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The House on the Cliff: A Novel

The House on the Cliff: A Novel

3.5 30
by Charlotte Williams

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Jessica Mayhew is a sharp, successful therapist with a thriving practice and loving family. But the arrival of a new client, actor Gwydion Morgan, coincides with a turbulent moment in her life: her husband has just confessed to a one-night stand with a younger woman. The son of a famous stage director, Gwydion is good-looking and talented but mentally fragile,


Jessica Mayhew is a sharp, successful therapist with a thriving practice and loving family. But the arrival of a new client, actor Gwydion Morgan, coincides with a turbulent moment in her life: her husband has just confessed to a one-night stand with a younger woman. The son of a famous stage director, Gwydion is good-looking and talented but mentally fragile, tormented by an intriguing phobia. When Jessica receives a frantic call warning that he is suicidal, she decides to make a house call.

The Morgans live in a grand clifftop mansion overlooking the rocky Welsh coast. It seems to be a remote paradise, but there's something sinister about it too: Jessica learns that the family's former au pair drowned in the bay under mysterious circumstances. In her quest to help Gwydion, to whom she's grown increasingly attached, Jessica becomes ensnared in the Morgan family mystery, which soon becomes an explosive public scandal—one that puts her directly in harm's way. Meanwhile, Jessica is doing her best to keep her marriage and family together, but her growing attraction to Gwydion is impossible to ignore.

Smart, stylish, and suspenseful, The House on the Cliff announces the arrival of a winning female protagonist in Jessica Mayhew and an exciting new crime writer in Charlotte Williams.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
★ 01/01/2014
Therapist professionalism goes out the window when Welsh psychologist Jessica Mayhew, still smarting from her husband's confession of a brief affair, finds herself distracted by a desperately unhappy new patient, the son of a famous movie director. Jessica's therapy appears to be helping Gwydion Morgan, but what he talks about now makes Jessica fear that an unsolved crime happened on the Morgans' estate years ago. Concurrently, her physical attraction to the handsome young client cannot be ignored. Decidedly off her game, Jessica sifts through real memories, false memories, and simple deceit, but she'd better find the truth soon because a killer has grown impatient. VERDICT This solid domestic suspense debut, nicely seasoned with gothic elements, should please Gone Girl fans and those who crave a real page-turner. Williams's 40-something psychotherapist makes a particularly vulnerable protagonist. While Jessica might be the worst therapist ever at keeping her personal agenda out of the session, readers will admire how Williams has created such believable characters and how she weaves effectively psychological theories throughout.
Publishers Weekly
In British journalist Williams’s uneven first novel and series opener, Welsh psychotherapist Jessica Mayhew finds herself strangely drawn to Gwydion Morgan, a handsome, anxiety-ridden actor who needs her help banishing a crippling fear of buttons (known as koumpounophobia). When Jessica discovers that Gwydion’s former au pair, Elsa Lindberg, died in a tragic drowning accident, her interest is piqued, and she begins researching Gwydion’s complicated home life. Meanwhile, Jessica’s teenage daughter is alternately sullen and rebellious, and her husband just confessed to sleeping with another woman. Jessica sees Gwydion as both a lover and a son, and later seriously contemplates having affairs with both him and his famous father, theater director Evan Morgan, to get back at her adulterous husband. The sympathetic Jessica makes up only in part for a clumsily wrought mystery, in which most of the plot twists are telegraphed too far in advance to have any real impact. Agent: Peter Straus, Rogers, Coleridge & White (U.K.). (Jan.)
“Williams’s first crime novel features an appropriately moody setting, a suspenseful climax, and a winning protagonist likely to attract trouble.”
The Independent on Sunday
“A tightly focused psychological drama. . . . The setting provides the perfect backdrop for a tale of raw emotions and explosive rage. I look forward to more outings for Williams’s cool, clever, yet flawed psychological sleuth.”
The Guardian
“An accomplished debut. . . . A pacey, intriguing psychological thriller.”
Kirkus Reviews
A client suffering from nightmares leads a psychotherapist down a treacherous path in coastal Wales. A photograph of a handsome man with his eyes scribbled out baffles Dr. Jessica Mayhew when it arrives anonymously in her office mail. But Gwydion Morgan, a handsome actor with an irrational fear and a recurring dream about being trapped in a small, dark place, takes Jessica's mind off the photo--and her shaky marriage. Then she realizes that the photo shows Gwydion's father, Evan, a well-known director, womanizer and, Jessica suspects, child abuser. On a visit to Creigfa House, the Morgans' imposing cliffside home, Jessica encounters Gwydion's mother, Arionrhod, and a lingering mystery about what happened to Elsa Lindberg, a Swedish tourist who drowned near the house several years back. As Gwydion's dreams become more detailed, the middle-aged Jessica becomes increasingly attracted to her 25-year-old client, more suspicious about Elsa's relationship to the family and more convinced that the answer lies somewhere at Creigfa House. Jessica's entanglement with the Morgans has predictable consequences in this low-key psychological mystery, which may stand alone as the only Welsh novel that uses button phobia as a plot device. Williams' rationalizations for the unprofessional behavior of her heroine, a smart shrink who makes a lot of dumb decisions, don't add up. But Jessica is a strong, sympathetic protagonist whose own complexities, more than the intricate family puzzle she tries to solve, make her debut worth reading.

