I’m going to start this review with an apology. To the author. I’ve had this book on my tbr pile for a while now and, for one reason or another, it’s not quite made it to the top. I was determined that, over Christmas, I was going to make it a priority and so set aside my other planned reads to pick this up and I have to say that I’m very glad I did. Before I tell you what I thought of Behind the Smile, here is what it’s all about:
An emotionally charged, totally gripping story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night..
Lowri is pregnant, looking forward to a new life with her lover, Simon. But her plans are shattered. She finds herself alone, her face scarred, her future uncertain
Her estranged husband, Jack, proposes they “settle” for each other, and raise Lowri’s unborn child on the Isle of Wight, in the idyllic village of Elmstone.
Lowri is befriended by Carina, the beautiful Italian woman living in Elmstone Manor, and Heather, the popular local café proprietor. However, she soon discovers that no-one is the person they appear.
What dark secrets is Heather hiding from her family and from the village?
Why is Carina desperate for Lowri to fail in her new life and prepared to go to increasingly desperate lengths to destroy her?
As she confronts her own insecurities, and faces another devastating loss, will Lowri find the courage to be proud of the person she is hiding behind the smile? Will she find true love amid the confusion and intrigue?
You know what? I can’t be certain but this is possibly the first book I have read that has been set on the Isle of Wight. It’s a place I have visited a couple of times, quite enjoyed it to be fair, and so some of the places that are described in the book are familiar to me. I love it when that happens as I find it draws you into the story even more. Not that this story needed that sense of the familiar, not at all. This was a book that once I picked it up I found myself pretty well racing through it, completely engrossed in the story as well as engaged by the characters.
The story is focused upon the character of Lowri, a woman who finds her whole life turned upside down by one random, and devastating event. Estranged from her husband, Lowri heads to France to meet her new lover, Simon. Whilst there she is involved in an accident which changes everything, leaving her with life altering injuries and choices to make which she had once thought she and Simon would make together. Thankfully, she is not left alone, her husband Jack rushing to her side and making her a proposal which sees her moving her life form her home in Southampton to Jack’s family home on the island. The home has history, but that history does not belong to Lowri and Jack. The question is, can she really settle there and be happy?
Now without giving too much away, I will say that this is quite a complicated family drama, where unexpected relationships and links add to the overwhelming sense that, sooner or later, everything is going to come crashing down around Lowri’s ears. There is no doubt that she suffers unbelievable loss and devastation in this story, and for that she had my full sympathy. She was a very likeable character who has made some very questionable choices, her naivety a little astounding at times and perhaps the only thing to niggle at me about her. But the more of the story I read, the more I grew to like her, and the more I wanted her to find her moment of happiness. It would be hard for any woman knowing that you were your husband’s second choice – their safe option. Someone they had settled for rather than someone they loved. And this is part of the mystery of this book. Just who is it that Jack really loves, as there are perhaps some more obvious candidates amongst the residents of the small village of Elmstone that Lowri now calls home.
I really liked the way in which the author has created and developed the characters in the story. From Lowri, with her reluctance to engage with others and her struggle to accept all that has happened to her, through to those she comes to know and call friends, they all add colour to the text. Jack’s obsession with his artwork and with the renovations he is completing up at the great hall all ring true, especially how he loses himself in the work to the expense of everything else around him, as well as being completely oblivious to things that are obvious to the readers. Then you have the people at the cafe, Jack’s former sister in law, Heather, and her assistant, Carina. Heather was instantly likeable and her choices and actions, as they were revealed. Carina was charming and beautiful – exactly the kind of person to ring alarm bells form the start – but just how fair was that judgement? Well, you’ll need to read to find out.
If there is one other character, aside from Lowri, that I really did like, it was Dave, the guy who ran a pottery class at Heather’s cafe. Quite possibly the best reason why you shouldn’t judge a book by it’s cover, despite his quite serious and intimidating looking exterior, he has a heart of gold and was someone it was very easy to grow to love. He has hidden depths, and an innate understanding which helps Lowri to come to terms with her situation and move on from her past. I think we could all do with a Dave in our lives to be fair.
Now this book isn’t simply a study in relationships, and there is an undercurrent of mystery and threat which flows through the book, almost from the moment Lowri arrives in Elmstone. As a reader you slowly see the picture start to evolve. You are privy to the deceptions in a way that the character’s aren’t, and you can feel everything building to the books surprising and dramatic conclusion. This is really a story of obsession, the kind that shows itself in many different ways, from gambling, to pursuit of art, to plan old fashioned love and passion. But at the heart of the story there is also the sense of people searching for forgiveness and understanding – for second chances. Whether they all manage to find that – well, that’s another matter entirely.
I really enjoyed this book and will definitely be looking out for more from the author in the future. I’m just sorry it took me so long to read it but am so glad I sought to put that right.
If you’d like a copy of the book for yourself, it is available now from the following retailers:
About the Author
I was born in Cardiff and have retained a deep love for my Welsh roots. I worked as a nursery teacher in London and later taught Deaf children in Croydon and Hastings.
I now live on the beautiful Isle of Wight with my husband, where I walk my cocker spaniel Pepper and write. I have two grown up children.
‘Free to Be Tegan’ was my debut novel. The second ‘Hidden Chapters’ is set on the spectacular Gower Peninsula, and the third ‘Behind the Smile’, published in March 2018, is set on the Isle of Wight. I have also published two short books of short stories ‘Catching the Light’ and ‘Making Changes’. ‘Catching the Light’ is also available as an audiobook, narrated by Petrina Kingham.
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