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.
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About the Author
Robyn Harding’s novels include The Party, Her Pretty Face, and The Arrangement, and she has written and executive produced an independent film. She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, with her husband and two children.
Read an Excerpt
Her Pretty Face
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.
GRODY TO THE MAX!
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:
MIDDLE-SCHOOL PARENT PARIAH SNAPS, MURDERS COOL MOM AT SCHOOL FUND-RAISER
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.
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Her Pretty Face includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book
Frances Metcalfe, a stay-at-home mom with major insecurities, is doing her best to raise her son, Marcus, but her self-criticism only intensifies following an incident involving her child at his elite school Forrester Academy. Frances is lonely, a pariah among parents—until she meets Kate Randolph. Kate is a woman who seems, by all outward appearances, to have it all, yet for reasons Frances cannot quite understand, Kate bonds with her while ignoring all of the other moms. Frances and Kate are enjoying their friendship, and their sons become closer too. But both women have been living with secrets, and one of their secrets threatens not only to destroy their friendship but also to shake up their families and send the entire community into a panic. As suspense builds, the author weaves dialogues about friendship and vulnerability, the psychology of criminals and their victims, and the long reach of the past, leaving readers to consider: How well can we really know others? How much can a person really change? When should we forgive others—and how do we learn to forgive ourselves?
Topics and Questions for Discussion
1. At the beginning of the story, many of the Forrester Academy mothers keep their distance from Frances because of something her son has done. Do you agree with their behavior? Why or why not? Does their opinion of Frances ever change? If so, what causes them to change their mind?
2. How do Frances and Kate become friends? Why do you think Kate was drawn to Frances in particular? What did Frances initially think about having Kate’s attention? How would you characterize their friendship? What kinds of things did the pair bond over? How did their friendship change both of their lives?
3. The novel reveals many of the social pressures adolescents and adults commonly face. What are some of these social pressures, and what actions do the characters take as a result of the pressure to fit in? What happens as a result of these choices? Consider how the novel depicts characters who are on the fringe. Why doesn’t Daisy deny Liam’s salacious claims when she has the opportunity? Why do Frances and Kate or Marcus and Charles have difficulties fitting in?
4. What examples of friendship are presented in the book? What draws these characters together and allows them to bond? What does the book convey about the impact a friendship can have in someone’s life? Alternately, what does the book seem to suggest about the effects of a lack of friendship or intimacy?
5. Evaluate the role of judgment in the novel. Who judges whom, and what seems to influence them in the formation of these judgments? Would you say the characters make good judgments? Discuss. As a reader, how did you judge the main characters, and what caused you to come to these conclusions? Did any of your initial judgments change by the book’s conclusion?
6. Why does Kate generally avoid her daughter, Daisy? Who does Kate say her daughter reminds her of? Why is this a problem? Do you agree with this comparison? Why or why not? How does the relationship between Daisy and her mother affect Daisy’s choices and imperil her? What does Daisy seek as a result of what she feels she does not receive from her parents?
7. Consider how the novel creates a dialogue around the subject of victim shaming—the notion that some people might “deserve” or somehow be partly responsible for a crime against them. Where do we see this theme emerge? What does DJ worry about most when he sees the newspaper article about his sister’s murder? What does Kate have to say about the fate that befalls Courtney Carey? Is victim shaming still a problem today? How do you think it might be solved?
8. What examples of vulnerability are evident in the novel? Are the characters willingly vulnerable, or would you say they are put into vulnerable positions via circumstances beyond their control? What happens to the characters who are vulnerable? Does the novel present a view of vulnerability as ultimately positive or negative? Explain.
9. Although Her Pretty Face dabbles in several genres, it could be labeled a psychological thriller. How does the author create suspense as the story progresses? How did she give us insight into the inner workings of the characters? How did this influence your own feelings about those characters? How did your point of view shift as the story moved along, and how do you think the author accomplished this?
10. How does Frances react when she discovers Kate’s secret? While others around her are able to make up their mind quickly, why does Frances struggle with knowing how to respond? Were you surprised by instances where Frances defended her friend? Why or why not? What questions arise in Frances’s mind about how to handle the situation, and what does she ultimately decide to do?
11. Is Frances ever able to come to terms with her own secret? How does her life change as a result of sharing the secret? Do you think she could have done so sooner?
