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WHAT THE REVIEWERS SAY

HER PRETTY FACE

ROBYN HARDING

 

Keep readers guessing at the involved parties’ modern-day identities and the crime’s connection to the present.

...Stay-at-home moms become fast friends, bonding over their mutual contempt for the snobs in their Seattle, Wash., suburb. But as it turns out, that’s not all they have in common: both women are also hiding terrible secrets. Harding’s tale unfolds from the perspectives of Frances and Daisy, Kate’s 14-year-old daughter, who’s being stalked by a mysterious stranger. Flashbacks to the 1997 trial of suspected murderer Amber Kunik keep readers guessing at the involved parties’ modern-day identities and the crime’s connection to the present. Regrettably, Harding’s conclusion is a murky anticlimax that offers more questions than answers, but three-dimensional characters, well-timed plot twists, and a sea of convincing red herrings make for an otherwise entertaining story.
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...Harding’s new novel, Her Pretty Face, unfolds through multiple narratives and flashbacks. There’s Frances, a fierce mama who enrols her son, Marcus, in a private school after he is diagnosed with ADHD and oppositional defiance disorder. Her hopes for a fresh start are quashed after a disturbing schoolyard incident involving Marcus, and both mother and son find themselves ostracized by the school community; in particular, by the yummy-mommies whom Frances daydreams of harming in creative ways. Frances’s isolation is relieved when she meets new-to-town Kate, who is wealthy, model-beautiful and equally disdainful of the school’s elitism. The two bond quickly, as do their sons ... Her Pretty Face is a work of fiction that probes the complexities of women’s friendships, and not a retelling of a violent story.
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Creepy and compelling.

Lonely and overweight stay-at-home mother Frances Metcalfe feels like an outsider among the stylish moms at Seattle’s exclusive Forrester Academy. When the beautiful, elegant Kate Randolph befriends Frances, she’s thrilled. Sleepovers for the kids and get-togethers with Kate and her husband, Robert, become the norm, and Kate brings out an adventurous side of Frances that she thought was lost underneath the stress of caring for Marcus ... And there is real darkness here: One of these women is really Amber Kunik, who was involved in the sensationalized murder of 15-year-old Courtney Carey in 1996, supposedly while under the control of an abusive boyfriend—but is it Frances or Kate? Harding expertly builds subtle menace and does her best to keep readers guessing as to which woman is Amber, whose heinous crimes are revealed through snippets of her chilling courtroom testimony ... Creepy and compelling.
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...Kate’s son, Charles, is Marcus’ only friend, so the two mothers are drawn even closer together. Both women have a secret, but only one of them is the notorious Amber Kunik, who served time for her part in a brutal murder 20 years ago ... The reader never knows quite whom to trust as the past and present unfold. The characterization of the two overweight characters—as pathetic outcasts—is problematic. Still, the tony setting and the slowly revealed secrets make this a good read.
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Just the right amount of suspense to make it a real page-turner.

...a domestic thriller perfect for fans of B.A. Paris, Megan Miranda and Liane Moriarty ... Reading about the trial through his young eyes is painful but illuminating. Harding really dives into the depths of evil here, and her stark, vivid writing never once holds back ... Harding is an adept and skillful writer who writes suspense remarkably well, with seemingly little effort. That said, in Her Pretty Face she gives away just a bit too much too early on ... Still, there is enough depth in Harding’s writing to make this a solidly enjoyable novel, with just the right amount of suspense to make it a real page-turner.
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Novels centered around toxic female friendships are a dime a dozen these days, and Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face is another book that covers this all-too familiar topic. It doesn’t do anything ground-breaking, but it’s an enjoyable read all the same ... Her Pretty Face is billed as a psychological thriller, but it didn’t quite feel like one to me. Instead, it had a women’s fiction vibe with a bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure ... There’s one thing about the narrative structure of the book that didn’t make total sense to me. We see most things through Frances’ lens, but there are a few chapters from the point of view of Kate’s teenaged daughter, and I found those chapters to be kind of jarring...I never felt fully invested in the secondary plot-line, which simply isn’t very compelling ... Her Pretty Face is a quick and easy read, and I blew through it in a little over a day. It isn’t the most gripping book I’ve picked up this year, but it ended up being an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a lazy summer afternoon.
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