The Blurb -
Living in her home in the remote countryside - the perfect place to get away from it all - Helena is a career woman with no job and a mother without a baby. She blames Ashley for destroying her life. But is what happened really Ashley's fault?
When Helena hires Ashley to work for her, she's startled but impressed by her fierce ambition. They form a dream team and Helena is proud - maybe this is the protege she's always wanted to have? But soon Helena realises that nothing will stand in the way of Ashley's drive to get to the top. And when Helena becomes pregnant, everything she has worked so hard for is suddenly threatened, with devastating consequences...
The Author -
Charlotte Duckworth is a graduate of the Faber Academy's acclaimed six-month 'Writing a Novel course. She studied Classics at Leeds University and then completed a postgraduate diploma in magazine journalism. For the past 15 years she has worked was an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazined and websites. In 2011, she completed a postgraduate diploma in Screenwriting from London College of Communication. she lives in Surrey with her partner and two-year-old daughter.
The Review -
Of all the genres of books I review I find psychological thrillers the hardest to do purely in terms of restraining myself from inadvertently throwing out spoilers. I want to point out some of the delicious twisty bits and say hey, how about this then!! But of course I can’t ! All I can do is suggest you read the book!
As I started to become immersed in this taut psychological thriller I could see similarities between a fairly recent TV drama series The Replacement which followed a similar theme. Two women, maternity leave, ambition. But what a TV show cannot do with its visual medium is allow you into the minds of the protagonists which is what Charlotte Duckworth does very ably here and with keen perception.
We have a 'dual' dual narrative, (or could it be a 'duel' narrative?!) with the Now and the Then of both Helena and Ash the two women who are the titular rivals. Ash, with the tactless zeal of young ambition, reveals her story layer by layer by layer. She doesn’t impress as an especially nice person but things are never as they seem are they? Not in a psychological thriller they aren’t anyway. Thank goodness! By the end of the book compassion endures. Helena, older, more experienced with that tacit paradoxical insecurity of having risen the ladder and needing to stay there. Then pregnancy strikes…………… And I’m on the brink of spoiler alert here so I’ll tread cautiously here. Suffice to say Helena’s Now and Then reveal is of a different nature to Ash’s. She presents as a slightly more sympathetic character and those sympathies continue to be engaged as we progress through her story.
There is no shortage of psychological thrillers. And there is no shortage of good psychological thrillers. One could argue they can be formulaic. But isn’t that what we enjoy about them? For as much as the protagonists within the narrative reveal to us their many flaws and hang ups isn’t the writer playing a delectable psychological game with the minds of their readers? We invariably fall for it. How many times have we gleefully patted ourselves on the back because we ’saw that coming’ ? And how many times have we sat up in shock because we ‘didn’t see that coming’?! There are those who feel that if they have second guessed something it is a flaw on the part of the writer. I disagree. I think it is the writer crediting their reader with some intelligence!! But you need to have the unexpected, you need to have a twist, if that’s what you want to call it. And to me it is achieving this balance that makes for a good psychological thriller. Does the reader get that balance in The Rivals? I believe so.
But you can have all the characterisations you like, all manner of unexpected twists and turns but if it isn’t written well you won’t impress your reader. I found this to be a well written book. And if you want a more than a straightforward thriller there are issues to ponder here regarding the situation of women in the workplace, career versus motherhood, employment issues regarding pregnancy. Any desire for these issues to overshadow the story as a whole were avoided. A good balance is struck.