12. Who is David, and why is he interested in Daisy? Do you think Daisy will see him again? In Daisy’s mind what connects her and David? Who else does Daisy connect with as a result of her experiences, and what does she take from this relationship?
13. Were you surprised by the story’s conclusion? How have the Metcalfes’s lives changed? Were you surprised by Frances’s reaction when she receives the mysterious communications at the end of the story? Why or why not?
14. What examples of forgiveness appear in the book? Does the book suggest guidelines for what can or should be forgiven and what leads to forgiveness? Is there anything that cannot be forgiven? How does the book create a dialogue about self-forgiveness and reconciliation with one’s own past mistakes? Would you say it is possible for Frances or Kate to truly move on from the past?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. Have a mock trial with your friends or book club. Have you ever served on a jury? How did you reach a conclusion of whether someone was innocent or guilty? If you were the prosecutor in Kate’s trial, how would you build your case? If you were Kate’s attorney, how would you have proved her innocence? If you were on the jury that was deciding Kate’s fate, how would you have determined her innocence or guilt?
2. Use the novel as a starting place to consider the issue of bullying and social pressures among adolescents. What does the novel reveal about the prevalence and culture of bullying in schools? Visit stopbullying.gov to learn more, gather resources, and begin a discussion about ways you can help to prevent and/or stop bullying in your own community.
3. Compare Her Pretty Face to other works of suspense such as Megan Miranda’s The Perfect Stranger, Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl, or Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. What do the books have in common? Do the books offer similar depictions of victimhood, criminals, and the effects and impact of crime? What common or overlapping themes do the books seem to treat? What lessons would you say readers could take from a consideration of these books collectively?
4. Read Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me, a true crime book. How are the two books alike? What common themes do they deal with? What does the genre of fiction afford that is different than a nonfiction book?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Her Pretty Face is the second novel by Canadian author, Robyn Harding. While the Forrester Academy seems like the best school for her challenging eleven-year-old son, Marcus, Frances Metcalfe can understand that the school’s power mommies don’t welcome her: she’s nothing special, plump and dull, and knows she doesn’t deserve their friendship. But beautiful, cool Kate Randolph, another newcomer, seems to have chosen her, and Frances is grateful. Kate sticks up for her, she’s exciting, flirtatious and maybe just a bit dangerous. Kate’s son Charles is great with Marcus, but Frances knows that Kate would drop her like a hot potato if she knew what Frances had done, years ago. Meanwhile Kate’s 14-year-old daughter, Daisy is under no illusion about who is Kate’s favourite child: it’s definitely not her. Daisy indulges in morally risky behaviour, certain that her reputation won’t matter because her family always relocates for her dad’s work after a few years. And she knows that seeing that older guy would not meet with her parents’ approval, but he makes her feel safe and cared for, something her family can’t seem to manage. Harding uses two narrators, Frances and Daisy, to relate the events of the present day, and an eleven-year boy known to the reader as “DJ” to tell the story of what happened twenty years earlier, when his older sister went missing. Harding is skilled at constructing her tale: she creates a superbly plausible plot with twists and red herrings that keep the reader guessing from the very first page to the final chapters. Harding’s characters are easily credible and their reactions to the adversities she throws at them are quite believable. As well as being a gripping page-turner with an exciting climax, this is a novel that prompts some interesting questions: having served their time, do murderers deserve a chance to live a normal life? Can an apparent sociopath change? This one is hard to put down, and you may find yourself reading it in one sitting. An outstanding read from an obviously talented author. This unbiased review from an uncorrected proof copy provided by Simon and Schuster.
The cover of this book was the first thing that caught my attention and made me want to read it. I like to look for books that have interesting and eye catching covers because I feel that it might be a good book. Something that can catch my eye is worth trying out in my opinion. This book had so many twists and turns it kept me guessing throughout the whole book. Once I thought I had it figured out, it threw another loop. This was a really good that was able to keep my attention the whole time while reading. This was a great book!
Wow..... Throughout this book the thought in the back of my mind was this friendship is way too good to be true. I would love a friendship like Kate and Frances's. Frances is a bit backward and overly motherly to her son, but I get why as we learn about her teenage hardship. Kate brings her out of her shell, gets her to relax, and to become more confident. Once the whole truth about Kate comes out, I doubt I would have been as mad as Frances is here. It's an engaging read.
Good book with strong characters. Emotional and chilling. Great story that keeps you turning the pages.
