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Her Pretty Face

Her Pretty Face

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Her Pretty Face

3.5/5 (55 evaluări)
332 pages
4 hours
Jul 10, 2018


The author of the bestselling novel The Party—lauded as “tense and riveting” by New York Times bestselling author Megan Miranda—returns with a chilling new domestic drama about two women whose deep friendship is threatened by dark, long-buried secrets.

Frances Metcalfe is struggling to stay afloat.

A stay-at-home mom whose troubled son is her full-time job, she had hoped that the day he got accepted into the elite Forrester Academy would be the day she started living her life. Overweight, insecure, and lonely, she is desperate to fit into the Forrester world. But after a disturbing incident at the school leads the other children and their families to ostracize the Metcalfes, she feels more alone than ever before.

Until she meets Kate Randolph.

Kate is everything Frances is not: beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident. And for some reason, she’s not interested in being friends with any of the other Forrester moms—only Frances. As the two bond over their disdain of the Forrester snobs and the fierce love they have for their sons, a startling secret threatens to tear them apart—one of these women is not who she seems. Her real name is Amber Kunik. And she’s a murderer.

“Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face is a fierce and blazing one-sitting read that will make you question even your closest friendships” (Carter Wilson, USA TODAY bestselling author) and is perfect for fans of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies and Lisa Jewell’s Then She Was Gone.
Jul 10, 2018

Despre autor

Robyn Harding is the author of numerous books, including the international bestseller, The Party, and The Swap, which was an instant #1 Globe and Mail (Toronto) and #1 Toronto Star bestseller. She has also written and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, BC, with her family. Visit her at RobynHarding.com or follow her on Twitter and Instagram @RHardingWriter or Facebook @AuthorRobynHarding.

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Her Pretty Face - Robyn Harding




Frances Metcalfe was not the type of woman who enjoyed large parties, especially large parties where you had to dress up in a costume. Given the choice, she would have stayed home and pierced her own nipples with dull knitting needles, but fund-raisers for Forrester Academy were not optional. Despite the thirty-thousand-dollar tuition fee, the elite private school’s coffers needed regular infusions of cash.

The night’s theme was The ’80s!

Like, totally come as your favorite ’80s pop star!

Frances had taken the invitation literally and dressed as Cyndi Lauper. She admired the performer’s LGBTQ activism, and Lauper’s music had been the soundtrack to a more innocent time. But the full skirt and layers of belts, beads, and scarves may not have been the most flattering choice for Frances’s curvaceous body type. With her bright red wig and colorful makeup, Frances felt as if she looked like a cross between a deranged clown and a heavyset bag lady.

She wandered self-consciously through the school gymnasium, taking in the neon streamers and hand-painted posters.




The childish, handmade decorations, courtesy of Ms. Waddell’s sixth-grade class, stood in stark contrast to the high-end catering: attractive servers in black-and-white circulated with trays of ceviche on porcelain spoons, seafood-stuffed mushroom caps, and Wagyu beef sliders. Frances had vowed not to snack at the party. She had filled up on raw veggies before she left home as all the fitness magazines recommended. Despite their plethora of articles devoted to the psychology of overeating (Feeding Emotional Pain, Replacing Love with Food), the magazines still recommended loading up on crudités to stave off the assault of caloric party fare. But eating at a party had nothing to do with hunger; it had everything to do with fear.

Maybe fear was too strong a word for the gnawing in Frances’s stomach, the slight tremble to her hands, the prick of sweat at the nape of her neck. It was low- to mid-level social anxiety; she’d suffered from it for years. When one had secrets, when one’s past was something to be hidden and guarded, mingling and making idle chitchat became daunting. The extra twenty-two pounds Frances carried on her five-foot-five frame, and the meager check she’d just deposited in the decorated donation box (it would undoubtedly prompt snickers from the fund-raising committee, several of whom were married to Microsoft multimillionaires), did nothing to boost her confidence.

But the apprehension Frances felt tonight could not be blamed on her past, her weight, or her unfortunate ensemble. What she felt tonight was real and present. The parents at Forrester Academy did not accept her, and their hostility was palpable. Meandering through the crowd, watching backs turn on cue, Frances hadn’t felt so blatantly ostracized since high school. She plucked a second glass of wine from the tray of a passing waiter and stuffed a truffle arancini into her mouth.

She’d had high hopes when her son, Marcus, was accepted into Forrester, one of greater Seattle’s elite private schools. Marcus was entering middle school; he was more mature now, and calmer. The diagnosis he’d received at the beginning of his academic career—ADHD combined with oppositional defiant disorder—was beginning to feel less overwhelming. The behavior-modification therapies Frances had religiously employed over the past few years seemed to be working, and cutting sugar and gluten from her son’s diet had made him almost docile. Frances knew Marcus would thrive in the modern glass-and-beam building, would blossom in the more structured, attentive environment of private education. The new school was to be a fresh start for Frances, too.

