By: Jane Renshaw
9 Hours, 6 Minutes
Publisher: Dreamscape Media
Publication Date: 08/09/2022
Format: Audiobook 🎧
Narrators: Mhairi Morrison; Katherine Littrell; Joshua Manning
My Rating: 3 Stars (ARC)
Psychotherapist Lulu is sure she’s the luckiest woman alive. She has a wonderful job and is married to the love of her life, Nick—who also happens to be ridiculously handsome and fabulously wealthy. But now a shadow has fallen on her perfect life.
She can see that Nick is struggling with demons from his past. When he was sixteen, his entire family disappeared without a trace and Nick has always insisted that his stepmother—whom he hated—was to blame, that she did something terrible to his beloved father and baby sister. That trauma has left him feeling that anyone he loves is in danger and might vanish in a heartbeat.
So now he is obsessed with Lulu’s safety. He needs to know where she is 24/7, insists she carries a can of pepper spray, and is constantly watching for any potential threats.
Lulu can see that this extreme anxiety is wearing Nick down. As a therapist, she knows the only way to heal trauma is to confront it. So she persuades him to return to the country house from which his family vanished. But soon after they arrive in this sleepy rural community, another person disappears.
As Lulu is forced to question everything she knows about Nick and his missing family, dark secrets emerge from the past. The certainties of her old life fade away and are replaced by a horror she could never have imagined in her wildest nightmares.
"He lost one family. Now he is ready for another." Meet NICK.
Scotland author Jane Renshaw's THE STEPSON is a WILD cat-and-mouse domestic suspense tale with unreliable narrators. Told from two periods and POVs: a grown stepson's (now a man) new wife and his former stepmother. Two different tales. Which one is lying?
(2019) Psychotherapist Lulu (Nick's wife) has a great job and is married to Nick. He is wealthy and handsome. Even though they did not date long, she feels lucky until she sees Nick being too overprotective and becomes concerned.
NICK had a tragic childhood. Was he a victim or the predator? His mother died due to an accidental fall, and Nick was the one who found her at age fourteen. His father, Duncan Clyde, remarries a woman named Maggie two years later. She also had a troubled childhood. Nick does not like her, especially when she gets pregnant, and now he has a little half-sister. Maggie also comes from a different class background and is strong.
(1997) Maggie (stepmother): Maggie thinks Nick is evil and manipulative. He uses her past against her and her insecurities. He puts up a good front around the dad, so the dad does not take Maggie's concerns about Nick's behavior seriously. (Duncan and Lulu are alike). Maggie thinks Nick is threatening. The dad says he is just being a teenager and blows it off. It is a constant game of cat-and-mouse between the two. Maggie has a different take on Nick, and it is not pretty.
Now, Lulu's marriage is strained by Nicks's paranoia. They had only met six months earlier when she was on tour. Nick is a day trader and seems to have it all, but his constant worrying about Lulu and questioning her about everything, even her clients- his behavior is annoying and disturbing.
Lulu believes it stems from his tragic childhood and feels like he must face the past to move on and deal with it. They live in London in a posh penthouse, and Nick is so thoughtful. However, he has two sides. His overprotectiveness is over the top and getting out of control.
Here is the strange part: In Nick's past, his entire family just disappeared one day while he was out for the day with a school friend. His dad, Duncan, his stepmom, Maggie, and two-month-old baby Isla (half-sister) were never seen again. Nick contends Maggie killed his family.
Nick was under investigation but was cleared due to his alibi. He was sent to boarding school and stayed with his relatives for a few weeks a year.
Since Lulu is a Psychotherapist, she wants to help. She wants him to go back to the scene of the crime. He fears that his new wife will be taken away. She persuades him to take a few weeks off, and they travel to his childhood home.
After they arrive, strange things occur. Another family member disappears. Does Lulu know her husband? Can she trust him? Is he more troubled than she is aware? Is he dangerous, and what is he hiding?
Did Nick kill his family? Did he have anything to do with his mother’s death? Did his stepmom orchestrate the whole scheme? Is Nick innocent? What happened to Nick’s aunt when she vanished. So many questions, lies, and secrets.
My Thoughts: I am reviewing the audiobook only. Honestly, the audiobook was like an over-the-top bad tennis match back and forth with highly dysfunctional characters. A bad train wreck. No likable characters here. Maggie sounds like an evil monster (is it justified or just the way Nick sees her)? Nick is a psychopath. Lulu is naive, has her head in the sand, and does not even seem like a therapist if she cannot judge the man's mentality. She seems like a love-sick teen and ignores the dangerous behavior of her husband.
There is NO big twist that the book describes. I kept waiting for it but never happened. I did like the last line. I would describe this as more of domestic suspense and not a whodunit psychological thriller. I was not invested in the story and found myself fast-forwarding and skipping over the grinding parts (especially Maggie).
Possibly this book would be better as a reading copy versus an audiobook. I basing this review on my personal listening experience. A lot of drama (too much for me), not that engaging, and the narrator's voices were grinding and annoying. I usually enjoy Joshua Manning; however, in this case, assume it was due to the characters and the storyline. Narrated by Mhairi Morrison, Katherine Littrell, and Joshua Manning
I have been trying out audiobooks to expand my UK author coverage, which I have found through NetGalley and have enjoyed. I will pick up another book by the author as have heard great things.
@JudithDCollins | #JDCMustReadBooks
My Rating: 3 Stars
Pub Date: Aug 9, 2022
About the Author
Having discovered early in my 'career' that I didn't have what it takes to be a scientist, I shuffled sideways into scientific and medical editing, which has the big advantage that I can do it while watching Bargain Hunt.
I now live in the north-east of Scotland, by coincidence just half a mile or so from the tiny hamlet in which my great-great-grandmother Jane Renshaw, the wife of a shoemaker, brought up her eight children and where she is buried under a lichen-covered headstone in the graveyard. I hope she would not mind my borrowing her name. WEBSITE