes her with open arms, treating to all the delights of France and luxury unheard of.

But then Emily becomes suspicious of Scott’s wife and life in France. There’s a creepy basement that has boxes of infant and children’s clothing. Scott’s daughter is also an enigma; mute, shy, and complicated, she seems to be holding the key to the mystery of Scott’s family. And then there’s this awful smell that permeates the entire house despite the fragrant flowers and baked goods that fill the house. There are entire wings of the property that are off limits to Emily. Any time people come near the property, Scott’s wife screams at them to leave.

What is Scott’s family hiding? Emily must find out before her life is in danger.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and was completely engulfed in the story from the first page to the last. The last 25% of the book, in particular, was so exciting and thrilling. I found the character of Emily relatable and appreciated how the author developed her character. The plot was a bit unbelievable, but honestly, if every thriller that was published was true we’d be in a big trouble as a society! I found the ending satisfying, though I did not want the book to end! This is definitely a book worth reading if you are into mysteries and thrillers set in Gothic mansions.

Thank you to the author, Anna Downes, St. Martin’s Press, and NetGalley for an advanced reader copy of The Safe Place!