The Stepmother by Claire Seeber

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A very interesting twist on a well-known tale: who is the real villain in Snow White?

The perfect wife. A fairytale family. Don’t believe your eyes…

Jeanie and Matthew are a happily married couple who both have teenage children from previous relationships. No one said it would be easy to raise a blended family under one roof but Jeanie and Matthew are strong. They will make it work. And whilst Jeanie’s step-daughter Scarlett rejects her, Jeanie will just have to try harder to win her over.

But Jeanie has a past. A terrible secret she thought she’d buried a long time ago. And now, it’s coming to the surface, threatening to destroy her new marriage. Someone is playing a terrifying game on Jeanie and she must put a stop to it once and for all.

After all, a fairytale needs a happy ending … doesn’t it? (Goodreads)

I have to stop reading these thrillers at night! I wouldn’t call this scary but it’s definitely creepy, and since my main reading time is just before bed, this is not a good combination.

With that aside, it is a good book and I really enjoyed the mystery at the heart of it (when I read it in the daytime!), especially as we got deeper into the characters’ motives. If you like smart thrillers that get you thinking, I’d recommend this book for you. While it is slow-building, the ending more than makes up for it. It may still leave you a little confused but the best thrillers do!

An interesting aspect of the book is the way it’s told. We alternate between two characters, Jeanie through her diary entries and Marlena reflecting back on the events. There is also occasionally a narrator-type person who comments on the connection between this book and Snow White. I don’t know that this third person was really necessary but it doesn’t detract from the story.

I really wanted to like this story more, and I felt better about it by the end (especially with the way it wrapped up), but I didn’t really like the characters. I think they got better as the story went on but many of them were just plain unlikeable. Looking back, I can see a few characters for whom this may have been on purpose but I don’t know how to feel when my favourite character is the flighty sister who breaks connections with everyone she’s close to. As we learned of the turbulent childhoods of the characters, some of their quirks and traits became more understandable but even then, it often felt like a disconnect between this history and their present selves. Long story short, Jeanie is very difficult to read as a 40-something woman!

I do think it works well as a thriller but the characters let me down, at least until the later half of the book. They were developed better nearer the end, so I just wish the whole book matched that same quality. However, the mystery works well even if you don’t like the characters! It may not be Gillian Flynn’s level of creepiness but it is entertaining and engaging all the same.

Author links: Website | Twitter | Facebook

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

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