It’s such a pleasure today to be sharing my review of the latest book by Lynda Stacey, The Fake Date, on publication day. Published on all e-book platforms and as an audiobook by Ruby Fiction, with the most striking of covers (now there’s one that will certainly catch your eye on the bookshop shelves when paperback publication time comes around!), I thought this book was thoroughly excellent, and enjoyed every moment. My thanks to Ruby Fiction for my advance reading e-copy, and to Rachel’s Random Resources for asking me to join the blog tour.
Nine hours and eleven minutes…
That’s how long it’s been since Ella Hope was beaten to within an inch of life and left for dead.
She lies, unable to move and praying for somebody to find her, as she counts down the minutes and wonders who could have hated her so much to have hurt her so badly.
Was it the man she went on a date with the previous evening, the man linked to the deaths of two other women? Or somebody else, somebody who wants her out of the picture so much they’re willing to kill?
Whoever it is, they will pay. All Ella has to do first is survive…
I never usually pay that much attention to strap lines – those “jaw-dropping twists” all too frequently disappoint. But when the publishers called this one “a gripping thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat”, they got it absolutely right. The opening of this book is stunning, as Ella clings on to life, running through her memories, lying in the undergrowth after a horrific attack, her watch counting down the minutes and seconds. It’s also extremely clever, setting the scene for what follows, following her thoughts, introducing all the main characters – I’ve enjoyed Lynda Stacey’s writing before, but thought this took her into a quite different league.
Ella returns to her home after a long recovery, and understandably trusts no-one. Her friend Sarah – a wonderfully drawn character, that I really liked – has the unfortunate habit of bursting in through the door unannounced, there’s a rather creepy farmer who gets a little too close, and the man she believes destroyed her life is still very much out there. And then there’s new neighbour Will. Watching her through the fence then leaping over it might not be the best introduction, but it becomes a convincing developing relationship, shrouded quite perfectly in its own secrets. The pacing of this book is perfect, and very different – the suspense, the edginess are always present, but there’s also a lightness about the story as Ella tries to restart her life, with plenty of moments of humour and a rather lovely warmth to its relationships, seen from the perspectives of both main characters.
But there’s also that unidentified voice – sinister and threatening – that punctuates the story, and you continue to read through the lightness with dread and fear that the threat to Ella is still very much present. There are multiple twists and turns, many totally unexpected – and I really liked the way the author takes the reader inside Ella’s thoughts, slowly and inexorably cranking up the tension. The characters are excellent – I particularly liked the way Will’s back story was slowly revealed, the past that had left him damaged. And the denouement of the story, when it comes, is so very well done, explosive and shocking – I’ll admit I was a few steps ahead of Ella, but that did nothing to spoil the story.
I’ve read and enjoyed all the books Lynda Stacey has written, but this really is the one I’ve been waiting for – the one I always believed she could write. This book wouldn’t disappoint die-hard psychological thriller fans, but will also make the legions of romantic suspense fans who eagerly await the author’s books very happy indeed. I really loved it. (And did I mention how much I loved the dog too?)
About the author
Lynda grew up in the mining village of Bentley, Doncaster, in South Yorkshire.
Her own chaotic life story, along with varied career choices helps Lynda to create stories of psychological/romantic suspense, with challenging and unpredictable plots, along with (as in all romances) very happy endings.
Lynda joined the Romantic Novelist Association in 2014 under the umbrella of the New Writers Scheme and in 2015, her debut novel House of Secrets won the Choc Lit Search for a Star competition.
She lives in a small rural hamlet near Doncaster, with her husband, Haydn, whom she’s been happily married to for over 20 years.