Good morning, bookworm, do come in. Don’t worry about the fallen leaves blowing in, they’ll keep the baby dragons amused for a while. Have a seat and pop your feet up while I make you a cup of tea. Do you want a biscuit to dunk? I’ve had to stop dunking biscuits when I’m reading as I get distracted, leave the biscuit in the tea for too long and am left with a sort of sludge at the bottom of my cup… It happened to me just the other day, when I was reading The House Mate by Nina Manning. I’ll just have a nibble of my hobnob then I’ll tell you all about it.
Here’s the blurb:
The perfect life? …Or the perfect lie?
When Regi moves into her new house share, she’s ready for a clean slate. A new home. A new routine. A new identity…
Desperate to escape the shadow of her past that follows her everywhere she goes, Regi finds the ideal distraction in the perfect lives of others on social media.
But as innocent scrolling turns into an unhealthy obsession, Regi will soon learn that seeking perfection comes at a price…
A gripping psychological suspense from the international bestselling author of The Daughter In Law. Perfect for fans of Lisa Jewell, K L Slater and Jackie Kabler.
Here’s a little about the author: Nina Manning studied psychology and was a restaurant-owner and private chef (including to members of the royal family). She is the founder and co-host of Sniffing The Pages, a book review podcast. Her debut psychological thriller, The Daughter in Law, was a bestseller in the UK, US, Australia and Canada. She lives in Dorset.
I love the name of Nina’s podcast, as I used to love the scent of a glossy, new book, and am definitely going to check it out. I’ll leave you a link to it down below.
And here’s my review: I thought I had this book all figured out, I really did, and then it threw my assumptions upside down, shook them about, and watched as the loose change fell out of their pockets. The story is told in two time perspectives: Then and Now. Regi has moved into a house in readiness for a university course as a mature student and is living with three younger women. It very quickly becomes apparent that Regi has suffered some kind of trauma in her past, which manifests in a variety of obsessive compulsions and flashbacks from her past.
As the story progresses, the flashbacks become more real and a figure from her previous life seems to edge in on the periphery of her world, a life she tries hard to hide from others. Regi becomes obsessed with a Mrs Hinch style ‘cleanstagrammer’ on Instagram, Mrs Clean, and a particular troll who features in every post with an unpleasant remark. What starts as curiosity becomes an obsession and eventually, Regi feels compelled to find out more about these instagrammers and the reality behind the filtered photos and sponsored hashtags.
Regi was an interesting character, because I was drawn into her version of the truth due to the novel being written in the first person perspective. Looking back however, I can see that she was an unreliable narrator. I fell into the trap as a reader of believing that I knew all about this character because I was reading what she was thinking however there was so much more to her than met the eye.
The house mates didn’t play as much of a part as I thought they would although I felt bad for Regi at some of the remarks from one housemate in particular who viewed her as a threat. They also served as a reminder for just how much Regi’s life was impacted by whatever had happened in her past and her present OCD.
I’m struggling to say too much without giving something away but I got through most of the book waiting for the point when my suspicions about how the Then affected the now would be proved correct. But when the two converged, I was thrown, confused, and even had to reread a couple of chapters because I couldn’t figure out how I’d been so wrong!
I raced through this book in a few hours and thoroughly enjoyed the tension throughout. The twist was definitely worth the wait and I’m looking forward to reading more books by Nina Manning. A solid 4 star rating for me.
If you like the sound of this and want to buy a copy for yourself, just click on the book image above (I don’t receive anything for providing this link, I’m just being a helpful bookworm). I’m grateful to the author, publisher and Rachel’s Random Resources for the free copy in return for my honest opinion.
What’s that smell? No, it’s not the book pages. It smells like something smouldering…. oh heavens, I must dash – I think the baby dragons have started setting the dry leaves alight while they chase them – farewell, bookworm!