The Forrester mothers didn’t know that Frances lived in a modest, split-level ranch dwarfed by mansions in tony Clyde Hill, a residential area in northwest Bellevue. They didn’t know that her husband, Jason, had bought their eighties-designed, cheaply constructed abode from a paternal aunt for roughly a fifth of its current value. They were unaware that the Metcalfes’ Subaru Outback and Volkswagen Jetta were leases, that Jason’s salary would not have covered their son’s tuition if not for the help of a second mortgage on their run-down house, a house full of clutter that Frances seemed powerless to control. They were starting school with a clean slate. It would be a new chapter for their family.

It lasted three weeks.

It was the incident with Abbey Dumas that destroyed them—both Marcus and Frances. Abbey had teased and taunted Marcus until he had lashed out in a repugnant but rather creative way. During recess, Marcus had found his tormentor’s water bottle and he had peed in it. It wasn’t that big a deal. Abbey was fine, basically. (She’d had no more than a sip before she ran screaming to the teacher.) It was the disturbing nature of the incident that the school community couldn’t forgive. Disturbing: like the actions of a sixth grader could forecast a future spent torturing cats, peeping under bathroom stalls, keeping a locked basement full of sex slaves. Frances had promptly booked her son a standing appointment with a child psychologist, but Abbey’s parents had called for Marcus’s expulsion. Forrester Academy stood by him, though. They didn’t just give up on their students. The school community was stuck with them.

The chocolate fountain loomed ahead of her, an oasis in the desert full of faux Madonnas and Adam Ants. Frances knew she shouldn’t indulge, but dipping fruit in molten chocolate would give her something to do, keep her hands busy, and make her look occupied. She’d already exhausted the silent-auction tables, writing down bids for spa packages and food baskets, while desperately hoping that she didn’t win any of them. Jason had disappeared, swallowed by the crowd of parents, all of them made indistinguishable by their mullet wigs and neon garb. She made a beeline for the glistening brown geyser.

She could have chosen a piece of fruit—minimized the caloric damage—but the platter of sponge cake looked so moist and inviting that she stabbed the largest piece with a long, wood-handled fork and dunked it into the sweet flow. She had just stuffed the sodden confection into her mouth when she sensed a presence at her elbow.

Hi, Frances. There was a notable lack of warmth in the woman’s voice, but at least her tone wasn’t overtly antagonistic. Frances turned toward Allison Moss, so taut, toned, and trim in head-to-toe spandex. Physical-era Olivia Newton-John. Great.

Frances mumbled through a mouthful of cake, Hi, Allison.

You’re . . . Boy George? Allison guessed.

Frances frantically tried to swallow, but the sponge cake and chocolate had formed a thick paste that seemed determined to stick to the back of her throat.

Cymdi Lumper, she managed.

The decorations are adorable, aren’t they? I love that the kids made them themselves.

So cute. It came out an unappetizing glug.

Allison forked a strawberry and put it in her mouth, forgoing the chocolate entirely. How’s Marcus? she asked. Enjoying school?

Was there a hint of derision in her voice? A touch of cruel curiosity? Or was Allison genuinely interested in Marcus’s well-being? The Abbey Dumas incident had occurred almost a month ago now. Perhaps people were starting to forget? Move on? He’s doing okay, Frances said. Settling in, I think.

Starting at a new school can be tough. Allison smiled, and Frances felt warmed. Allison understood. Being the new kid was hard, and that’s why Marcus had done what he did. Abbey had picked on him and he’d overreacted. It was stupid. And gross. But he was just a boy. . . .

How’s—? She couldn’t remember Allison’s daughter’s name. Lila? Lola? Leila? The girl was Marcus’s age, but they were in different classes.

Marcus is so big, Allison continued. Apparently, she didn’t want to shift conversation to her own offspring. He obviously gets his height from his dad.

Yeah. Jason’s side of the family is really tall.

It’s nice to see him here. We don’t have the pleasure very often.

Somehow, Frances’s husband, Jason, was not the outcast that she and their son were. Jason was tall, dark, and handsome (all but his height inherited from his beautiful Mexican mother). He could get away with murder with that smile, one of the infatuated Forrester mothers had once noted. Jason had also distanced himself from his difficult offspring and ineffective wife through work. His tech job kept him at the office until eight every night, and until midnight a few times a month. Obviously, the sole breadwinner, working to put food on the table for his family, could not be blamed for his son’s behavioral issues. That fell squarely on the shoulders of stay-at-home mom Frances.

