The title gave away that this novel was going to be one of those sizzling page turners that you wouldn’t be able to put down – and this proved to be true. I had to desperately resist the temptation to sneakily continue reading while teaching my class! Yes, it was that good.
A cheating husband who just happens to be a top divorce lawyer; a devoted yet wronged wife and mother; a seductive mistress who doesn’t care who gets hurt as long as it isn’t her… and as if that’s not enough, the ex-fiancé of the cheated wife resurfaces after many years to settle some unfinished business. This Tess Stimson novel has all the ingredients of a fabulous read.
Dependable, happily married family man, Nicholas Lyon is the last person anyone would suspect of infidelity. His strong morals are further reinforced by the destruction caused by divorce which Nicholas witnesses every day as part of his job. Married to a successful chef and cookery writer, the exotically named Malinche – Mal – for several years, it was instant attraction when they first met, and according to Mal, it was fate that brought them together. A decade later, they’re the couple who have it all: two rewarding careers; a chaotic though happy home and family life; three beautiful daughters, and most importantly a fulfilling marriage and strong bond. Mal and the girls mean everything to Nicholas and he’d never do anything to risk losing them – especially not for a quick and meaningless fling.
However Nicholas’s morals go out the window the day he meets the captivating Sara Kaplan, the young and beautiful new lawyer hired by his firm. The attraction is mutual though Nicholas tries hard to resist Sara’s charms. Sara, on the other hand, see Nicholas as something of a challenge and pursues the much older, married lawyer with a vengeance. A game of wits soon begins with both players refusing to give up or give in.
But then a bomb explosion changes everything. In the midst of fear and confusion and realising how short life is, Nicholas gives in to temptation… and what should have been a one-off soon develops into an affair – with Nicholas becoming a fully fledged member of the adultery club he loathes. And problems escalate further when Sara realises that she wants more than just a bit of fun and clandestine meetings; she wants a life with Nicholas and sets her sights on prising him away from his homely, mousy ditz of a wife.
Mal however is not as homely or as ditzy as Sara would like to believe. She’s bohemian, arty, and a little bit quirky – I don’t know many women who wear their eight year old daughter’s underwear (?) – and she is very successful in her professional life, working hard to juggle her career with the demands of being a wife and mother. The other great love of her life is her best friend Kit who is something of an honorary brother to Mal and brings a lot of colour into the Lyon household. Mal’s life is anything but humdrum!
As blissful as her life is, Mal is actually hiding a secret heartache involving her ex-fiancé, the gorgeous yet oddly named Trace Pitt. A misunderstanding many years ago led to a terrible tragedy which tore the couple apart forever. Now Trace returns and offers Mal a job at his restaurant – but are Mal’s culinary skills all he’s interested in?
Much of the humour in the novel is provided by Kit and Evie, one of Nicholas and Mal’s daughters, whose comments and insights are worth reading this book for alone. It’s touching to see Kit’s role within the Lyon household. Despite his strained relationship with Nicholas, it’s obvious that Kit is more than just a friend to the Lyon’s – he’s like another family member who loves Mal and her daughters. What’s heart-wrenching is the turmoil of the Lyon’s eldest child, Sophie, who is – out of the three girls – the most aware of what is happening to her family and of her mother’s anguish. A stark reminder of the suffering of children caught up in the middle of a bitter divorce.
Trace also comes across as something of a tragic character. For all his devastating good looks; charm; wealth and success, what Trace really wants is a life with his lost love Mal – a life that was unfairly taken away from him. Despite never being short of female attention, Trace never found anyone who came close to Mal. Once Sara and Nicholas’ s affair becomes common knowledge, Trace seizes his chance to win back Mal – but will he be successful?
This was the very first time I’d read a novel by Tess Stimson – and I wasn’t disappointed. I enjoyed seeing how the story unfolded, and as the novel is told from the points of view of Mal, Sara and Nicholas, it was interesting to get an insight into each of the major characters’ thoughts. The novel’s tagline reads: whose side will you be on: the husband, wife or the mistress? Well as someone who thinks that cheaters are lower than pond scum, it was a no-brainer – and by the end of the novel, my opinion hadn’t changed. I thought that Nicholas was weak; Sara still a bitch – although she did soften a little towards the end – and I was still Team Mal! I was also impressed by Mal’s strength and dignity when she discovers her husband’s affair – I think most wives would have been reaching for the shotgun!
I wasn’t quite sure how the novel would end as there were quite a few twists and turns along the way – including the trump card Sara plays when she thinks she’s losing Nicholas. I have to say as enthralling as the novel was, I was a little let down by the ending. It was a happy ending, full of love and second chances for more than two of the characters, but it wasn’t the happy ending I would have chosen (sorry Tess!) and I couldn’t help but feel more than a little broken-hearted for one of the characters who I felt was worthy of a little happiness. Alas it was not to be. Still a really good read and a great introduction into the works of Tess Stimson. Can’t wait to get stuck into more of her novels.