Compelling with an unexpected twist. I really enjoyed Harding’s other book, The Party, so when I saw that she had a new book coming out, I quickly requested a review copy. In Her Pretty Face, I expected a lot of backstabbing, catty remarks from arrogant women/girls, etc. The cover is slightly misleading in that regard. The other possibility? A tragic accident that leaves a beautiful woman marred for life. Nope. What is safe to say, is that it’s about a women named Frances. She lives in a ritzy neighborhood and sends her kid to an expensive private school, but she and her son do not fit the stereotype. She’s a little on the plump side, and her son Marcus has some behavioral issues that make it difficult for him to make friends. Her one saving grace is that she’s married well. Her husband is pretty good-looking but she always feels frumpy beside him. In walks Kate. She’s tall, beautiful and doesn’t give a rip what other people think of her. So when Frances becomes a social outcast after her kid pees in another kid’s water bottle, Kate comes to her rescue and they are instantly BFFs. Kate is everything that Frances aspires to be. But there is something about Kate that Frances can’t quite put her finger on. She’s a little too daring and perfect. Kate’s son, Charles is really good to Marcus and because he’s his only friend, Frances puts her doubts behind her until she no longer can. I plowed through this one. It’s a quick read and will have you picking it up whenever you can. The ending was a little slow in coming which I only noticed because the rest of it was read at a blistering pace. But there are twists, and secrets and although I figured out one twist I did not figure out the other. All in all, I am very happy I picked it up. It was just what I needed for a good escape.
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.
Her Pretty Face is told from three different points of view.. There's Frances Metcalf, mom to a 13-year old boy Marcus, who has ADHD and an oppositional defiance disorder. Frances has issues of her own she's dealing with too. - she's insecure, overweight and has low self-estreem. She has a kind and loving husband who is very supportive but since she is hiding a secret that is eating away at her, she comforts herself with food. Then there is Daisy, who is a 14-year old girl and the daughter of Kate Randolph, who is going through some problems and not telling anyone about them. Kate is a tall, beautiful and very self-assured and has tons of confidence. Kate sticks up for Frances for which she is grateful. Kate's son Charles is great with Marcus too. Frances and Kate become best friends, as do their same-age sons, Marcus and Casey. What each of the women don't realize is that both of them has their own hidden past one being more disturbing than the other. As a secret is revealed, everything changes, not only for their friendship, but for their families, the school and the town they live in. Finally, there's DJ whose older 13-year old sister, Amber Kunik, was kidnapped, raped and murdered when she was 13 sometime ago. There are flashbacks showing the murder. The big questions in this plot are who is Amber and what is happening to Daisy. The author writes very credible characters with very believable responses to what is happening to them. This book is a page-turner that has a very exciting climax that makes it very hard to put down. If you're like me you will sit down open page one, read through through to the end and close the book, sitting there pondering the whole story.
I read and enjoyed Robyn Harding’s The Party, last year. I was excited to see if I liked her newest release as much as I did the last one. I definitely did! I read this book in less than two days and it had me guessing and second guessing myself at every page. Robyn can really write a psychological thriller! I won’t tell you anything about the story line but I can say it makes you second guess everything you think you know about people. At about the halfway point, be prepared to not be able to put the book down until it is over.
This book was very hard for me to rate. Robyn Harding is a very good story teller, I like how she wrote a chapter for each character so you knew what each person was thinking. "Her Pretty Face" will keep you interested to find out what is going to happen and what did happen. You can't put the book down. Where my issue came in, without spoiling the book, the murder that takes place is a true crime that happened in Canada. They happened between 1991 - 1992. It happened to 3 girls from Ontario, one from Burlington, Leslie Mahaffy, the other from St. Catherines, Kristen French and the 3rd was the killer's sister, Tammy Homolka. What Robyn Harding has done was taken those 3 crimes and written about them for the victim in the story that is murdered. The character Amber Kunik's was really Karla Homolka and Shane Neilson her boyfriend was really Paul Bernardo. I was very disappointed that the author used this story and never mentioned anything about these murders in the book. The books genre should also be Historical Fiction. From the way they lurid the girls and tortured the victims, how the victim in the story is murdered and that Shane Neilson is a serial rapist is all true of Paul Bernardo. I felt like I was reading the newspaper articles again. If the parents of these girls ever read this book I think they would be heartbroken. If you know nothing about these crimes they you may like the store. I gave a two star rating because of the above reason. I would have given a lot higher rating if the true crime was mentioned.
