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The Girlfriend Hardcover – January 30, 2018
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"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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From the Publisher
Meet the Author of THE GIRLFRIEND
What Made You Want To Write This Book?
A notion struck me one day: what might be the one thing that would keep two lovers apart who were supposed to be together? That would set them on completely different paths for the rest of their lives? And the answer that came back was: if one of them thought the other was dead. At the time I had recently become a mother and was experiencing fierce, tiger-like waves of protectiveness towards my new baby, and a character was born: a mother who would protect her child, regardless of what it took, if she was convinced he would come to harm if she did nothing.
The more I thought about it, the more it raised question and debate with me; just how far would a mother go to protect her child? And how would she justify it? Protecting your child is such a powerful, animalistic thing to do and I also wondered how anyone could not? I was excited to explore this conundrum further but then there was also such a strong counterpoint to this tiger mom – Cherry.
In my late teens, for a short while I worked in a high street bank. It was mind-numbing work in the back office, processing the daily transactions by literally typing in the day’s debits and credits into a large machine. It was something I’d fallen into as I desperately needed to earn some money and the expectation was that I would have to remain in the ‘machine room’ for a considerable time before I might expect to be promoted. Soon after I started, a graduate joined us on a Fast Track scheme and I’d watch as she spent only few weeks working in each section of the bank, moving swiftly on after getting a taster of each area, and was exempt from working out what I was beginning to see as my ‘sentence’. She was being groomed for a high-level job, which she would get after only six months – and all because she had a university degree. If you couldn’t afford to study for a degree you had to spend years on each desk and crawl up the promotional ladder – regardless of how intelligent, capable and ambitious you were. This struck me as deeply unfair, particularly as it transpired I had achieved much better grades at school than she had. Cherry is smart – probably smarter than most girls her age and yet, if she were in this scenario, she too would be held back – just because she couldn’t afford to attend university. I wanted to create a character that looked at ways of bypassing the system, of being intelligent enough to educate herself in areas that made her fit into the world she wanted to belong to. And I wanted her to come up with a clever plan that would make her leap many places up the snakes and ladders board of life, and in honesty, who could blame her?
How Did You Decide On The Title For Your Novel?
This book has had a number of titles along its journey. It started as THE LIE, but around the time of sending the MS out to publishers, another book with the same title was quite prominent in the market and so my agent suggested we change it to create some distance. So it became CHERRY (and I had visions of a luscious fruit on the cover, perhaps with a hologram showing a rotten side – I had restrictions on budget!)… but then my UK publishers, Pan Macmillan, pointed out quite rightly that this title made the book sound like it might be a YA novel. And they cleverly came up with THE GIRLFRIEND.
Do you work out the whole book before you start writing?
I always have a rough idea of where the story is going for the entire novel (but don’t necessarily know the ending) and will break the beats down further as I come closer to them. I like a book to evolve as I go along – the characters will often determine just what happens.
Who’s your favorite villain in literature?
I know this is a popular choice but I think Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley is utterly beguiling and strangely has the ability to raise strong empathetic feelings in a reader, even though he’s a killer.
Who’s your favorite hero in literature?
I’ve recently read Bernadine Evaristo’s Mr Loverman – an absolutely enchanting and hilarious story of 74-year-old Antiguan born Barrington Jeddiah Walker. It’s a story that explores Britain’s older Caribbean community with its cultural myths and fallacies and it’s both controversial and courageous.
How’s your own relationship with your mother-in-law?
Put it this way, there’s a body under the patio. Only joking! She’s wonderful.
Meet the Cast of THE GIRLFRIEND
LAURA, the Mother
Laura grew up privileged, but longed to spend more time with her busy, affluent parents. This pushed her to have a closer relationship with her son, even as her own marriage begins to crack. She has a very successful career in television production, and has even won a few awards for her work. When Daniel tells her about his new relationship, she is ecstatic, and can’t wait to meet the woman who won his heart. But after meeting Cherry, Laura starts to notice little things. There is something about the possessive way Cherry touches Daniel, and inconsistencies in the stories Cherry shares.
Before she knows it, Laura finds herself making a choice and telling an unforgiveable lie.
DANIEL, her Son
Daniel is the only living child of Laura, and her husband Howard. He studied medicine at Cambridge, and after returning from his worldwide travels he sets his sights on moving out of his childhood home. He meets Cherry while searching for an apartment, and after purchasing the first property she shows him, he asks her out on a date. He has a devil-may-care attitude, and loves classical music.
He finds himself caught between the love for his mother, and the love for his new girlfriend Cherry.
