A Richard and Judy recommendation for the 2012 Summer Book Club, this is a brilliant Gothic novel in the vein of Daphne du Maurier. A chance encounter: When Sarah meets dark, brooding Alex, she grasps his offer of a new life miles away from her own. They've both recently escaped broken relationships, and need to start again. Why not do it together? A perfect life: But when Sarah gets to the tiny village of Burrington Stoke, something doesn't add up. Alex's beautiful wife Genevieve was charming, talented, and adored by all who knew her. And apparently, she and Alex had a successful marriage complete with a gorgeous son, Jamie. Why would Genevieve walk out on her perfect life? And why has no one heard from her since she did so? A web of lies: Genevieve's family and all her friends think that Alex knows more about her disappearance than he's letting on. But Sarah's fallen in love with him and just knows he couldn't have anything to hide. Or could he?
This is a pleasingly old-fashioned kind of story, gutsy and confidently-written . It reminded us both of Daphne du Maurier?s Rebecca. Genevieve, the missing wife, is almost a ghostly presence in Avalon. Alone in the big house during the day, with Jamie at school and Alex in his sculptor?s workshop, Sarah feels Genevieve?s presence. Sometimes she almost glimpses her, lurking in the corner of a mirror or standing just behind her. But the manifestations are elusive. Like Du Maurier?s Rebecca, Genevieve was charming, beautiful and practically an object of worship to all who knew her. A gifted horse-rider and show-jumper, she?d been tipped for Olympic glory. What can have become of her? People in the nearby village are suspicious of Sarah, as are Genevieve?s prosperous and influential father and mother, who own the local quarry. Eventually, with no word from the missing woman, the police are brought in. Alex is interviewed and swears Genevieve left him a note telling him she was leaving him. But he cannot produce it. He tells the police and Sarah that he ?burned it? while drunk a few days after his wife walked out. For the first time, Sarah begins to doubt him. Louise Douglas remorselessly ratchets up the tension and we begin suspecting everyone of having a hand in Genevieve?s fate, whatever it is that has befallen her. Even Sarah herself gives us pause for thought. Is the story she is telling us quite what it seems ? or is she psychologically disintegrating, a collapse brought on by her stillbirth and marriage breakdown? A cracking yarn with a powerful sense of place, both in Sicily and Somerset. You?ll love it.
Louise Douglas?s third novel is an ideal holiday read ? a gripping blend of romance and murder mystery. The story itself starts on a holiday ? Sarah?s. It is August and Sarah has fled to Roman-hot Sicily after discovering her partner has slept with her best friend. Worse, his betrayal came shortly after Sarah gave birth to their stillborn baby son. Doubly devastated, Sarah joins her sister and brother-in-law in a sleepy Sicilian hotel where she meets Alex, a darkly intense man who is with his six-year-old boy, Jamie. Only weeks earlier, Alex?s wife, the beautiful Genevieve, walked out on husband and son and nothing has been heard of her since. Sarah and Alex are powerfully drawn to each other from the outset and within days have a passionate encounter. Sarah finds herself agreeing to Alex?s suggestion that she join him and Jamie in their rural Somerset home to look after them both, as housekeeper and nanny. Her sister and wider family are appalled ? they think she is being reckless and quite possibly having some kind of breakdown ? but she forges ahead, and a few weeks later finds herself back in England and on a train to Somerset. Alex and a sulky Jamie (who resents this stranger entering his world) meet Sarah at the station and they drive to Avalon, Alex?s rambling, sprawling, scruffy house deep in the countryside within sight of ancient Glastonbury Tor. A new and increasingly sinister chapter is Sarah?s life has begun. What has she got herself into?
Louise Douglas is a copywriter and lives in Bristol with her partner and three children. The Secrets Between Us is her third novel.