‘SHE LOVES ME…..SHE LOVES ME NOT…’
Today I am delighted to be on tour with the fab team of Orenda Books and Exquisite, the debut novel by Sarah Stovell.
Exquisite is described as ‘breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying…an unbalancing psychological thriller’……
It is a story about love. It is a story about obsession.
Please read on for my voluntary and unbiased review…
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.
‘Whip-smart, lushly written and truly page turning’ Holly Seddon
‘A perfect literary thriller’ Erin Kelly
‘A must read for 2017’ Sarah Pinborough
The cover of Exquisite is as dark and mysterious as is what’s between the pages. There is a very sensuous and alluring image of what appears to be the arch of a naked female back. In the shadows, a house stands with a bright light shining out of one single window. What secrets are being hidden behind that window? What story does this house have to reveal?
The house is the home of Bo Luxton, a bestselling writer who appears to have it all, having moved to the Lake District with her older husband Gus and her two little girls, Maggie and Lola. After swapping the hectic lifestyle of London for the more relaxed approach of the countryside, Bo could not be happier. She gets excited every single day with the simple pleasure of walking her kids to school. The joy and delight in their faces, as they skip and hop along beside her, confirms her belief that this move was the correct decision.
‘That was the purpose of a Lake District childhood, to my mind: to know the slow movement of the seasons; to breathe beneath clean skies and hear the ice-cold motion of a stream; to run wild until the landscape wore their shoes out‘
But Bo’s relationship with her husband is the only smear on this idyllic life. Their relationship is rather stale as they pass each other by like ships in the night. Yet Bo is very accepting of this way of life, as it allows her to focus all her energies on her two girls and her writing.
One of Bo’s many passions is discovering new writers and assisting them where possible. On a writing retreat she makes the acquaintance of a very promising young writer, Alice Dark. Bo sees in Alice a raw potential just waiting to be discovered.
Alice is an aspiring writer. Having given up her job to facilitate her writing career, Alice is a little lost. Her own childhood was one of heartache and loneliness and through her written words she is able to express her frustration at the world, at her mother.
Alice and Bo have an immediate connection with an underlying sexual chemistry that is almost instantaneous on both sides.
What follows is a story of a twisted obsession, a story of a fevered passion that soon turns very ominous and very very dark.
Sarah Stovell has written a novel on a theme that now even has it’s own slot in the Urban Dictionary and that is the notion of ‘Single White Femaling’ ( My fellow blogger Jen Lucas over at https://jenmedsbookreviews.com/ referred to the movie in her review earlier on the tour)
The idea of two women obsessively sexually attracted to each other is not a new theme in literature, but for me it was my first time reading a novel that focuses in on it. Described as domestic noir, Exquisite is a very well written novel. The shift in the chapters between Bo and Alice is seamless, as we see the relationship building in intensity. The early warning signs are there for the reader to see and, as Bo and Alice get more deeply involved, we see the narrative develop through both their eyes. The manner in which perspectives are interpreted and illustrated flows as the characters changing personalities metamorphose with each page.
Exquisite is a book that falls into the genre of psychological thriller but certainly it is very different to any book I have read in this genre to date. I have to put my hands up and admit that at times the script of the emails between the two was a little irritating for me, the terminology used just a little too ‘lovey dovey’ (I know not exactly the most literary term!!) We get an overview of the background history of both characters but personally I would have liked to see Bo’s back-story fleshed out a little more.
Exquisite is a very competent debut from Sarah Stovell that highlights some very strong themes ~ obsession, narcissism, and manipulation. I do think it would work very successfullly on the big screen. The sizzling chemistry between Alice and Bo is palpable off the pages with very astute descriptions and characterisations. I have no doubt Exquisite will be a book that will be among the top recommendations for many this year so if you want to read it before Hollywood gets it’s hands on it, here’s the link…
Purchase Link ~ Exquisite
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.
Excellent review Mairead, and your last paragraph really hits the nail on the head! I wonder what this would give on the big screen..
Wow…thank you so much Inge!!! It would be fab as a movie, especially in a cinema…..big screen, big sound, explosion of colours….build up etc…We’ll just have to wait and see… xx
Ace review! I actually read this book whilst in the Lake District and it was a really immersive experience…. when I looked up and saw people walking, I could imagine that they might be Bo and her children, or Bo and Alice. The smell of the Lake District and sounds made for a wonderful and eerie backdrop!
Thanks so much Tina. I can only imagine the bleakness!! Perfect location for the big screen….
Fab review! I just loved this book so much. The writing was flawless and my eyes couldn’t stop reading. I loved diving into this relationship, it was fascinating. Exquisite is a little jewel!
Wow Donna!!! I would love to see it on screen…would be an amazing movie!!
Smashing Review Mairead. You gave nothing away either! I found trying not to give too much away difficult at first with this one, but managed to waffle up something. Well spotted with the cover too. Hadn’t noticed it was a woman’s back! X
Isn’t it always so hard NOT to reveal anything??? Tx Caryl. I’m laughing about the ‘back’ Wouldn’t it be just too funny if I had it all wrong xx
love this review! x
Thanks so much Sharon. I really appreciate that. xx