CHERRY, his Girlfriend
Cherry grew up in a low-income neighborhood, but that only helped feed her ambition. She’s fluent in French, Italian, and Spanish. When she wasn’t given the same opportunities because of her background, she studied the area, embellished her resume slightly, and earned a realtor job at a top agency. She hides part of her background, because she fears Laura’s judgement. She isn’t going to let anything, or anyone harm her relationship with Daniel. After a serious accident, she unearths an unforgiveable lie.
Praise for The Girlfriend
“One of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. I loved The Girlfriend!”
—Lisa Jackson, New York Times bestselling author
“The Girlfriend is a taut psychological thriller, the evil chillingly drawn. Every character is layered and beautifully twisted. Makes me consider running background checks on any potential spouses my children bring home!”
—Karen Rose, New York Times bestselling author
“A juicy thriller and utterly compulsive reading.”
—Jenny Blackhurst, author of How I Lost You
“An original and chilling portrayal of twisted relationships.”
—Debbie Howells, author of The Bones of You
About the Author
Michelle Frances graduated from Bournemouth Film School in 1996 and then from the Masters program at the American Film Institute, Los Angeles, in 1998. Returning to London, she has worked in film and TV for 16 years as a script editor and producer. She is currently Head of Development at BBC Wales Drama, producers of Doctor Who, War and Peace and Sherlock. She works across a number of in-house shows and also oversees book adaptations. The Girlfriend, her debut psychological thriller, has been optioned by The Imaginarium Studios and translation rights have sold in nine foreign territories.
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
Top customer reviews
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The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances is a gripping and chilling debut psychological thriller, based on the fall-out following an unforgiveable lie. It looks at the potentially charged relationship between girlfriend, boyfriend and his mother, which most women can identify with, and locates it in an extreme but believable setting.
Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but she hasn't had the same opportunities as Daniel. And she wants Laura's life.
Cherry comes to the family wide-eyed and wants to be welcomed with open arms, but Laura suspects she's not all that she seems.
When tragedy strikes, an unforgiveable lie is told. It is an act of desperation, but the fall-out will change their lives forever.
MY THOUGHTS: The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances is a good, but not great read. It is a little slow in places, and I was not particularly enthusiastic about the ending. The level of suspense varies, and I found that some situations that ought to have been suspenseful just weren't. The opening chapter, a scene from later in the book, didn't work for me. I imagine it was designed to increase the reader's anticipation, but it did nothing to increase mine. This is one book where the story should have just started at the beginning and continued to slowly build up the tension until the final denouement.
But, having said that, the characters are well portrayed. I particularly enjoyed the relationship between Laura and Izzie, Laura's best friend. The close bonds between the two women, friends of old, is well depicted. As were the scenes where Laura and Cherry first meet. Cherry's social awkwardness just oozed from the page, and while Laura is doing everything to make Cherry feel welcome, Cherry is almost searching for things to take offense at. And everything escalates from there, with Laura trying to be friends and Cherry pushing her away, both from herself and Laura's adored only son, until Laura catches Cherry out in a lie and decides that there is more (or perhaps less) to her son's girlfriend than meets the eye.
The basic storyline is good, and although The Girlfriend missed the mark with me, only just, I think that it is a good debut novel from new author Michelle Frances, and I will be a definite starter for her next book.
Thank you to Kensington Books via Netgalley for providing a digital copy of The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
Daniel is from a very wealthy family and while he will never need for anything in his life with his trust fund on hand he has still gone to medical school and wants to become a doctor. When Daniel walked into the real estate office he never imagined meeting the woman of his dreams but as soon as he saw Cherry he knew he wanted to ask her out. Things move quickly between the pair and soon Daniel brings Cherry home to meet his parents.
Laura is Daniel’s mother and she has spent her life making sure her son has the best of everything in the world. After suffering the loss of one child Laura vowed to always protect Daniel with everything she had and that he would never want for anything. When Laura first hears of Daniel’s new love she’s quite excited for the prospect of a daughter in law but things quickly seem to just not quite be right with Cherry putting Laura on edge.
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances is being sold as a psychological thriller but I’m almost hesitant to call it as such but possibly more of a suspenseful drama. Either way or what you choose to list it under this was easily one read that immediately hooked me in and didn’t want to let go keeping the pages turning until the very end.
Laura and Cherry both have their flaws and make their mistakes along the way leaving them both characters that are easy to dislike at any point. On the flip side though each woman in Daniel’s life had moments that I would also feel sorry for them and begin to root them on leaving me with a tug of war on how to even want this one to turn out. The manipulation and lies ooze from each page but underneath it all is a feeling that this story could very well really happen which made it all the more intense. In the end I’d definitely recommend picking up a copy of The Girlfriend and giving this one a read.
I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.