Different recollections of the same events does not a liar make. Or does it? In this novel, when two people recall events from differing perspectives, what follows is ‘exquisite‘ betrayal…
“Exquisite” features two female protagonists.
Bo Luxton is a successful published novelist in her early forties. Married, with two young daughters, she lives in a nice house in the Lake District. Between novels, she teaches an occasional writing course for novice writers. It is at one such ‘Advanced Fiction’ workshop in Northumberland, that she meets the young and talented Alice Dark.
Alice is twenty-five years old. Her life is nothing less than seedy. She lives in London with a painter who loves his drink and partying much more than he loves his work. Unemployed, sometimes promiscuous, and filled with disillusionment and self-loathing, she decides that this writing workshop is just the thing to lift her life up to a better place. Using the last of her money, she takes the train to Northumberland. She is immediately in awe of the talented Bo Luxton. Bo is everything, and has everything that Alice wants in life. But… what begins as a mentor/student relationship, turns to a girl crush, turns to a full blown obsessive love for this woman who is fifteen years her senior – and married!
Bo is blown away by the talented novice writer, Alice Dark. She reminds Bo of herself at the same age. Also, she is the same age as the daughter Bo gave up as a young teenager… She admires Alice’s verve, her beauty and her wit. Alice brings excitement and passion to Bo’s life.
“It was overwhelming and exquisite and right.”
When Bo’s husband is away, Bo invites Alice to stay with her at her house. Their relationship intensifies. When their brief time together is over, there follows daily emails which bind them.
Both Bo and Alice are severely damaged individuals. They both have scars resulting from horrendous childhoods. They both have ‘mother’ issues. Both are deeply dysfunctional.
The relationship between the two women cools when correspondence from Bo ceases. Alice sacrifices everything she has to move to Grasmere to be nearer Bo – only to be given the cold shoulder. How could it be possible that she could have gotten it so wrong??? Then, events escalate to the point where Alice receives a police caution. She is not to go anywhere near Bo or her house and family…
“I felt something inside me crack open and break. It wasn’t my heart, I knew that. It was everything I was. It was all of me, derelict.”
Then, the reader hears from an inmate at a women’s prison in Yorkshire. Who is this inmate? We assume that she is either Bo Luxton OR Alice Dark. But which one?
When there are two versions of the same story can they both be correct? Who and what can you believe?
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of the cover before reading the novel. Now that I’ve read it I can appreciate just how clever it is. The country house nestled in hills (the curve of a woman’s waist…)
This is an astounding, well-written, debut psychological thriller. The characters are well developed and the plot is chilling. With themes of obsessive love, calculating betrayal, cruel mind games, manipulative personalities, and disturbed psyches, this novel will be appreciated by most thriller lovers. Highly recommended.
My gratitude to Orenda Books for providing me with a complimentary digital copy of this novel for review purposes.
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.