Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Book Review: The Stepchild

By Sara Steven

It’s the phone call every mother dreads.

I’m climbing into the car after a trip to the grocery store. As the engine starts, my phone rings. It’s my stepdaughter, Shelby, who is babysitting my three-year-old little girl Millie.

‘I only went upstairs for a second,’ she says through her sobs. ‘She’s gone.’

I race home to find my blue-eyed baby girl missing, and my heart ripped out of my chest.

When the police turn up, Shelby’s story starts to unravel. What is she hiding?

Then I get a message saying, ‘Your husband is not who you think he is.’ Could he be lying?

Suddenly, my family feel like strangers. Everyone has a secret – even me.

No one knows why I was late coming back from the store, and the guilt I’ve been feeling ever since…

Once the truth comes out, all of our lies exposed, will it be too late to save my precious child? (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon)

There is a reason behind my reading The Stepchild within a two day window. It had everything to do with how incredibly suspenseful it was, from the first page to the last. What begins as an ordinary day, with a mother (Leslie) relying on her stepdaughter (Shelby) for help in taking care of her three-year-old daughter (Millie), turns into the worst nightmare any parent dreads: when their child goes missing. 

But even in the ordinary, there are secrets and underlying hidden truths that permeate this entire story, and from one chapter to the next I had no idea what would be lurking. Even in the moments that seem pretty banal, like when Leslie goes to the grocery store, the reader discovers that there is always more to it; there is always more involved that adds a little more chaos to whatever is happening between characters. We discover that Leslie wasn’t where she said she’d be, that Shelby isn’t being honest when it comes to Millie, and there’s even an added character weaved in later on who provides a lot more background into the family dynamics that can ultimately change a person, giving us the why; the motives. 

The biggest lingering question of all is–what happened to Millie? Where is she? Is she okay? It was central in my mind the entire time, and it left me with the need to know, making it hard to put the book down and not try to figure out what everyone is hiding in order to ultimately discover what really happened to Millie. The eventual understanding of it all was pretty epic and a huge shock. It wasn’t written in a way that is a straight easy answer, either, which made The Stepchild the ultimate psychological thriller.

Having read The Boy in the Photo, also by Nicole Trope (see my review), I knew just how high the bar had been raised where suspenseful reads are concerned. She’s a master at that. But I think the bar has been set even higher with The Stepchild. It kept me on my toes the entire time, making this a much-deserved five-star read!   

Thanks to Bookouture for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Nicole Trope went to university to study Law but realized the error of her ways when she did very badly on her first law essay because-as her professor pointed out- 'It's not meant to be a story.' She studied teaching instead and used her holidays to work on her writing career and complete a Masters' degree in Children's Literature.

The idea for her first published novel, The Boy under the Table, was so scary that it took a year for her to find the courage to write the emotional story. She went on to publish a further five novels in Australia before joining Bookouture in 2019. She is a USA Today and Amazon bestseller in the USA, UK, AUS and CAN.

She lives in Sydney with her husband and three children.
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Purchase links:
Amazon UK * Amazon US * Apple * Kobo * Google

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