Frances Metcalfe isn’t fond of parties but knows that she must participate in fund-raisers for Forrester Academy in Seattle. The elite, private school’s tuition is $30,000 per year and they demand parental participation. Knowing she cannot afford to donate what other wealthy parents can, she feels like an outsider and doesn’t feel accepted. Her husband, Jason, is a handsome, outgoing man and women love him. Frances, on the other hand, is chubby and shy. Her son, Marcus, is entering middle school with a diagnosis of ADHD. Jason is working hard to make the money they need to get Marcus in a better school hoping it will help him. Frances’s work with him has helped him immensely. But Frances’s work with him was cut short when a young girl started bullying him. His retaliation, while not truly bad, nearly got him expelled. But the Academy gave him a second chance. Frances soon meets Kate Randolph who is beautiful, slim, and doesn’t take any nonsense off some of the snide mothers. When Kate stands up for Frances against a mother trying to put Marcus down for what he did, Frances knows she has found a good friend. Kate’s son, Charles, and Marcus get along very well and having a good friend for her son makes Frances very happy. Kate and her husband, Robert, have another child, Daisy, age 14. But. Daisy doesn’t get much attention from her mother and is left to do as she pleases. Kate and Robert have moved every few years saying it’s for his work. But as Kate and Frances get to know one another better, they find they each have a dark side. As their friendship progresses, Frances learns that Kate’s real name is Amber and when she was young, she and another person were responsible for the kidnapping, torture and death of a young girl. Who is this person that Frances has befriended? How can she be the same person she calls her friend? How do you know if someone has truly repented and changed after doing something horrible? Some readers might feel that she has changed and others might not. I was on the fence about it especially due to the gerbil incident. I’m curious to see what other readers think about this story. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Thanks to Netgalley and the Publisher for letting me read a copy of this in advance! 4.8 stars.. You ever see a book and the cover just catches your eye and the title is the cherry on top? You know you want to read this book before you even read anything about it? The cover just lured me in and the title just left me so curious! I was of course thrilled that when I read the synopsis because this was the kid of books I love. When we first meet Frances Metcalfe she is having a hard time with just about everything in her life. Her son has issues and though Frances does everything she can to help him she was hoping that by being accepted to and attending the prestigious Forrester Academy thing would really improve. Instead she finds that things just seem to get worse. Her son Marcus is an outcast and pretty much friendless just like she is. Then the beautiful, tall, & slim Kate Randolph comes into town and her life and things change. That fact that she is shunned by the other Forrester moms no longer matter. Her son has a friend, Kate's quiet and sweet son Charles who helps Marcus begin to fit in at the school. Frances also no longer feels alone. She now has someone she can talk to, have fun and just do the things friends do together.For Frances who feels alone and has not really had a best friend as an adult except for her husband Kate is a godsend. The truth of the matter is that people tend to not show you who they really are deep down inside, We never really see what goes on in people's minds. We end up only know who they want to be seen as. Frances has a secret past that she has tried to forget, to hide from everyone. A past that she has mentally punished herself for years. She thinks she is a terrible person and yet in reality Frances has no idea what a truly terrible person is. She has no idea who her friend Kate really is.... This story is told through three POVs labeled then and now. We hear Frances, Kate's daughter Daisy and DJ whose sister Courtney's horrific rape and murder connects all three of them. Yes, this is a thriller in a way. I would say it is a thriller in the way that some may say "Big little Lies" is a thriller. It is more of a character study that connects people by a tragedy. Some people were upset because they felt that the "twist" was easy to predict but in all honesty the blurb about the book gives away the so called twist right away so you go into this book knowing what it is. There is no secret This is more about the characters and how they react. I truly enjoyed this book and will more than likely read it again sometime.
