“A wife. A mistress. A week away with no escape…”
- Book: My Husband’s Lover
- Location: Scottish Highlands, The Ardnish Peninsula
- Author: Jess Ryder
I’m not certain just how much I can say about this storyline to whet your appetite, without giving anything away, but here goes nothing!…
Sophie and Ryan have two young sons aged nine and ten years old, but their marriage is going through a rocky patch, since Sophie discovered that Ryan had been cheating on her. Ryan appears contrite, although he seems to think that telling Sophie that it was only for sex, is going to put things right more quickly.
In an effort to have some therapy time for herself, Sophie establishes ‘Sophie’s Swimmers’, a wild swimming club, where she and five other women who have joined her, meet once a week at the lake of a local Nature Discovery Park. Fern, Ariel, Keira, Grace and Elise, come from diverse backgrounds, although they meet purely for the swimming and actually know little of one another’s private lives. Fern is obviously the most well-to-do of the group and it is she who suggests that they should go away for a week’s swimming break as a group. The location she chooses is in a remote part of Scotland, a two mile hike from the nearest car park and many miles from any village or town. The cottage is basic in the extreme and has no facilities, so they will have zero contact with the outside world for the duration of their stay, at least that’s what they believe! It is however, both close to the coast for sea swimming and has its own loch nearby, for those all important early morning, wild swimming dips.
Ryan is far from happy about her plans, even though Sophie has arranged for the children to visit their maternal grandparents for the week, so he won’t have to be responsible for their care. However, when Sophie shows him a group picture of ‘Sophie’s Swimmers’, he becomes positively apoplectic, although he refuses to say why. He begs her not to go, however Sophie digs in her heels, even when one of their number does have to cry off at the last minute. The journey up country is long and arduous for Sophie, as the only driver, made much worse by the garbled phone call she exchanges with Ryan from a motorway services, where he confides in her part of his reticence for her making the trip, whilst still refusing to be completely truthful with her.
Armed with a little knowledge, which they do say can be a dangerous thing, Sophie disengages from the group more and more, as she begins to try and unravel the truth from the limited amount of information Ryan gave her. With revenge on her mind, aware that she in return, is being hunted, and with the disadvantage of not knowing who her adversary is, Sophie hopes to set up a final and maybe fatal showdown and so a very deadly game of cat and mouse ensues. However, there are other members of the group who also have their own agendas and are not as innocent as everyone believes. They too, are busy setting their individual plans in motion, and so a wily and potentially catastrophic chain of events is set to unfold on several unconnected levels, which are every bit as lethal as one another, and each of which seem to wrap themselves around Sophie, dragging her down until she doesn’t know where to turn.
Finally, with a perplexing crime scene left in the less than capable hands of the local police, what is left of the group are free to head home, with a seemingly traumatised Sophie needing space and time alone to make preparations for her new life going forwards. However, she will only realise that goal after she has finally destroyed her nemesis, with the biggest secret of them all. This is one tough cookie, determined that the future is going to happen on her terms, and hers alone!
Don’t get mad, get even. If you can’t get even one way, then find a different way!!
And how those unexpected twists and turns just kept coming – from the very first, to the very final word!…
The story is predominantly told in two voices, those of Sophie and her unknown antagonist, called simply ‘The Swimmer’, a format which worked brilliantly once I got to grips with it, which didn’t take long at all.
This well-structured, multi-layered storyline was powerful, well-paced, highly textured and intense. The cut-it-with-a-knife atmosphere, for the most part was desperately cloying and claustrophobic, yet totally immersive. The tension mounted exponentially, with a situation which had at first seemed manageable, fast careening out of control.
There was not a single facet of this storyline which was simple or uncomplicated, as more and more clues were drip-fed into the narrative little by little. Nothing was quite as it seemed and the twists and turns just kept on coming – and I mean right to the very end, complicating the tangled web of lies and secrets which overlaid everything, until I just didn’t know who to believe any more. In fact, the reveal of the antagonist at about the 75% marker, didn’t make a shred of difference, as the suspense was maintained right up to the turn of that last page. Don’t assume anything is over, until it’s over!
The story predominantly takes place in the remote, sometimes beautiful, but often harsh conditions of the Ardnish Peninsula, in the Highlands of Scotland. Even though, with all the terrible things going on around them, the ladies may not have had either the mental capacity or inclination to notice the scenery they had hoped to enjoy during their stay, author Jess Ryder still made time to use the full palette at her disposal, to paint the physical location with a rich colour and vibrancy, taking in the sights, sounds and smells, which lifted this place which time forgot, off the page, offering a truly inclusive experience for the reader. As a confirmed ‘armchair traveller’ I could feel myself being transported to another world, although I have to admit that personally, I do prefer my amazing scenery to come with a few mod-cons and little luxuries. Oh! and as a non-swimming, fear of water, confirmed landlubber, some of the excruciatingly detailed water scenes were ‘hands covering the eyes’ moments.
I can honestly say that, despite the entire cast of characters being well defined and described in vivid detail, none of them were in the least bit likeable or authentic. I tried to take into account that many of them were ‘damaged goods’ in one way or another and by varying degrees. However, I found them simply too manipulative, malevolent and duplicitous, to be in any way compelling or with any depth I could invest in.
Sophie and Ryan are the perfect match for each other and I found it difficult to work out which was the biggest liar of the two, the one with most secrets. Except for when she was in the company of her young sons, Sophie was definitely the hardest hearted of the couple and always had been. Ryan was always the inherent victim of any situation, prone to laziness and rather spineless, although in reality, he really did just need a good kick up the bottom and there is no way I would have put up with him. However, I’m not sure I would have been quite so evil as Sophie, in case it affected any one else who was innocent – although there was little chance of that in this book.
As you can probably tell, I became really invested in this storyline for its duration, although I was more than happy to walk away from it when it was over, as it was possibly a little too all-consuming – Job Done, I would say, Jess!