I’ve always been fascinated by the notion that two women who are complete strangers are suddenly thrust together in a very intimately bonded relationship for the rest of their lives, just because one woman gets together with the other woman’s son. It’s a bit weird and great territory for emotional stress and anxiety. Will she like me? Will I like her? What about for the next forty years? There’s a lot at stake!
Even in the most harmonious of mother-in-law / daughter-in-law relationships, things can be misunderstood and easily spiral out of control. My girlfriends would share stories through gritted teeth about how their mothers-in-law had opinions on how to bring up their children, where they should be shopping for groceries, how they should be ironing their husband’s shirts (even though my girlfriends were working the same hours as their husbands). The mothers-in-law often meant well but their opinions were not always welcome! These are quite common issues but I also came across some tragic extremes during the course of writing the novel. I heard a radio program about the difficulties some women were having with their new daughters-in-law and one story particularly affected me. A heart-broken woman had phoned in and was in tears speaking of how she was excluded to the extent she hadn’t even known her son and his new wife had had not one, but two children. She had discovered that her grandchildren existed by accident. It reinforced to me that it’s a universal relationship that can affect a lot of women and cause a lot of distress – to either party.
The starting points for the characters of Laura (the mother) and Cherry (the girlfriend) came from very different places. In the case of Cherry I was reminded of a conversation I’d had with a (happily married) colleague at work some years before who’d jokingly said if she had her time again, she’d spend all her money on a Chanel handbag and go and hang out at the rowing clubs in places like Richmond (a nice borough in London) and catch herself a wealthy man. It was a joke but it made me think… People do say you fall for those who are around you so if you deliberately place yourself somewhere where there are wealthy people – what’s the difference between falling in love with someone rich, instead of staying in a less-affluent area and falling in love with someone poor? And then Cherry started to come alive, she’s smart, she’s lonely and she’s desperate to get out of her situation and so she comes up with her idea to work in an upmarket estate agent.
With regards to Laura, I do find it interesting thinking about how far a mother will go to protect her child. We’re all familiar with mothers protecting young children who are defenseless, but I was interested in the lengths Laura might go to in order to oust Cherry from her grown-up son, Daniel’s, life. I felt that if you knew that someone was bad news – and had practically admitted this – even if you were the non-interfering type, how could you just sit back and watch it happen?
Fortunately I have a very good relationship with my own mother-in-law so I can’t say that the story of The Girlfriend is based on any personal experience!
The #1 UK Bestseller
A mother. A son. His girlfriend. And the lie they’ll wish had never been told.
Laura has it all. A successful career, a long marriage to a rich husband, and a twenty-three year-old son, Daniel, who is kind, handsome, and talented. Then Daniel meets Cherry. Cherry is young, beautiful and smart but hasn’t led Laura’s golden life. And she wants it.
When tragedy strikes, a decision is made and a lie is told. A lie so terrible it changes their lives forever…
The Girlfriend is a taut and wickedly twisted debut psychological thriller—a novel of subtle sabotage, retaliation, jealousy and fear, which pivots on an unforgivable lie, and examines the mother–son–daughter-in-law relationship in a chilling new light.
Praise for The Girlfriend
“One of the best books I’ve read in a long, long time. I loved The Girlfriend!” –Lisa Jackson, New York Times bestselling author
“The Girlfriend is a taut psychological thriller, the evil chillingly drawn. Every character is layered and beautifully twisted. Makes me consider running background checks on any potential spouses my children bring home!” –Karen Rose, New York Times bestselling author
“A juicy thriller and utterly compulsive reading.” –Jenny Blackhurst, author of How I Lost You
“An original and chilling portrayal of twisted relationships.” –Debbie Howells, author of The Bones of You