EXQUISITE by Sarah Stovell
Orenda Books; 6/15/17 (UK) & 10/1/17 (US)
CBTB Rating: 5/5
The Verdict: tense, hair-raising psychological suspense
Psychological thriller readers, I’ve found you a summer must-read. EXQUISITE by Sarah Stovell is a twisty, breathless thriller blended seamlessly with a touch of Fatal Attraction-inspired romance-gone-wrong - a winning combination, executed brilliantly. Add in a bookish setting and you’ve got yourself the perfect escapist, addictive crime book to take on your next vacation. EXQUISITE already boasts a fantastic list of endorsements, with crime fiction's rising stars including Erin Kelly, Holly Seddon, and Sarah Pinborough calling it "gripping," "whip-smart," and "slickly claustrophobic." Buy this book and clear your calendars: EXQUISITE is a 2017 must-read.
Bo Luxton has it all—a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops. Or does it? Breathlessly pacey, taut and terrifying, Exquisite is a startlingly original and unbalancing psychological thriller that will keep you guessing until the very last page.
I don’t know about you, but I find myself consistently drawn to crime books with book-focused stories. There’s something perennially appealing about books set in a literary world, and EXQUISITE capitalizes upon the innate intrigue of authors and their work from page one. I can’t imagine much better than a psychological thriller about two writers entangled in an illicit - and possibly dangerous - affair. The implications of their tryst are far-reaching - not even their respective work remains untouched by it. The literary backdrop to this story provides a fresh and compelling foundation upon which to set an on-trend, twisty-turny psychological thriller.
My one hesitation going into this book was that I’m not a romance reader. I typically stay far away from anything branded “romantic suspense,” and I wasn’t sure if this would pose a problem for me as I embarked on EXQUISITE. I’m happy to report: I had nothing to worry about. Stovell handles the growing attraction between her main characters expertly, subtly illustrating their chemistry without allowing the romance angle to overcome the story’s thriller plotline. With each passing page, I found myself even more captivated by the picture Stovell paints of two women whose interest begins with a chance encounter and grows into a dangerous obsession. The connection between Bo and Alice crackles and sparks, drawing even the most skeptical romance reader (me) into its breathless tension.
So yes, this psychological thriller does have a romance angle, but don't be mistaken: this romance isn't the kind that is meant to have a happy ending. In fact, this story's “romance” is perhaps better qualified as infatuation - an infatuation which quickly turns dark, and will appeal to readers looking for a story of love that's been twisted and turned into something destructive. There are sinister motives and dark manipulations at the heart of this book.
Above and beyond the many unique elements which make EXQUISITE so entrancing is the fact that Stovell is simply an excellent crime writer. With so many psychological thrillers releasing all the time, we're inundated with novels deemed "unputdownable," "twisty," and "shocking" - to varying degrees of accuracy. In the case of EXQUISITE, these terms really do apply. Without spoiling any of the book’s fantastic twists, I will say that the assumptions I held from page one were completely turned on their head over the course of the novel. I couldn’t have been more wrong about how this book would conclude, and I am so glad to have been surprised as thoroughly as I was. I will note that the first 100 or so pages of this book, while still addictive and fast-paced, don’t feel as much like a thriller as I expected. But don’t worry - the twists and turns and psychological intrigue are very much coming. Stovell's plotting is masterful, and the chills and shocks she delivers as the story progresses make the scene-setting of the book's first third completely worthwhile.
EXQUISITE is an on-trend psychological thriller that blends the best of its genre with a dash of tense, sexy infatuation to fantastic effect. Bo and Alice’s story is completely captivating: from their initial introduction to their secret romance to the disastrous fallout of their affair, readers will be glued to the pages for the duration of this fresh and razor-sharp thriller. Just make sure to clear your calendars before diving in.
Paperback: 300 pages
Publisher: Orenda Books (October 1, 2017)
Plus: Make sure to follow along with the EXQUISITE blog tour and see what other readers are saying!