|Lies Behind the Ruin by Helen Matthews|
Lies Behind the Ruin
Emma Willshire has overcome plenty of obstacles in her life. From student bride to single mum of a son, Owen, but she has found happiness with her second husband, Paul and another child, Mollie. Emma's dark days seem far behind her until a fatal accident happens at Paul's work and he is held responsible.
On holiday in France, Paul's behaviour turns erratic. On impulse, he buys a cheap, dilapidated property and, to Emma's dismay, persuades her they can renovate it into a holiday home.
Back in England, their problems spiral out of control. Escape to a new life in France seems the only solution but with heart-breaking loss for Emma. As the couple strive to renovate their ruin and open a small business, shadows from the past threaten their happiness and safety. Because, how can you build a new life on toxic foundations?
I hesitated before saying yes to reviewing this book because it’s not my usual warm and fluffy read that enables me a moment of blissful escape. It contains some difficult and uncomfortable situations, including debt, deceit and Brexit, and as I’m a bit of a wimp, I had to man-up, but I’m so glad I did. It wasn’t long before I was gripped by the chain of events that I knew was building up to a dramatic situation for Emma and her family.
The characters are strong and vivid, and I couldn’t help but like Emma. From feeling happy and secure in her second marriage to Paul, she soon finds herself coping alone in rural France, running a business and coordinating the renovation of the ruined farmhouse Paul bought. Reliable and resourceful, Emma can always find a way to make things work for the better, despite never being fully in control as so many others seem to have a say on the direction her life takes. Weakness and giving up are not for her and even when things took a dramatic turn, I never worried she wouldn’t rise to the challenge.
Paul however is weak, stupid and ultimately doesn’t deserve Emma. He might try to resolve the issues he has created through his poor decisions, but he seems a ‘one-step-forward, two-steps-backward’ kind of person. He made me cross, but some of the mess he found himself in actually made me laugh as well.
All the action is set against a backdrop of Limoges and rural Limousin that the author has perfectly captured. From the often-stagnant communities to be found in rural areas of France to the characters that frequent small village bars, it is all here with some local history and places of interest too.
This book shows the good, the bad and the ugly of relationships, and really drew me in. If you are looking for something gritty to get stuck into this summer, give it a go.
Helen Matthews is the author of Lies Behind the Ruin, a contemporary suspense novel set in France, to be published in April 2019 by Hashtag Press. Her debut novel After Leaving the Village, published in 2017, won first prize for the opening pages of a novel at Winchester Writers’ Festival. Born in Cardiff, she read English at the University of Liverpool and holds an MA in Creative Writing from Oxford Brookes University. Helen’s short stories and flash fiction have won prizes and been published in Reflex Fiction, Ad Hoc, Artificium, Scribble and Love Sunday. Her freelance journalism has been published in the Guardian and broadcast on BBC radio. She is an ambassador for Unseen, a charity that campaigns to end human trafficking and modern slavery.
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