The Mother-in-Law by Sally Hepworth | Review

Book Synopsis

A twisty, compelling new novel about one woman’s complicated relationship with her mother-in-law that ends in death…

From the moment Lucy met her husband’s mother, she knew she wasn’t the wife Diana had envisioned for her perfect son. Exquisitely polite, friendly, and always generous, Diana nonetheless kept Lucy at arm’s length despite her desperate attempts to win her over. And as a pillar in the community, an advocate for female refugees, and a woman happily married for decades, no one had a bad word to say about Diana…except Lucy.

That was five years ago.

Now, Diana is dead, a suicide note found near her body claiming that she longer wanted to live because of the cancer wreaking havoc inside her body.

But the autopsy finds no cancer.

It does find traces of poison, and evidence of suffocation.

Who could possibly want Diana dead? Why was her will changed at the eleventh hour to disinherit both of her children, and their spouses? And what does it mean that Lucy isn’t exactly sad she’s gone?

Fractured relationships and deep family secrets grow more compelling with every page in this twisty, captivating new novel from Sally Hepworth.

Praise for Sally Hepworth: 

“With jaw-dropping discoveries, and realistic consequences, this novel is not to be missed. Perfect for lovers of Big Little Lies.” —Library Journal, starred review

“Hepworth deftly keeps the reader turning pages and looking for clues, all the while building multilayered characters and carefully doling out bits of their motivations.” —Booklist

My Thoughts

If you enjoy a good family saga then you might want to read Sally Hepworth’s latest novel. This is my first time of reading a book by this author and I was not disappointed! “The Mother-in-Law” brings to life an incredible family account of greed and betrayal.

This book, set in Australia, has many of the components that make a really good story: from the mood and undercurrents to the very clever writing and the experience of deep family secrets and fractured relationships, not forgetting the feelings of hope, the fear, the utter desperation and failure.

“The Mother-in-Law” focuses on Lucy’s fractious relationship with her husband’s mother, Diana. Lucy has married Ollie, who is from a wealthy family, dominated by the matriarch.

From the very first chapter, I found myself immediately drawn in, following the grave news of Diana’s death, the circumstances of which were being treated as suspicious by the police. Her death had the appearance of suicide due to the presence of a note, but then became a matter slightly more deceiving. Diana, inclined to be rather aloof, left behind her husband Tom, son Ollie and daughter Nettie, not to mention her impressive estate…

This story is told from dual perspectives – Lucy’s and Diana’s – in the present with flashbacks to the past. Sally Hepworth has drawn a great character in Lucy, the outsider, trying hard to please her mother-in-law, to be accepted into her husband’s family, only to repeatedly fall short of the mark.

Sally Hepworth has also done a brilliant job with her portrayal of Diana and this really complements the story for me. Diana was not simply a typical mother-in-law mischief-maker; she was a person with many attributes – mother, wife, friend, daughter and do-gooder. Some of her drive was quite understandable which made it difficult for me to completely scorn her. As past and present merged it  became clear that nobody in the family really knew or understood each other.

One of my favourite aspects of this novel was the fluidity of Sally Hepworth’s writing. She managed to provide the details and twists of the plot without messing with the tone of the storyline. Each brilliantly executed chapter left me with a compelling need to read on.

For me, “The Mother-in-Law” was a tale of dramatic suspense but also one of deep reflection. At times, it made me dwell on my own family relationships and dynamics, especially those of the past. This novel definitely leaves you in a reflective mood, both during and after the story ended.

The book definitely has a strong mystery element, culminating in a thrilling and fulfilling ending. I really enjoyed it and I would certainly recommend it. This novel has left an impression on me and I will be reading more from Sally Hepworth. She has now become an author to watch out for!

Thanks to NetGalley, St Martin’s Press and the author, Sally Hepworth, for my free ARC of The Mother-in-Law in exchange for an honest review.

Brianne’s Book Reviews Rating | Five Stars

Happy Reading!

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The Shadow Between Us

The Shadow Between Us by Carol Mason

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Carol Mason, the best-selling author of ’After You Left’ has written an incredibly moving and poignant novel in this slow-burn, very beautiful work of fiction.

Olivia moves to the pretty coastal town of Port Townsend, with her marriage on-the-rocks, and her life in pieces. She doesn’t know if things with her husband Mark are truly over, or quite why the phone call she longs for on her daughter’s birthday will never come.