Her gaze followed Allison’s across the room. It took a moment to recognize her clean-cut spouse in the fedora he’d donned for the fund-raiser, but she knew his confident stance in his pleated trousers, his strong broad back in the cherry satin blazer. (He was dressed as John Taylor from Duran Duran.) Jason was talking intently to a petite Asian woman with a lion’s mane of synthetic hair and a very short leather skirt. Tina Turner, obviously. She was laughing at something he had said, her head thrown back, her hand lightly resting on his shiny red forearm. She was attracted to him; it was obvious even from this distance.

He seems to be enjoying himself, Allison said, and there it was, subtle, but there: that condescending, mocking edge that Frances had come to expect from the Forrester mothers. Allison had veered from the usual narrative, though. Normally, Frances felt judged by these other parents as a poor mother, but Allison had taken a new tack and condemned her as an inadequate wife. It was effective. While Frances had developed something of a protective shell against criticisms of her parenting, she was completely vulnerable to assaults on her marriage. She knew that people, especially women, were surprised to learn she and Jason were a couple. He was gregarious, attractive, and fit. She was quiet, dull, and chubby. Such a pretty face . . . No crueler words had ever been uttered.

Allison was still watching the exchange between Frances’s husband and his flirtatious admirer. Isn’t May adorable? And those legs! Her husband moved to Hong Kong to run Expedia’s Asian office, and she decided to stay. Divorce is hard, but May’s handled it so well.

The adorable May was now clinking her wineglass to Jason’s. What were they toasting? Their mutual superiority to the people they had chosen to marry? Frances knew she was projecting her insecurities onto Jason. Her husband routinely assured her that he loved her, that he still found her sexy, that he had no regrets. . . . But it was evident—to Allison, to Frances, to everyone—that he could do much better. A bitter-tasting lump was clogging her throat as she watched her husband chuckle at May’s comment.

May will find someone better. Allison turned to Frances and smiled. But not Jason, obviously. He’s married to you. And then, as she reached for another piece of fruit, she murmured, Too bad.

Had Allison really just said that? Was she that cruel? Frances wasn’t sure she could trust her own ears. Her brain was spinning, lucid thought replaced by pure emotion: hurt, jealousy, anger. Time seemed to pause as she looked down at her diminutive companion, so poised and perfect and pleased with herself. In that suspended moment, Frances thought how good it would feel to kill her.

She could beat Allison to death with the chocolate fountain. The contraption probably weighed less than twenty pounds, and, once unplugged from its power socket, could be easily hoisted and swung like a club. It was an incredibly messy choice of weapon, but there would be a delicious irony in murdering toned, svelte Allison Moss with such a caloric and sugary vessel. Frances could almost hear the metal base cracking against Allison’s birdlike skull, see the blood spurting, mixing with the melted chocolate to form a savory-sweet noxious puddle. How many blows would it take to ensure Allison was dead? Three? Four at the most? For once, Frances’s heft would come in handy.

Alternatively, Frances could choke out the petite PTA mom with her bare hands. She could clutch Allison’s sinewy neck between her chubby mitts and squeeze. Frances would enjoy hearing her croak and wheeze and struggle for breath; thrill as the cruel light drained from her eyes, as the boyish body slackened and then crumpled into a heap on the gymnasium floor. This was a definitively less messy option, but it would take a lot longer. There was a high probability that someone from Allison’s crowd would tackle Frances before the job was done.

Frances knew she wasn’t psychotic. It was a fantasy, a harmless coping mechanism. That was her self-diagnosis, anyway. She could never tell a therapist about these violent thoughts, at least not one who knew what she had done in the past. But given the treatment she’d received at the hands of the Forrester community, was it any wonder her mind went to these dark places? She wouldn’t really kill Allison Moss—especially not in her son’s school, and definitely not in front of its entire parent population. The scandal would be legendary. She could see the headlines:


With the slightest shake of her head, Frances dislodged the homicidal whimsy. She gave Allison a tight smile and turned away, reaching for another piece of sponge cake.

Hi, Allison. The voice was forced, frosty, familiar.

Frances halted her fork in midair. She turned to see Kate Randolph’s tall, willowy frame looming over Allison Moss, and her heart soared. Her friend—her only friend in the school community—wore a white button-down shirt knotted under her breasts to reveal a flat, tanned stomach; faded men’s Levi’s; and heavy black boots. Kate’s caramel-colored hair had been back-combed and sprayed into a sexy bouffant. The effect was that of an eighties supermodel (and not a homeless clown, like Frances).

Kate. Hi, Allison said, suddenly deferential. You look great.

Thanks. Kate gave Allison’s spandex ensemble an obvious once-over. Wow. . . . You’re really confident to wear an outfit like that at our age.

Allison’s smile stayed in place, but insecurity flickered in her eyes. I work out a lot.

Still . . . gravity.

The tiny woman folded her arms across her breasts and changed the subject. How’s Charles enjoying sixth grade?

