'Sexy-but-literary' Sunday Times
'Complex and psychologically taut' Observer
'Sensual and unsettling' The Scotsman
'A literary psychological smoulderer' Metro
Desire. Deception. Destruction. Devotion.
Ella is 26, lonely, hungry and far from home. Lonnie is also 26, but rich, talented and beautiful - with a husband and son to match.
Their fates intertwine the day Ella is hired as the family's nanny. She finds herself mesmerised by Lonnie's girlish affection and disregard for the normal boundaries of friendship and marriage, but soon resentment grows too.
Crackling with sensuality and suspense, Madeline Stevens's debut novel is a dizzying thriller in which roles are confused and reversed and nothing is ever quite as it seems.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Madeline Stevens’ debut is an engrossing story of obsession. Adrift in her mid-20s, Ella lands a life-changing job as a nanny for wealthy young New York couple, Lonnie and James. Ella’s envy of Lonnie’s lifestyle steadily becomes a toxic fascination as their relationship evolves into something dangerously beyond the limits of employer/employee. This expertly measured thriller doesn’t need to hurtle through multiple twists to hook you in—instead, an evocative sense of place, authentic characters and a creeping foreboding kept us turning the pages long into the night.
Stevens's intriguing yet uneven debut is a descent into obsession that follows Ella, a young woman from backwater Oregon who becomes a nanny for a wealthy 20-something couple in New York. Before acquiring her job, Ella's meager existence in the Big Apple consists of barely having enough to eat and encouraging strangers to buy her dinner to stave off starvation. Though Ella's charge is 16-month-old William, Ella spends most of her time observing his mother, Lonnie whom readers know at the outset will leave her family. Ella investigates Lonnie and James's house, reading Lonnie's diary, looking through her photo albums, and pilfering the occasional trinket. Ella is aware Lonnie cheats on James with Carlow, their friend, which motivates her to attempt a seduction with Carlow in an attempt to get closer to Lonnie. At a writer's retreat, Lonnie encourages Ella to swap identities with her to mess with the woman who leads the retreat, allowing Ella to revel in being Lonnie for a time. Ella is entranced by Lonnie's beauty and is even more drawn to her after she discovers parallels with her own family history. The tension is reduced by revealing Lonnie's disappearance up front, but Stevens meticulously elevates the mundane days of a nanny by injecting Ella's life with her all-consuming adoration for Lonnie. This debut makes for a stimulating character study.