Quick synopsis: Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job, and her best friend Marilyn, but when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe it’s time to let her terrifying secret past go. Then her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see. Lisa’s world explodes, and she finds everything she has built threatened. Not knowing whom she can trust, it’s up to her to face her past to save what she holds dear.
Review: A lot of reviews for Cross Her Heart observe that this novel has a ‘slow start’. I couldn’t disagree more. The beginning of this story drew me in like a fish on a line and I was hooked immediately by the tension, the incredible writing, and the creeping sense of dread that pervaded these opening chapters. I loved the commentary from Ava, her secret relationship felt raw and real and I understood why she’d want to hide it from her mother and her friends. I enjoyed Marilyn’s story, too, the hint that her life was not as perfect as it initially seemed. And Lisa’s narrative drove the entire plot: what is she hiding? Why? Is it really as bad as it seems?
The problems, for me, came in the latter stages. The twists were completely bonkers, and not in a good way. The reveals were outrageously bad. I felt completely cheated that there was little to no way I could have guessed who did it and why. For me, a more realistic story wins every time and the ending here was the complete opposite. I guess part of the reason is that readers often demand to be shocked, I read reviews all the time that claim ‘I guessed who it was straight away: 1 star’, so Sarah Pinborough is clearly avoiding that trap! But, if you suspect who the baddie is you inherently understand their motivations, and, when you can’t, and their motivation turns out to be incredible tenuous it’s not a fantastic twist: it’s a complete let down.
The positives: For me, these all come in the first half to two-thirds which, like I said, I couldn’t put down. The characters were fantastic and believable, the set-up was extraordinary and the writing was tight and pacey and fantastic.
The negatives: Sarah Pinborough is a brilliant author and I adore her writing, I just wish the execution of the twists had been different.
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars because great writing wins every time and even though I didn’t like the conclusion I was gripped enough to find out what happened.