Thank you to Rosalie Love at Blackbird Digital Books for providing me with an ARC in exchange for a honest, unbiased review.
About the book
Published: 1st July 2016 (Blackbird Digital Books)
When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.
But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane…
That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.
She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a charismatic new best friend – or does she?
As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears...
You can read an extract of Valentina on Blackbird Digital Books website
Firstly I need to acknowledge how beautiful and powerful this cover is, if I saw this whilst browsing online I would most definitely be drawn to it with the crisp white background and amazing red, orange and black colour scheme.
This is S. E. Lynes debut novel however I certainly couldn’t tell, this is a very strong and complex debut. Shona and Mikey have moved to a remote part of Aberdeenshire where he works on an oil rig 2 weeks and returns home for 2 weeks. During the 2 weeks that he is on the rig, Shona is home along with their 4 month old daughter, Isla. Shona is understandably lonely and is struggling to get any one to engage with her – until she meets the enigmatic Valentina outside Blue Moon Nursery where they are both taking their children for a taster session. Valentina has a son, Zac, the same age as Isla.
Valentina brings Shona out of herself and becomes someone who Shona begins to rely upon although as a reader, I felt that she was slightly aloof from Shona but I couldn’t put my finger on why.
The characters have depth and are very real, the conversational nature of the narrative made me feel as though I was there with Shona and Valentina. Also, Lynes used Scottish dialect and words which also brought the location to life.
Lynes has a fantastic way of having a ‘normal’ conversational narrative and then throws in a sentence which reminds the reader with a bang that this is a psychological thriller!
At times I felt uncomfortable reading this, almost like a voyeur to the happenings of the story whereby I knew something awful was happening but it was out of my power to change the course of the events. I also got frustrated at times as I just wanted to know what was happening – the sign of a fantastic book, I just wanted to keep going as the secrets were being revealed.
A brilliant debut novel that I have struggled to put into words for this review, I highly recommend to anyone who enjoys psychological thrillers and also to those who want to venture out into this genre.
About the author
Creative writing teacher S. E. Lynes was discovered after attending a talk about the different ways of publishing hosted by #authorpower publisher Blackbird Digital Books at Richmond Adult Community College in SW London. She sent in the first chapter and a synopsis of VALENTINA which was picked up immediately:
After graduating from Leeds University, S. E. Lynes lived in London for a couple of years before moving to Aberdeen to be with her husband. In Aberdeen, she worked as a Radio Producer at the BBC before moving with her husband and two young children to Rome. There, she began to write while her children attended nursery. After the birth of her third child and upon her return to the UK, she gained an MA in Creative Writing from Kingston University. She now combines writing with teaching creative writing at Richmond Adult Community College and bringing up her three children. She lives in Teddington, SW London.