After joining a letter-writing club held at her local cafe she meets Ned, an ex-soldier badly wounded in Afghanistan. This chance friendship revives unexpected emotions and memories she’d rather forget.

Can Olivia find the courage to confront what she’s hiding from and finally begin to heal the wounds that have torn her life apart?

Liv, as she is known to her husband, is an extremely intriguing character. Regularly displaying a cocktail of emotions, I could still really empathise with her. She could be caring and thoughtful one minute, but then be frank, blunt and very much to-the-point, the next moment. At times she was positively distant and unkind. She was not alone in her attitude and behaviour as some of the other characters in the story shared similar traits such as cafe owner Beth. For me, this added to and complemented this wonderful character-driven story.

THE SHADOW BETWEEN US was a very insightful and thought-provoking read about reflecting on the mistakes we sometimes make and finding hope in second chances. I very much liked the emphasis on letter-writing, reading and quotes from favourite books, running throughout the story.

The dialogue between Olivia and Ned was lovely and liked how they had an almost immediate connection. I was very keen to see how their relationship might develop. I found THE SHADOW BETWEEN US a very enjoyable read, helped by Carol Mason’s beautiful writing which has depth and substance. The ending was very fulfilling although with an unexpected twist. I will definitely be reading more of her books in the future.

[Thanks to #NetGalley, Lake Union Publishing and Carol Mason for my ARC of #TheShadowBetweenUs in exchange for an honest review.]



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The First Cut (Doctors of Darkness, #3)

The First Cut by Ellery A. Kane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


“The First Cut” is actually the third book in a series called the ‘Doctors of Darkness’, the first book being ‘Daddy Darkest’ and the second is ‘The Hanging Tree’. I don’t think this made much difference to my immense enjoyment of the book as plenty of back-story was provided.

‘Love Doctors’ Ian and Kate Culpepper are brutally murdered in their Carmel mansion on Valentine’s Day. To Ava, its fate because Ian left her for the perfect Kate four years ago. Then they made their home close to Ava, complete with their perfect house and their perfect daughter and their matching perfect smiles. It’s no wonder that Ava can’t stop watching or that she can’t let go… 

However, Ian is far from perfect, and Ava owes a debt too, for when they were together, they did an unforgivable thing – a dark deed that severed their marriage in two. Ava’s name is found inked in blood at the crime scene and someone knows what she’s hiding…

Ellery Kane has a very unique writing style that is perfect for this psychological thriller. Many of the characters, especially Ava, were so complex that, at first, it wasn’t easy to work out exactly how they contributed to the story. Eventually, as different aspects of the story were revealed, it all started to come together. This, though, is the foundation for a fantastic psychological thriller.

Overall, “The First Cut” is a sensational and thrilling read with lots of nail-biting and alarming moments that culminate in a fulfilling conclusion.

[Thanks to Hidden Gems and the author Ellery Kane for a free ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.]






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The Perfect Stranger

The Perfect Stranger by Marin Montgomery

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


What an incredible journey Marin Montgomery took us on, through the lives of the characters in this novel!

Stella McKinney thinks her life is near-perfect, with her doting husband, a beautiful house and a flourishing business. When Grant, her adoring husband, starts to behave out of character and begins devoting more time to his career, Stella has reason to question his fidelity for the first time in their marriage. As Stella’s desperate attempts to find out the truth become an obsession, the last thing she expects is a perfect stranger to show up at her door. A beautiful woman has knowledge of intimate details about Stella and Grant with which no one else could possibly be familiar. With her marriage and idyllic lifestyle at stake, the only way to uncover the truth is to ask herself how well she really knows her husband and herself. As Stella discovers, sometimes the truth is downright terrifying…

I must mention how much I loved being at the couple’s Malibu beach house. Marin Montgomery’s beautiful writing style made this, for me, a magical place to be.

“The Perfect Stranger” is a story of wedded bliss, love, happiness and wonderful times. But it is also a very sad tale of anger, fear, hate, self-loathing and doubt when events start to take a down-hill turn.

The book is told mostly from the perspective of the main protagonist, in the third person and the characters were so well written and developed, that I was keen to follow their lives for all of them including those who had secrets and dubious intentions. On reflection, though, the most outstanding for me was sweet and scatter-brained Stella and Grant for his delightful charm.

Eventually, this suspenseful and intriguing thriller, which I happily recommend to lovers of this genre, comes to a wonderfully fulfilling conclusion. 

{Thank you to Hidden Gems and Marin Montgomery for a free copy and for giving me the opportunity to provide an honest review.}




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