Sunday, June 26, 2022

Review: Just Like the Other Girls by Claire Douglas

by Claire Douglas
Release Date: January 11, 2022 (First published August 6, 2020)
2022 Harper Paperback
Kindle Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0063138117
ASIN: B09291RY5C
Audiobook: B096GC2NZD
Genre: Fiction / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars




She thought she was safe. So did the others . . .

At loose ends after the devastating death of her mother, Una Richardson responds to an advertisement for a ladies' companion, a position that leads her into the wealthy, secluded world of Mrs. Elspeth McKenzie.

But Elspeth's home isn't the comforting haven it seems .
As the walls begin to close in around her, Una fears she'll end up just like the other girls . . .

My Thoughts
Just Like the Other Girls had an interesting premise and while ti did have some twists and turns, there was one abrupt twist that actually ruined the book for me, not because I have a problem with such abrupt twists, but because the story kind of descended into the improbably versus the realistic, with everyone being involved in some fantastical way. There is only so much that you can let go before you finally have enough.

The first half of the book was actually quite interesting, with a few caveats.  I really liked Una and the author definitely set up some moments that were questionable and uncomfortable and made you wonder what was really happening behind those walls.  Una had just lost her own mother and was grieving, so she was unprepared for the mind games and manipulations being played out between the woman, Elspeth, to whom she was a companion, and her jealous daughter.  These family dynamics drive the story rather than the suspense, but it was interesting enough that it worked.  Una was a bit timid, and Elspeth was just...creepy, someone who pretended to be frail and weak just to use that as an excuse to be demanding.  There were some scenes that were uncomfortable simply because the author was trying to set up a creepy vibe and all it did was make me wonder why she had to use those tropes to try and create such an atmosphere when there were so many other things that could be done.  And while I did enjoy this half, I also wanted to shake Una. In an age of digital technology, whereby those under twenty-five pretty much document their whole lives, why would Una not take pictures of everything she saw that was weird or creepy?  Or even have recordings of conversations? While I liked how the author revealed the evidence, I did find Una's behaviour a bit unrealistic, especially upon learning there were two companions before her who met untimely ends.  Why in the world would you meet with somebody, alone, upon learning all of this information and suspecting there are things going on under your roof that are questionable?

Then suddenly we are in the second half.  And this is where the book takes a sharp nose-dive into the 'stretch the belief system to the nth degree' mode.  While I had already picked out the culprit as well as figured out some of the story background with regards to Elspeth's daughter, the way it all came together at the end was a bit pat for me.  The first half was interesting, but I had to really fight to keep going through the second half.  The tension was completely lost and so was the momentum being built in the first half.  I was not opposed to what happened, I just think the rest of the book could have been done a bit differently to keep that tension going.  

Just Like the Other Girls did start fairly strong, and definitely had a lot of potential. The relationship between Elspeth and her daughter drove the first half and I enjoyed the psychological power-play that played out and left Una desperate and searching for answers. Unfortunately, the story didn't live up to its potential as the second half took a steep nosedive into a muddled mess, as if the author was trying to decide exactly what to do with the information, and both the tension and momentum was lost leaving the ending to be disappointing, at best.  As there was a lot of potential here, I would definitely read something by this author again in the future.