So far, so good. And Lulu?



She’s great. Really blossoming.

Kate gazed around the gym. With all the money we’re paying, they couldn’t have hired a professional decorator?

Frances saw Allison flinch, like her precious Lila had painted the rad posters herself . . . which she probably had. The wisp of a woman set her strawberry fork on the table. I should get away from this chocolatey temptation. Nice to see you, Kate. With a slight wave to Frances, she walked away from the two of them.

That was awesome, Frances gushed. Kate’s biting comments were far more rewarding than actual murder.

Why, thank you, Cyndi Lauper.

Frances smiled. I didn’t think you’d come. You said you hate these things.

Kate picked up a fondue fork. I couldn’t let you face these stuck-up bitches alone. And besides, Robert said Charles would be expelled if we didn’t show up.

He’s probably right. Frances looked over to see Kate’s husband, Robert, a fit fifty-something, talking to Jason. Robert Randolph was tall and dignified, almost attractive except for a slight overbite that gave him a mildly cartoonish affect. The older man’s costume consisted of a gray blazer with pronounced shoulder pads over a white T-shirt and a pair of black jeans. (David Bowie, maybe? Or David Byrne?) He’d been a lawyer in a past iteration (clearly a successful one to nab a hot, younger wife like Kate); dressing up was obviously not part of his lexicon. Jason and Robert were talking, laughing, the adorable May suddenly neglected. Frances watched as May casually wandered off.

I’m so glad you’re here. Frances turned back to Kate. I was about to drink this entire chocolate fountain out of sheer boredom.

Kate stabbed some cake and doused it in chocolate. How could she eat like that and still stay so slim? Daisy agreed to babysit her brother tonight, but only if he was asleep before I left.

That doesn’t sound like such a bad gig. Charles is so sweet.

Daisy hates him.

No, she doesn’t. She’s just fourteen.

I’m not so sure, Kate said, through a two-hundred-calorie mouthful of cake and chocolate. He drank all the orange juice this morning. I thought Daisy was going to stab him with her butter knife.

Frances laughed and realized she was enjoying herself. It was all due to Kate’s presence. The two women shared a sense of humor and a disdain for Forrester’s snobby, cliquey, yummy-mummies. With statuesque, self-assured Kate in her corner, Frances felt more confident, less vulnerable to attack. Their friendship was still in its adolescence, but Kate had already earned Frances’s devotion.

Kate set her fondue fork down. Where do I get some wine? Daisy’s charging me twelve bucks an hour. I’ve got to make the most of this night.

I’ll show you to the bar, Frances said. Together, they picked their way through the crowd.



Daisy was high. About twenty minutes ago, she and Liam had perched on her mom’s Pottery Barn patio sectional and sucked marijuana smoke from Liam’s intricate glass bong. They had exhaled into the crisp autumn night, the pungent fumes mixing with the steam from their warm breath, and giggled about getting a passing squirrel stoned—like it wasn’t paranoid enough already. Now they were inside, on the cream-colored sofa, Daisy’s legs thrown over Liam’s lap as they kissed.

Daisy was undeniably lit. Her brain was dumb and foggy, but all her senses were heightened. She could feel everything: Liam’s hot tongue darting between her teeth like a pleasant electric current; his taut, muscular thighs beneath hers; the growing tingling in her belly and groin. Every molecule in her body was alive, vibrating with sexual energy. She wanted to get closer to Liam, to meld into him and disappear. She was ready for something more meaningful, more intimate. . . .

Abruptly, Liam pulled his lips from hers. What was that? He cocked his head, listening.

I didn’t hear anything. Her mouth searched for his again, but he turned his face away.

I think it’s your parents. He unceremoniously dumped her legs from his lap and jumped to his feet.

You’re paranoid, Daisy said, watching him stuff his bong into his backpack, his eyes darting to the front door. You’re like that squirrel.

Liam allowed a small smirk and Daisy reached for his hand. They won’t be home for hours, she said, pulling him back down to the pale sofa. I promise.

Her words seemed to assuage him, because he let her kiss him again. She could feel his body responding to her, hear his breath getting faster and heavier. Daisy threw a leg over both of his and straddled him. She lowered herself onto him and felt how much he wanted this, too. Shifting slightly, she reached for his zipper.

Stop. He grabbed her hips and tossed her off him.

No one’s here, Liam.

He looked at her then; his face—adorable in its adolescent transition from cute to handsome—was red . . . very, very red. "I don’t think . . . I mean, it’s just . . . I just . . ."

Unbidden, an image of Liam’s face on a squirrel’s body—nervous, worried, racing around the backyard in a fit of paranoia—appeared in Daisy’s drug-addled mind. A bubble of uncontrolled laughter burst through her lips. Fuck. She was so stoned.

