Published by Bantam Press/Transworld
ebook & Hardback : 26 January 2017 | Paperback 18 May 2017
A doting mother or a pushy parent?
Karen Bloom expects perfection. Her son, Ewan, has been something of a disappointment and she won’t be making the same mistake again with her beloved, talented child, Bronte.
Bronte’s every waking hour will be spent at music lessons and dance classes, doing extra schoolwork and whatever it takes to excel.
But as Karen pushes Bronte to the brink, the rest of the family crumbles. Karen’s husband, Noel, is losing himself in work, and his teenage daughter from his first marriage, Verity, is becoming ever more volatile. The family is dangerously near breaking point.
Karen would know when to stop . . . wouldn’t she?
I’m a big fan of Paula Daly’s previous books, three of which have been reviewed on this blog. Just What Kind of Mother Are You (2013) Keep Your Friends Close (2014) and The Mistake I Made (2015). I was stupidly excited by the news of a new book and lucky enough to receive an ARC from the Lovereading Reader Panel.
As with all of this author’s novels, this latest is set in the picturesque Lake District – and home to the rather dysfunctional Bloom family. The father Noel, is a GP, married to Karen and they have a 10 year old daughter Bronte. Both Noel and Karen have a child from a previous relationship – Verity (Noel’s daughter) and Ewan (Karen’s son). Both teenagers are a disappointment to Karen and so all her time and efforts are taken up with trying to ensure that Bronte is a super achiever who shines at everything (whereas the reality is that she shines at nothing!). The poor child is burdened with every extra curriculum activity you could think of – she barely has time to eat however Karen is oblivious to her daughter’s distress and marches on regardless. That is until something happens which shakes the family to its core.
Paula Daly has a talent for creating characters that you love to hate and that get under your skin and that is certainly the case here. This is a story of a family at breaking point. Verity has done something rather serious and as a result is seeing a therapist, Ewan spends his time in his rooms above the garage doped up to his eyeballs and Noel, well lets just say Noel isn’t the best father or husband in the world! I hadn’t really come across the phrase ‘Tiger Mother’ before but that is exactly what Karen is – and she’s proud of it. Her obsession and focus on Bronte is such that she gives neither thought nor care to anyone else in the family. Her social standing is everything to her and there is a scene with the press in her garden which gives a very telling insight as to what she thinks about other people.
DS Joanne Aspinall makes a welcome return and this time is given a much bigger part to play. Certain events could give rise to a conflict between her professional and personal life and there are times when she has to answer to her conscience. She still lives with her aunt Jackie, whom readers might remember from previous books. Here, she is partnered with a new colleague, DS Oliver Black; this new partnership works very well and I do hope it’s continued in future.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of spoilers but will only say that the story takes an even darker turn. Paula Daly plants a few red herrings (in my opinion) and although at one stage I thought I knew who was responsible, I was completely wrong.
This is another captivating and engrossing read from an author who seems to specialise in stories of domestic drama. The story takes place over a period of less than two months; this short timescale gives the story pace as well as suspense and intrigue with well defined characters and of course it wouldn’t be a Daly book without her trademark dark humour sprinkled throughout the the narrative. I enjoyed it very much although I did feel that the reveal felt slightly rushed.
I have no hesitation in recommending this even though I didn’t feel the story was quite as strong as in previous books (but that’s just my personal view). Having said that, this was a very enjoyable 4* read for me and I shall be eagerly awaiting the next book!!
My thanks to Lovereading and the publisher for the ARC to review.
About the author:
Paula Daly was born in Lancashire. Before beginning her first novel JUST WHAT KIND OF MOTHER ARE YOU? she was a self-employed physiotherapist. She lives in the Lake District with her husband, three children and whippet Skippy.