Natasha - a London barista whose 'coffee art' is first rate - is on her way to work when she's knocked off her bike by a Range Rover. The car's driver - a handsome, wealthy media distributor named Nick - jumps out of his vehicle to help the girl.....and both their lives are changed forever.
Nick offers up first-aid and 500 pounds for damages, and the following days include dinner in a posh restaurant and trysts in a luxury boutique hotel. Nick and Natasha fall madly in love, but there's a hitch. Nick is still married to his childhood sweetheart Jen, an interior designer who's completely devoted to her husband.
Natasha feels guilty about seeing a married man, and feels even worse when she discovers she's pregnant. The barista frets about telling Nick, expecting him to offer up stacks of cash for an abortion. Instead, Nick is THRILLED. He promptly divorces Jen and marries Natasha, and the new couple are soon ensconced in Nick's beautiful mansion with baby Emily. 👶
The only fly in the ointment.....the ex-wife is still hanging around. Nick's mother and sister always invite Jen to family events, and the former spouse continues to maintain friendly relations with Nick. Thus Jen frequently calls Nick, visits Nick, and even brings gifts for little Emily. To top it off, Nick's sister makes Nick and Jen the godparents to her newborn son, which leaves Natasha out in the cold vis a vis the extended family. All this drives Natasha crazy, but there's not much she can do.
In fact Natasha can't seem to do much about anything. She doesn't drive, has no income of her own, and is totally dependent on Nick for everything. Natasha's mother tells her she's foolish and should be more self-sufficient, but Natasha pooh poohs her mom's concerns. This soon comes back to bite Natasha in the butt! 🤢
One morning Nick brings Natasha her morning coffee, and offers to drop Emily off at daycare before he leaves for his business trip to Toronto. Nick then kisses Natasha goodbye and leaves with the baby. Later, when Natasha goes to pick Emily up from the nursery, the child's not there. And she hasn't been there all morning! A frantic Natasha stumbles home and discovers that ALL of Emily's toys and clothes are gone, including her favorite Gemma Giraffe 🦒 . Nick has absconded with the child.
Thus begins Natasha's nightmare. She's desperate to get the baby back, but can't get in touch with Nick. Moreover, after an errand away from the house, Natasha returns to find all the locks changed. She can't even get her phone charger, much less her clothing and other possessions. And the police can't help.
Natasha goes to stay with her mum, who says "I told you so" and offers Natasha her retirement savings to get a lawyer. Natasha refuses, though, not wanting to take her mom's nest egg, and afraid she can't prevail against Nick - who's too rich and clever. So Natasha sinks into depression, takes to her bed, and broods. Oddly enough, ex-wife Jen offers to help Natasha find Nick, apparently feeling sympathy for the young mother's plight.
And that's all I can say without spoilers.
The book is written in a NOW and THEN format. It's clear that something happened that led to a flight and a name change, so the NOW sections are narrated by 'Anna' and the THEN sections are related by 'Natasha.' The chapters alternate back and forth, so we see what led up to Emily's abduction, and what happens afterwards.
On the positive side, the story is suspenseful, well-constructed, and easy to follow - and I was very curious to find out what happened and why.
On the negative side, Natasha is a painfully annoying woman. There seems to be a trend lately (which I deplore) to construct female characters who are helpless doormats, and Natasha is a prime example. In fact Natasha is so fatuous that she strains credulity to the breaking point (IMO).
Here are some of Natasha's behaviors that are foolish and/or not believable: 😏
-- Natasha can't drive. An adult woman in London who can't drive? I don't think so. Natasha's mother drives and has a car.
-- Natasha is a university graduate, but allows her husband to COMPLETELY control the money; she has no joint account with him and doesn't even know how much he makes. Really??
-- Natasha lets Nick hobnob with Jess to his heart's content. A normal woman would put her foot down at some point.
-- When Nick runs off with the baby, Natasha doesn't even think about getting a lawyer. Wouldn't this be the VERY FIRST THING an intelligent person would do?
I could go on, but it would reveal too much of the plot.
The novel has interesting twists and I like the ending. So, taking into account the story's virtues and faults, I'd say it's an average psychological thriller.
**Authors - especially female authors - I implore you.....please give us smart women characters!!**
Thanks to Netgalley, the author (Jess Ryder) and the publisher (Bookouture) for a copy of the book.