But the junior quarterback wasn’t laughing. He was leaving. Liam snatched up his backpack and marched toward the door. Daisy’s laughter stopped abruptly. Where are you going?

Home, he muttered, already stepping into his shoes.

Daisy hurried over to the entryway. I’m sorry. . . . I wasn’t laughing at you. I’m just high.


She grabbed his forearm with both her hands. What’s wrong, Liam?

His cheeks blushed a deeper red as he struggled to get the words out. This is just . . . moving too fast.

His words stunned her. Weren’t teenage boys supposed to be obsessed with sex? Desperate to get laid? Trust Daisy to find the one guy who was too uptight, or too immature . . . or too gay, maybe?

I’m sorry, she said, gently. I thought you wanted me to touch you. I thought you liked it.

I didn’t. And I don’t.

It felt like you liked it to me.

We’re fourteen.

Uh . . . yeah?

Your parents could come home any second! Your brother is asleep upstairs!

So . . . ?

Liam’s eyes, glassy but intense, bored into hers. What is wrong with you, Daisy? His words weren’t angry or cruel, they were merely . . . curious.

Suddenly, Daisy felt completely lucid, the pleasant fog of her high dissipating, leaving her painfully clearheaded. She opened her mouth, but no words came out, because there were no words. Liam had pegged her: there was something very wrong with her.

Without another sound, her would-be lover yanked open the door and left. Daisy followed him onto the front steps, watched him sprint down the drive, onto the quiet street, and into the night. He was running away from her, like she was a teenage praying mantis who would devour him once sexually satisfied. Her breath visible in the cool dark air, she stayed there, watching his diminishing form. Liam was still running, fast, his football conditioning serving him well. Finally, when the boy was no more than a bouncing speck, Daisy closed the door and went back inside.

The house suddenly felt emptier. Well, it was emptier. But it felt large and vacuous, the pale color palette her mom had chosen for their new home cold and sterile. The rooms were pristine as always: her mother was a clean freak. She vacuumed and dusted daily, cleaned blinds and scrubbed floors on Wednesdays and Saturdays, bathrooms on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. I just like things tidy, her mom would say, but it was textbook OCD. The woman had issues, as evidenced by the numerous prescription pill bottles she kept hidden in her bathroom vanity. They were all for anxiety. Daisy dipped into them on occasion, when she wanted to numb herself, but they made her lazy and sleepy.

Daisy stood at the large picture window that looked out onto the backyard, and stared into the thick darkness. The home was situated on a quiet street, the backyard bordered by a copse of evergreens. Through the heavy branches, she could just make out the twinkling lights of the homes perched on the hillside surrounding the still, dark waters of

