Crime Mystery Womens Fiction

The Swap – Robyn Harding

24 June 2020
The Swap Book Cover The Swap
Robyn Harding
Gallery/Scout Press
23 June 2020

“No list of thrillers is complete without Robyn Harding,” proclaims Real Simple. Now the USA TODAY bestselling author of The Party delivers a riveting tale about the toxic relationship between two couples after a night of sexual shenanigans, and the manipulative teenager with an explosive secret at the center of it all. Low Morrison is not your average teen. You could blame her hippie parents or her looming height or her dreary, isolated hometown on an island in the Pacific Northwest. But whatever the reason, Low just doesn’t fit in—and neither does Freya, an ethereal beauty and once-famous social media influencer who now owns the local pottery studio. After signing up for a class, Low quickly falls under Freya’s spell. And Freya, buoyed by Low’s adoration, is compelled to share her darkest secrets and deepest desires. Finally, both feel a sense of belonging...that is, until Jamie walks through the studio door. Desperate for a baby, she and her husband have moved to the island hoping that the healthy environment will result in a pregnancy. Freya and Jamie become fast friends, as do their husbands, leaving Low alone once again. Then one night, after a boozy dinner party, Freya suggests swapping partners. It should have been a harmless fling between consenting adults, one night of debauchery that they would put behind them, but instead, it upends their lives. And provides Low the perfect opportunity to unleash her growing resentment. Robyn Harding brings her acclaimed storytelling, lauded as “fast-paced, thrilling, gut-wrenching” by Taylor Jenkins Reid, New York Times bestselling author of Daisy Jones & The Six, to this dark and suspenseful thriller for fans of Megan Miranda and Lisa Jewell.

The Swap is an emotionally immersive story that draws three very distinctive female characters who allow avaricious choices to create a toxic set of relationships. A story that is fascinating and keenly observed, as we wonder what emotional control is possible when relationships become unhinged.

Freya was an Instagram influencer with a huge following, bestowing on her a sense of devotion and importance. Freya is married to Max who was a hockey player until during a match he inadvertently killed a fellow player following a crunching tackle. With their careers over and the hatred targeted at both Max and Freya, they watched their glamourous lives disappear and they moved to an island in the Pacific North-West to start anew.

Swallow (Low) is a teenager feeling extremely isolated and living with polyamorous parents, and brothers, that she feels disconnected with. Low signs up for pottery classes with Freya as her only student and they develop a mutual appetite for each other’s company.

“At home, I was an afterthought. At school, I was a pariah. At Freya’s studio, I was everything. Freya was a best friend, a parent, and a crush all wrapped up in one worldly, glamorous package. Later, people would say I was obsessed with her, but I wasn’t. With Freya, I was home.”

Freya is beautiful, hip, confident, while Low is tall, gangly, awkward and not very pretty. As the story develops, Robyn Harding shows how narcissistic characteristics start to dominate and how attitudes and situations are changeable.

Jamie and her husband Brian moved to the quiet island area to give Brian an opportunity to focus on completing his new book. For Jamie, it may also provide a relaxed atmosphere that could enable her to become pregnant, something she so desperately seeks. Jamie opens a gift shop and builds a friendship with Freya when selling her pottery pieces. The exclusive relationship between Low and Freya suddenly gets side-lined and Low gradually feels more and more neglected. The foursome of Jamie, Freya and their husbands form a comfortable adult balance with Low removed. On a fun evening, with shrooms and alcohol, the foursome considers the possibility of couple swapping. The ramifications of which are played out in front of a hurt and unwanted teenager, spying from outside the house.

A wonderful play on friendships and relationships is explored with intriguing dynamics that don’t always plot a linear course. What really strikes home are the fragile needs of acceptance, personal attention and exclusivity to make their lives replete if that was ever possible. The unique disposition with each female character is wonderfully developed through desire, envy, obsession, guilt, and loneliness, as each experiences something missing in their lives and then is tantalisingly dangled in front of them. Each of the five characters possesses their own voice in the narration of the novel and the transition from one to the other is cleverly used, especially when shocking revelations are triggered. The deceit and lies become more toxic and the once harmonious lives become fractured.

I highly recommend this book and I would like to thank Gallery Books and NetGalley for providing me with a free ARC in return for an honest review.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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