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HarperCollins Publishers
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Meet the Author

After studying philosophy in college, Charlotte Williams went on to work as an arts journalist, writing for newspapers and magazines, and making documentaries for the BBC. More recently, she also worked in radio drama, writing original plays and adaptations. Williams died in 2014 at the age of fifty-nine.

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The House on the Cliff 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
Twink More than 1 year ago
I enjoy a good crime novel, but I also really enjoy psychological thrillers. The cover copy of Charlotte Williams' debut novel, The House on the Cliff, sounded right up my alley. "A riveting psychological novel featuring Jessica Mayhew, a therapist who becomes entangled in the long-dormant murder mystery that haunts her patient's family." I was intrigued by the initial meeting of Jessica and her patient, actor Gwydion Morgan. He has a fear of buttons. (It is a real phobia! Who knew?) However as their sessions continue, the button phobia takes a backseat to a remembered dream from childhood. Gwydion dreams of hiding in a box to escape an loud argument. His father is a well known director and a serial philanderer. Could the dream be a repressed memory? Is there more for Gwydion to remember? Jessica herself is dealing with issues as well - her husband has had a brief affair and although they are still together for the sake of the children, she has not forgiven him. Here's my problem - I didn't like Jessica at all. Not as a person, wife or mother and certainly not as a therapist. She crosses way too many lines, all while justifying her actions to herself. Her daughter is involved in a potentially dangerous situation, yet she blithely lets her walk into it anyway. For me, this storyline seemed more intriguing and more 'psychologically thrilling' than the main plot. Williams has a very clinical style of writing, that perhaps suits a psychotherapist recounting a tale. But, I found it dry and somewhat tedious. Although Williams does give us a twist at the end, I wasn't overly surprised by the whodunit. Sadly, for this reader, The House on the Cliff wasn't quite what I had hoped for. The House on the Cliff is the first in a planned series featuring Mayhew.
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings A psycho therapist gets caught up in a client more than she ever has and at the same time she is dealing with drama in her home life, this book definitely had the eery feeling from beginning to end.  Set in Wales, and with a fantastic cover, the author did a fantastic job of setting the stage for a dark and cold story with quite a mystery involved.   There was quote a lot of psychology words wrapped up in the story, but I may have skimmed over that part to find the story.  A who dun it with a fantastic twist at the end, although I may have predicted a few parts, I was a little bit surprised with the killer's identity.  I think the simplicity in the characters was superb.  I was thankful that the author didn't muddle the story with describing and spending time with any of Jessica's other clients who weren't central to the story. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I could not put it down and wanted to know what happened next. It has everything, intrigue, mystery,murder, love, suspense, which kept me coming back for more. I was sad it ended, but plan on reading it again at another time. Thank you to the author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is a good psychological thriller.not the best as I didnt like the protaganist much. But overall it was a food read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really enjoyed this story, you cant help but like the main character and you will root for her till the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this very much.
Anonymous 10 months ago
Not worth the read
Anonymous 10 months ago
This book was slow at first but got better and better as the story continued. It's about a psychologist dealing with her marriage crisis while trying to help a patient she was attracted to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I had a little problem getting into this book, but after a few chapters, couldn't put it down. Very interesting read and story line. Kept you wondering who done it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was a very slow starter sure to rate a 2 or 3, but after a few chapters I couldn't put it down. It is definitely one of the three best books I've read this year.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kept my interest throughout
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Enjoyed reading this book.Very good author
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a great book loved it and recommend it read it !!!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good gothic-type mystery the likes of Victoria Holt set in modern times.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Drug and had to skip ahead - boring
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Oldie style gothic hey welsh coast says it all modern shrink or not and who makes house calls so call it a fantsy too anyone remember the movie lovesick with alex guiness as the ghost of freud? Buska
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only if you join Beachclan at frankenstien results Fernclan at pop result one and Farmclan at farm result three. Please?! Well see you there. Bye! He padded away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Dude, not funny. Don't be impostering. Cira, l'm the first person that took you to the res 11. Go back to where we were.