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  • (3/5)
    This is a solid three-star book for me. It was a very quick read (I finished it in 24 hours). I did predict some of the events while reading through but that didn't take away the enjoyment of finding out the end. Everything wrapped up nicely, which I appreciate.
  • (3/5)
    This is a story about an unlikely friendship between two very different women and the secrets they harbor. Frances is a shy and insecure SAHM who just doesn't fit in with the "in crowd" of mothers at her son's elite school. Kate is the polar opposite of Frances in every way but something draws these two women together.People are not what they seem and a devasting secret threatens the friendship of these two very different women. The book was an exciting read though I did find myself becoming irritated with Frances character at times. I did have to put the book down from time to time as I found it a bit disturbing in a way (my own issue not the authors). I couldn't help but find parallels to Karla Homolka. All in all, I found the book to be a suspenseful read.
  • (3/5)
    This was a quick read and fairly entertaining. Brought to mind The Girls by Emma Cline. Perfect beach book.
  • (4/5)
    Her Pretty Face is Robyn Harding's newest book.Frances is a stay at home mom of a troubled son. When he wins a scholarship to an elite school, she hopes it will be a new start for him - and her. Frances doesn't make friends easily. But history begins to repeat itself, despite the fresh start. And then Kate enters the Metcalfe's lives.Kate is everything Frances is not - beautiful, wealthy, powerful, and confident - and she wants to be friends.Frances isn't sure why she would pick her for a friend......and then she finds out why...Great premise - what secrets do new friends have? And what would you do if you discovered that secret? What if someone discovered yours?I really liked Frances as a character - despite her own self doubt, I was drawn to her. She is the first POV. Just as well drawn is Kate - but my spidey senses were going off. Kate's treatment of her daughter Daisy is quite different than how she treats her son. Daisy provides the second POV and someone named DJ provides the third. Who is he? As readers, we can begin to put together the pieces from the three viewpoints.Harding deftly explores both parenthood and friendship through Frances and Kate. But each woman also has to take a look at themselves. Can the past be forgiven? Or does it shape the direction of a life with no absolution? I couldn't help but draw parallels to an actual criminal case in Canada.I chose to listen to Her Pretty Face. The readers were Rebekkah Ross, Cassandra Campbell and Kirby Heyborne. I really enjoy multiple readers - I feel more immersed in the story. Each reader was excellent, putting their own spin on their character, conveying the thoughts and emotions of each. And as secrets are revealed, the tension, anger and uncertainty. Each reader was clear and easy to understand.
  • (4/5)
    An enjoyable read about the struggle for acceptance, friendship and moving on from mistakes of the past.
  • (5/5)
    Robyn Harding, Author of “Her Pretty Face” has written a chilling, captivating, intense, edgy, novel that should be accompanied by a WARNING: DO NOT READ BEFORE GOING TO BED.!!Of course that hasn’t stopped me, AND I am addicted to the author’s vivid description of the dysfunctional characters, and her story. I just couldn’t put this thriller down for the life of me. Perhaps I shouldn’t use that phrase. The Genres for this Novel are Thriller, Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction.The author describes her cast of characters as complicated, complex, unbalanced, (to say the least), and toxic. There are deep dangerous secrets, betrayals, lies and twists and turns. Do you think that a person can change? Can a leopard change its spots? Are people who we think they are.? Should people have second chances?. In this novel, the author discusses the dynamics of friendship, family and community.Two women become friends after bonding at an affluent exclusive school. Both women have sons the same age. The emotional climate of this school is one of bias , bullying and snobbery. Frances Metcalfe is a stay at home Mom, who struggles financially and emotionally. Her son has major emotional problems, that stress Frances . After her son does something unacceptable in school, the other mothers’ disapproval is overwhelming.Kate Randolph, a wealthy, confident and extremely attractive mother defends Frances and her son, and puts the other mothers in their place. Before long, the two have what appears to be the perfect friendship.Both women have deep secrets from the past. One is not who she says she is. One of these women is really Amber Kunik, a cold-hearted killer that served six years in jail.I highly recommend this novel for readers that enjoy a chilling thriller that keeps you guessing. Just be warned, don’t read this before you go to sleep!!! I received this ARC from NetGalley for my honest review.
  • (4/5)
    Her Pretty FaceByRobyn HardingWhat it's all about...Frances and Kate have sons who are the same age and who also attend the same private school. Frances’s son has many issues. Kate’s son is reasonably perfect. The two boys become friends and so do their mothers. All is well until Frances discovers Kate’s extremely unsavory past. However Frances also has her own unsavory past to deal with. What will happen to these two women and their friendship? Kate is glamorous...Kate is thin...Kate is self assured. Frances is sort of chubby...sort of unglamorous...and...not at all self assured. Kate is her only friend...until Frances learns Kate’s secret and totally freaks out. Why I wanted to read it...I read and was totally drawn in by this author’s first book...The Party. Her newest book was a slow start for me but eventually its pace picked up and became just as appealing as her first book. What made me truly enjoy this book...The mysteries surrounding both women were what kept my interest. I loved the way Kate’s daughter has her own story in this book even though it’s a stressful one. Her story just adds to this slowly building reveal about her mother and her mother’s past. Why you should read it, too...Readers who love intense books with lots of secrets...will thoroughly enjoy this book. I received an advance reader’s copy of this book from the publisher through Edelweiss and Amazon. It was my choice to read it and review it.
  • (5/5)
    “The party” by Robyn Harding was one of my favourite books from last year so I was thrilled to receive a free copy of “her pretty face” from net valley in exchange for an honest review. Forrester Academy is a private school with the yummy mummies of the students are very exclusive. Frances’s son Marcus goes to Forrester and after an incident at school, Frances has become somewhat of a pariah, often invisible. Until Kate. Beautiful and confident Kate came to the school with her son Charles, same age as Marcus. Marcus and Charles became fast friends as did Kate and Frances. But both women each have a huge secret. A secret they don’t want anyone to find out or life would never be the same for either of them. Can a person really change to become a good person? Can evil be conquered or is it just hidden behind a pretty face?Kate and Frances have the kind of friendship many of us envy and was a lifeline for Frances. They spent so much time together as inseparable as their boys. But then there are a few things about Kate that begin to concern Frances; the biggest being her casual treatment of her teenage daughter Daisy. Daisy at 15 can pretty much do whatever she wants which would be some teen’s dream but Daisy is wounded by Kate’s indifference and is ripe to fall into some trouble of her own. My heart ached for Daisy, strong but unloved and confused and I cringed as I watched her heading for what would only be disaster. This story goes back and forth, from past to present, giving us more and more information then halting to the next chapter leaving us yearning for the answer to the biggest question and where it was all leading. The author’s storytelling is remarkable, keeping us guessing and engrossed in the story yet I couldn’t help noticing a lot of parallels to a very well known case in Canada from the 90’s.Nonetheless, intriguing well written story that’s a quick read. I can’t seem to get enough of this genre and this is one closer to the top of my list. It’s a 4 1/2 for me. Thanks to the publisher and net galley for sending me this book free in exchange for an honest review.
  • (5/5)
    This is the second book that I have read by this author and again, she did not disappoint.The book is written in the present with two women with teenage sons hanging out and becoming friends. There is also a past part wherein someone has killed a 15 year old girl. The past deals with the courtroom drama and highlights the kidnapping, torture, rape and killing of this 15 year old girl.I just knew one of these women in present day - Frances or Kate - was the one being referred to in that historical part. It was killing me, however, as to who it was. I went back and forth with my guessing. It was written so that you would do so.However, when it all does come out of the woodwork, there are some jaw dropping events that I definitely did not see coming.I found this to be an excellent read and I am really glad that I got the chance to read it!Thanks to Gallery, Threshold, Pocket and Net Galley for providing me with a free e-galley in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
  • (3/5)
    This story focuses mainly on Frances and her son, Marcus. Kate and her daughter, Daisy. I was more into Frances and Marcus as they are more of the outcast and nicer. Kate and her daughter were mean girls. I really didn't understand Frances's admiration and desire to hang and be like Kate. In fact, most of the other characters were stuck up. To the point that they turned me off. This book is told from the different characters points of view. This is nice as it does help to give each character their own voice and allows me to get closer to them. Another thing that this book does is alternating from the present to the past. It was pretty easy to figure out which one had the secret identity. The story does drag some. At times making it hard to want to keep reading. For me the past was stronger; as it told the tragic story to the reveal. Also, because the present had most of the characters I didn't like. Getting to the half way mark was slow reading but if you do stick with this book, it does pick up in the latter part of the story.
  • (3/5)
    This contains spoilers!

