Her Pretty Face: A Novel by Robyn Harding

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She was having a girls’ day out. Like other women did. Like women whose children didn’t require special diets and structured routines and constant research into treatments and behavioral modification therapies.

Frances Metcalfe clings to the hope that life will be better now that her troubled son is accepted into Forrester Academy, but like all the elite places in the world, it too has it’s hierarchy and one that doesn’t easily forgive children who deviate from the norm. When her son Marcus gets back at a student for bullying him, it’s vile and ‘disturbing’ to the child’s mother and any chance of fitting in seems lost forever, once again they are outcasts. Frances may as well be back in school herself, unlike the wealthy parents she and her husband have modest means, a second mortgage on their house to afford their son’s tuition, anything to help him get a ‘clean slate’ and flourish as he begins middle school. Unlike her handsome, charming husband she is nothing like the other mother’s, not at 5 feet and carrying excess weight, she’s never going to fit in. With their disapproval, she is sinking further into depression. Her social anxiety is at an all time high and the other women aren’t even attempting to make it easy on her. Then salvation arrives, in the form of Kate Randolph.

Kate doesn’t worry so much what the other mother’s think, she is just as beautiful and wealthy as any of the mothers. She doesn’t need anyone’s approval, in fact she enjoys sparring with the other mothers, cutting them down to size which is exactly what she does to Alison Moss in support of her new friend. When Kate’s around, the weight of the world is lifted and why she accepts Frances in all her awkward glory is a mystery, even Kate’s son Charles is the opposite of Marcus, naturally loved by everyone and like a godsend when her son has a meltdown. Charles and Kate save the day, finally her son has someone at school who is in his corner. Nothing could warm her heart more, after years of therapy and struggle, it’s such a welcome site she could cry. For once, she has found support, a mother and son who don’t treat her son like a freak. Could life finally be turning around for the better?

The two form a deep bond, Kate pushing Frances to tap into her wild side. Not all of their fun is ‘harmless’. Kate’s daughter Daisy knows her mother has another side, that she has high expectations of her, Charles is the apple of her eye while Daisy feels unwanted. Daisy should have a perfect life, “Girls who looked like Daisy were instantly popular, no matter the defects in their personality.” So why is she so sad, and distant from her mother, whom she looks so much like? Moving around so much takes its toll, and¬† teenaged Daisy is flirting with her own disaster. Both Kate and Frances have dark secrets, ones that makes it wise to keep one’s guard up but both are vulnerable with the other, the trouble is one of them is a cold-blooded murderer. Just whose secret is the most devastating?

DJ is a character that wants justice, just a child when his sister was brutally murdered. Amber Kunik is at the heart of the tragedy, and he refuses to forget her. The novel has short chapters that reach into the past, the trial of Shane Nelson for her murder. The moment that changed the entire trajectory of Dj’s life.

Both women are hiding from something, or someone. Each are haunted by the transgressions of their youth that have cost other people everything. Someone is going to uncover their devastatingly shocking secrets, and neither family will be the same. The bonds of their friendship will be tested, just how much do they really know about each other?

This story was engaging and sad. Any mother can empathize with Frances and her struggles with her son. What mother doesn’t want their child to thrive, to be happy and have friendships. In any child with difficulties it’s the little things that make or break your heart, the slights and rejections are just as brutal an attack on a mother’s heart as the child’s. Lacking the confidence to stand up to the ‘in crowd’ (let’s face it, the popularity contest in school can be just as ridiculous in the adult world) who wouldn’t welcome the edgier Kate? Kate’s life is by no means perfect either, she has her own issues that Daisy has a knack for putting a spotlight on. Both women are deeply damaged in different ways. Dj breaks your heart, his story gets tangled in theirs and his own plans go wildly awry, and still it’s hard not to feel for him too. This book evoked both horror and sympathy.

Shocking, brutal and sad both women are guilty but which one can be forgiven? What will it cost the children when revenge comes to call?

Publication Date: July 10. 2018

Gallery, Threshold, Pocket Books

Gallery/Scout Press

 

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