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#BlogTour- Sarah Stovell- Exquisite

Bo Luxton has it all – a loving family, a beautiful home in the Lake District, and a clutch of bestselling books to her name. Enter Alice Dark, an aspiring writer who is drifting through life, with a series of dead-end jobs and a freeloading boyfriend. When they meet at a writers’ retreat, the chemistry is instant, and a sinister relationship develops … Or does it?

With marked similarity to the books of Barbara Vine and Minette Walters, Exquisite by Sarah Stovell is a discomforting and taut tale of sexual obsession and damaged personalities that will keep you gripped…

Focussing on an initially altruistic friendship between an established author, Bo Luxton, and her young protegee and fledgling writer, Alice Dark, Stovell constructs an increasingly menacing story, built on unreliable narrators and alternating points of view. The structure of the book is also underpinned by a third narration set within the confines of a women’s prison in Yorkshire, automatically causing us to cast aspersions on which of our female protagonists, if either, are incarcerated within. These alternate narratives work beautifully in terms of controlling the suspense, and each is perfectly weighted, to disabuse the reader of flicking between one and the other, holding the interest throughout. Stovell uses these split narratives to great effect, and the unreliable narration works its magic to unsettle, and cause conflict in our own perceptions of these two women. Personally, I didn’t like either of them hugely from the outset, which perhaps is a credit to Stovell’s depiction of both, and I did question the intensity of their relationship which seemed at odds, and slightly unbelievable in light of what we knew of their lives. However, my sympathy was aroused for one character towards the close of the book, particularly with the exceedingly dark , though slightly obvious occurrence on the last page. I also found the presence of Bo’s husband Gus unsatisfying and increasingly superfluous, but as the story builds around Bo and Alice, this was I suppose the author’s intention.

Aside from this, the prose itself is darkly engaging, with interludes of beautifully lyrical descriptions of the Lake District itself, set against the intensity of the burgeoning tension, and increasingly dangerous nature of the relationship between Bo and Alice. Each woman’s point of view weaves seamlessly in and out of the other, leading the reader to question constantly, and form their own opinions of the veracity of each. Trying not to give anything away here, which is difficult, there is also an exploration of Bo and Alice’s formative years, and how the nature of their childhood familial relationships have impacted on them, and formed their personalities. Increasingly this brings to the fore the age old question of nature vs nurture, and with Bo’s own identity as a mother herself, it is interesting to see the ramifications of her previous life experience in her own relationship with her husband and children.

All in all, Exquisite is a largely satisfying psychological thriller with the influence of others in the genre looming large, but taking on an identity of its own. It is a disturbing tale of lies, jealousy and obsession, which will more than sate the reader of the current domestic noir crop, but definitely at the darker end of the spectrum. Recommended.

Catch up with the blog tour at these excellent sites:

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Blog Tour- Guest Post- C J Carver- The 5 Things I Do When I Get Stuck Writing- #SpareMeTheTruth

Carver, Caroline 3

To mark the publication of C J Carver’s latest high-octane thriller Spare Me The Truth, I am delighted to be hosting a guest post from Caroline, that offers some top tips for those sticky moments when inspiration temporarily takes leave from the creative process…

Spare me the TruthThe 5 things I do when I get stuck writing

  1. Don’t panic

Over time, I’ve learned that getting stuck is part of the process. I used to freak out, convinced that if I wrote my way through it I’d be OK but for me this doesn’t work – in this state, I write absolute rubbish.

For some reason, with every book I have two or three spells of writing inactivity, and now I recognize it for what it is: time to take a break and let my subconscious chew the creative fat undisturbed. When I eventually face my computer I’m happy to be there and the words and ideas flow.

  1. Don’t sit around waiting for inspiration

Instead of sitting and glaring at my computer screen, I get active. I go into town, tuck myself into the library or a busy café, and people watch. I doodle. I try to imagine what the more interesting looking people want out of life and how far they’d go to get it. What their greatest fears are. Then I go to a bookshop and browse. I walk a lot. I watch rubbish TV. I give my unconscious mind a good talking to and tell it to keep working on the book.

  1. Go for a drive or get decorating

There is something about movement against the eyes that kicks in the right side of the brain – the creative side. Anything repetitive like scrubbing the floor, decorating, fly-fishing (which I love) and which occupies my body but frees my mind, is part of my arsenal for getting unstuck. Driving does the same thing. Coming back from Sainsbury’s when I’m mid-way through a book is brilliant. I drive through a wood with tall trees and the movement of the trees against the sky does something to my brain because I invariably have my best ideas then. Weird, but true.

  1. Random exercises

If I’m only briefly stuck, like mid-way through a chapter, then there are some tricks I use, like having my next paragraph reveal an unexpected turn of events. Or interrupting the scene with a bizarre new character. I did this one time and the character remained, giving me a whole new angle on the book which was a bit of a surprise. Also, it’s worth checking you’re on track and that your characters are under continual stress, the story moving along, and that each chapter ends with a cliff hanger, no matter how small.

  1. Handwrite a letter from your main character to their nemesis

There is something about the action of pen against paper that stimulates the brain. P.D. James handwrote all her books, apparently. I think there is something about the time it takes to write a sentence that gives the brain enough time to move on that makes this so successful. I’m a touch typist and can write 110 words a minute, which is great when I wrote the final action scene in Spare Me the Truth – no stopping there! – but for more sensitive scenes or when I’m struggling, I always pick up a pen.

C.J. Carver’s first novel Blood Junction won the CWA Debut Dagger and was selected by Publishers Weekly as one of the best mystery books of the year. Half-English, half New Zealand, C.J. has been a travel writer and long-distance rally driver, driving London to Saigon and London to Cape Town. Her novels have been published in the UK and the USA and translated into several languages. Find out more about Carver and her books by visiting her website here Follow on Twitter @C_J_Carver

Missed any stops on the  #SpareMeTheTruth blog tour? Catch up at these excellent sites…

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