    It started out strong but it wasn’t as intense as I thought, also the ending is very weak. To be honest, David and Daisy were way more intense than Kate, I was scared for Daisy because he intended to harm her but Kate seemed to not be a threat for anyone apart from her past cruelties, I expected Amber-Kate to come after her but she didn’t, apart from texts.

    I really wanted to know if David ever contacted Daisy again, also, very weak ending.

    Overall, I enjoyed the reading and I chuckled a few times, it started out really good and I loved their slightly crazy friendship. (Kate and Francis)

    Something I don’t understand is why Frances was build up to be just as crazy as Kate, like her extremely violent fantasies, especially at first. She was weird, I expected something worse than just accidentally killing her sister.

    I would recommend though. The writing and the twists were good.
  • (4/5)
    A good entertaining read. Good pace, an entertaining story, a couple of twists, believable characters. Nice one!
  • (4/5)
    Unsettling and engrossing!Frances carries a lot of repressed burdens on her shoulders, which has manifested into comfort eating and weight gain. Her son has also faced a few serious challenges, but is now attending the prestigious Forrester Academy. Frances had hoped his acceptance into the school would change things for her family, but neither she, nor her son, has been well received by the other moms.The only bright spot in Frances’s life is her friendship with Kate. Kate could quite easily fit in with the other mothers at the school, but instead she’s shunned them in favor of befriending Frances.The two women forge a bond over their children, while refusing to conform to the Forrester Academy elitism. However, a stunning discovery could damage their relationship forever….This is another book I pulled from the middle of my mountainous TBR pile. I’d seen mostly positive reviews for this one, but I believe it might have been one of the last psychological or ‘Domestic’ thrillers I added before making a conscious decision to take an extended break from books in this category.Now, I’m having fun going back and plucking out a handful of the better sounding books in those categories and mixing them into my current reading schedule.While somewhat understated, the story is told through various narratives and perspectives, while examining several intriguing themes and viewpoints. While certainly absorbing, the suspense is far from gripping, as the mystery is not much of a mystery.Although I quickly ascertained the lay of the land, it didn't lessen the impact of the alarming set of circumstances that began to emerge as the story developed. I was left with a definite feeling of unease, despite the more positive progress made by many of the characters in the book.The story does lack something I can’t quite articulate, but it had more substance and depth, and was more thought provoking, than I had anticipated.Overall, a solid psychological/ domestic thriller that is a cut above for this category.4 stars
  • (3/5)

    I won a review copy of “Her Pretty Face” via Goodreads.

    I love a good thriller/mystery. They are the best books to pull you out of a reading slump, which I have been heading down within the last few weeks. I have to say, this book did the job.

    The Story/Plot
    The plot of Harding’s book sounded very familiar. As someone that has already had quite a considerable obsession with crime and criminals, and has done her fair amount of true crime research, it was fairly obvious that this was very loosely based on the case of Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo, two Canadian Serial Killers that together were responsible for the rape, torture and murder of several females. I think that intrigued me even more. The pace and writing was pretty good, and made reading it easy. It wasn’t the type of thriller where I was awed by the larger twists. I guessed both pretty early on. I am not a newbie to the thriller genre, and if you are well seasoned enough you may figure them out yourself.

