I’ve just read and thoroughly enjoyed ‘The Girlfriend’ by Michelle Frances, published by Pan Macmillan.
It’s a psychological thriller with the ‘thriller’ aspect ramping right up in the last third of this uncomfortable yarn.
The premise is simple. Ambitious working class gold digger sets out to ensnare a wealthy husband. This seems eminently possible when Cherry, who is amply endowed with both a high functioning brain and a beautiful face, meets Trustafarian Daniel, a young Doctor in waiting whom she encounters while working in a Kensington estate agency.
Blown away by his new girlfriend’s good looks and air of mystery (Cherry is frugal with information about her background), Daniel takes her home to meet his high net worth parents. Almost immediately, Cherry locks antlers with Laura, Daniel’s sleek and urbane mother.
There’s nothing new about the rivalry that exists between mothers and potential daughters in-law, but what is so gripping about Michelle Frances’ debut novel is just how ruthless both women are prepared to be.
In terms of characterisation this is a double edged sword; on one hand, it certainly ups the ante as seeing each woman’s perspective is equally tense. But on the other, the reader doesn’t know who to root for.
There are some gob-smacking plot surprises. The story takes a dramatic turn at the halfway mark and this is where readers could find their empathy switching at regular intervals.
There are inconsistencies; I was frustrated by Daniel, who is presumably intelligent as he’s a newly qualified Doctor, and yet he isn’t savvy enough to see the skulduggery going on around him.
Overall, all the characters are well drawn and the descriptions of affluent West London are authentic. I also enjoyed the subplots concerning Laura’s grisly dead-in-the-water marriage to Howard, and Cherry’s devoted and well-meaning mum Wendy.
To say anything further about this book would be plot-spoiling, so that’s it from me. I give The Girlfriend Five Stars.