Friday, March 31, 2023

Book Review: The Last Wife

By Sara Steven

Welcome to Winters End...

Winters End should have been the perfect place for me and my husband Neil to start again. To leave the terrible secrets and guilt of our past far behind us.

But from the moment we arrived in the small, isolated community, it becomes clear to me that we are not welcome here. That someone wants us to leave…

I’m certain that everyone knows our secrets – knows who we really are. But how can that be?

Perhaps it’s my mind playing tricks on me. Just like before.

I know Neil thinks I'm paranoid. My thoughts spiralling. Again.

If only I had someone else to talk to. Another woman to confide in.

And that’s when I realise something far more terrifying.

I am the only wife at Winters End…and I could be the last… (synopsis courtesy of Goodreads)

Initially, when Fiona feels unwelcome in Winters End, I chalked it up to her sordid past. The whole point of moving to Winters End was to get away from her life, and to try to start fresh with Neil. It starts with dog excrement on their doorstep, with a note that asks them to leave and go back to where they’d come from, and it all felt very slanderous. Like the townsfolk had gathered together to try to oust someone who they feel doesn’t belong. But the bigger picture, and the even bigger reasons behind the supposed ousting, was a huge mind-blowing experience.

The lens moves gradually away from Neil, focusing solely on Fiona. Why does it feel as though the people who live in Winters End, particularly the men, don’t want Fiona to live there? And why is the graveyard filled with recent gravesites that are deceased women? Fiona begins to look too deeply into the situation, while Neil wants to live in oblivion, assuming that Fiona is exaggerating. That there really isn’t anything strange going on. And it’s only when Fiona goes missing that he begins to take the situation seriously. 

Ultimately, what the reader discovers, and the why behind it, was not to be expected. There are plenty of hidden secrets that have been part of the town for decades, but as with most secrets, the truth will eventually be revealed. People that should be trusted, can’t be. And those who appear to be the least trustworthy of all are the ones who might just be a lifeline to safety. 

The Last Wife was a slow-burn suspenseful experience. One minute, I had ideas of what was really going on, then the viewpoint would pivot, and what was to be expected wasn’t really what was happening all along. Overall, there were subtle messages that let me know that this wasn’t just about mysterious experiences within Winters End, but that both Fiona and Neil have to find a way to get past their past that threatens to keep them from moving forward in their lives. That running away from your problems won’t solve the problem, potentially creating even more issues in the long run. In fighting the demons within their new town, it aids in fighting their own personal demons, and that was a really interesting perspective. It made The Last Wife an enjoyable experience.

Thanks to Rachel's Random Resources for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase Links:
Amazon US * Amazon UK

J. A. Baker is a successful psychological thriller writer of numerous books, previously published by Bloodhound. Born and brought up in Middlesbrough, she still lives in the North East, which inspires the settings for her books. Her first title for Boldwood was published in December 2022.

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