    This story isn’t just about a crime, and isn’t just a thriller. It is a page turner where tension is captured, but it is also a story about ethics, guilt, and shame. It is about the people surrounding the heinous crime that was commuted - people directly involved, those touched by it, and those affected on the periphery. The book is told in alternating point of views of three characters, but it also encompasses the weight the crime had on several people. We have two distinctly different females, both with something dark in their past (albeit one’s past proves to be darker than the other). The one females is graceful and seems to have everything together, the other is more shy and tortured. We have a daughter trying desperately to find where she fits. A son with ADHD who just wants to make friends, and another son who is very compliant, and unfortunately, not really touched on. We get to see the POV of one of the victims that the crime directly touched, and a brief glimpse at the mother of one of the individuals involved in the crime. I appreciated these points of view, even though many of the characters just felt incomplete. Their points of view felt like they were there to just feed the story-line, and I didn’t really connect with any of them. The pacing of the book and pressing forward of the plot didn’t allow for much character development.

    Overall I enjoyed my time in the book, but it just left me wanting…something more.

    Side Note: Unintentional (or is it?) fat shame.

    There is one thing the author does that really got on my nerves, and that is using weight as a personality flaw and a trait to show the characters as pitiable. (I have seen this from several authors in my day and it never fails to get under my skin. It is as annoying as the brown hair girl always being too plain, shy, and awkward ).

    In this book Frances is 20 pounds overweight, and she is written as if she can’t control herself, is a binge eater, and is pathetic as a result. With 20 pounds extra she is self-conscious, considered unattractive, and at one point it’s mentioned how she can’t possibly move her portly leg high enough to kick someone... This character is scared her husband is cheating on her because of how she looks. The twenty extra pounds has made her feel unlovable, and as readers we are meant to see her lack of control around as pathetic as the character does.

    The victim’s brother is so upset over the case that he becomes fat, sits around playing video games, and eats to make himself invisible.

    One of the sons is overweight, friendless and his heft is mentioned every chance the author gets when describing him. His size is also just another thing that holds him back.

    The mother of the criminal is obese, and her home smells of fried food and animal urine. She is seen as gross, another pathetic character in a sea of fat = pathetic characters.

    It is pretty obvious being heavy is probably the worst thing Harding can think of, and she made sure she used weight gain as an unpalatable sign of imbalance. I don’t feel that this is just a lazy writing tactic, but I feel like it is uneducated and harmful.
  • (2/5)
    Lost it early on when the teenagers enter the book. This is just not good writing.
  • (4/5)
    A special thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Frances Metcalfe is a stay-at-home mom that is struggling with her difficult son, her weight, being lonely, and a flat marriage. She is desperate to fit into the elite group of Forrest Academy moms assuming that her acceptance would change her mundane life. But then there is a disturbing incident at the school and the savage mothers further shun the Metcalfes. Frances feels even more judged, ridiculed and alone than before, that is until she meets Kate Randolph.Kate is everything that Francis is not: beautiful, thin, confident, rich, with a gorgeous home, and for some reason, she's chosen Frances to be her friend when it is obvious that she would fit right in with the other mothers. The women bond over their boys and their shared scorn of the Forrester snobs. But there is a dark secret is lurking, one that will tear them apart. You see one of these women is not who she says she is—her real name is Amber Kunick and she is a murderer. Okay, can we all just take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this cover is? The story is told from multiple points of view and it is pure genius how the storylines tie together. Harding's writing is sharp, layered, complex, and and there are just enough plot twists to keep the reader engaged and fully vested in the story. She spins a tale of secrets and lies, deceit, and examines how well we really know people, especially those we let into our lives. This was my first book by Robyn Harding and it won't be my last! I loved it and I can't wait to read The Party, I've heard incredible things about it as well. Okay, full disclosure: any book that has an 80s fundraiser or 80s anything is top of my list! Congratulations, Robyn, on a fabulous book.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion of the book or my review itself.Kate Randolph seems like Frances Metcalfe's savior. Ostracized by the other school moms for an incident involving her son, unhappy with her looks, and feeling deeply lonely, Frances has always yearned for a friend like Kate. Kate brings Frances and her son out of their shells, and Frances helps Kate's daughter feel comfortable in her own skin.But within this seemingly perfect friendship, something is terribly wrong. One of these women is Amber Kunik. One of these women is a murderer.This was a really clever, suspenseful take on female friendships, culpability, and family. I kept thinking I knew who was who and what was going on, but I was always wrong, and I really enjoyed being constantly surprised.

    1 person found this helpful