“Camouflage is a game we all like to play, but our secrets are as surely revealed by what we want to seem to be as what we want to conceal.” Robin Harding’s novel, “Her Pretty Face” gives us a domestic thriller full of lies, murder and deceit. Frances is an insecure, anxiety ridden, overweight Mom to Marcus. We are introduced to Frances at a fundraiser for her son’s private school . Adults are not immune from cliques along with bullying. Just as Frances is feeling uncomfortable and anxious with the “popular” Moms who make her feel inadequate, in steps beautiful, confident and popular, Kate Randolph, to save Frances from the unkind “popular” Moms. The self-assured Kate rushes to Frances’ defense and immediately forms an unlikely bond with her. Their sons become close friends and suddenly Frances and Kate start planning more time together with spouses included as well. Everything is clicking for Frances and her family but with any thriller, things begin to unravel and cracks start to form in everyone’s perfect life. As we learn more about Frances in this domestic thriller, we learn that she has secrets from her past that she shares with no one including her husband. We also learn that the “perfect” Kate has secrets from her past that she fights to keep hidden. Two women with deep dark secrets from the past but one has a much darker secret that will dispel the phrase, “the truth shall set you free.” This book was not that edge of your seat thriller that leaves you hanging until the last page. Her Pretty Face begs us to ask questions about forgiveness and whether a person can really change or are they just wearing camouflage. I received an advance copy of this book from Netgalley. This did not effect my review of this book. #netgalley #herprettyface
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.
She was insecure, an outcast in a world of beautiful, self-assured people with perfect children. The life makeover Frances Metcalfe hoped for when her troubled son was accepted at a prestigious private school only further isolated and unnerved her. Then she met Kate Randolph and Frances finally had a true friend, an ally. The beautiful, self-assured woman was warm, interested and caring, but one of them has a heinous past, that once revealed will threaten to tear these women apart. We never know what lurks in a person’s past, what makes them who they are today. For some, a defining moment becomes a catalyst to living better, for others, it is merely part of a cloak of deceit to hide behind. HER PRETTY FACE by Robyn Harding is a chilling tale that shares flashbacks of the past while filling in events of the present as two women bond over motherhood, disdain for snobbery and, in reality, never quite fitting in. While intriguing moments are peppered throughout, particularly in the flashbacks to the past, I found the “present day” characters to be just a little flat. Cleverly woven subplots add interest, and some difficult decisions must be made, but were they the correct ones? An interesting way to spend a few hours away from reality, with some horrendous past events that felt unbalanced with the present, which seemed more one woman’s personal soap opera. But, it does beg the question, “Do we ever really know the people around us?” I received a complimentary ARC edition from Gallery/Scout Press.
Francis is a stay at home mom who is unsatisfied with her life. Her son Marcus suffers with ADHD, she doesn't fit in with the elite mothers at Forrester Academy, and she believes her stress eating and weight gain have contributed to the lack of intimacy between her and her husband Jason. Francis's life begins to change the minute Kate Randolph chooses her as a friend. Kate has it all she is pretty, thin, and confident with the perfect family. As the families become closer a dark secret is revealed that will change both of their lives forever. One of these women is actually Amber Kunik, a woman who abused, tortured, and murdered Courtney Carey, a fifteen year old girl. Her Pretty Face is a mystery novel that transitions between then (the year of the murder) and present day, as it alters from the POV's of three characters: Francis, Daisy- Kate's teenaged daughter, and DJ- Courtney Carey's brother. There is also a mysterious character that goes by David who plays a pivotal role in the development of the plot. This novel is very well paced with lots of mystery surrounding each of the characters, their motives, and the secrets that they are keeping. There is some material that may not be suitable for all readers including the physical and sexual assault of young women. This was a novel I could not put down and I ended up finishing it in a day. I definitely recommend adding this to your TBR list.
Two young mothers become unlikely friends when their sons enter a snobbish, elite middle school in the Seattle area. One is gorgeous, well put together and organized while the other is chubby, a bit of a slob, with low self-esteem. But both have deep, dark secrets...when the truth comes out, will they still be friends? This suspense thriller asks some interesting questions: "Can people ever change? Is it possible to forgive the past?" We often say a criminal has paid a debt to society when they've served their sentence but that stigma often follows them, even if they've changed their identity and have tried to start anew. When is their debt paid? When do we forgive and forget? Will they always remain a threat to society? I enjoyed this suspenseful story. It is told in two timelines and by three characters: Frances, one of the young mothers; Daisy, the fourteen-year-old daughter of the other young mother; and DJ, the brother of a murdered girl (told in flashbacks to the trial.) At times, especially in the early pages of the book, I felt that the author was working too hard at word-crafting, perhaps with a thesaurus (or equivalent) in hand, and that has a tendency to throw the reader out of the story because it doesn't feel natural. Here is one example that I bookmarked: (Daisy is feeling unloved by her mother.) "At first, Daisy had thought it was a normal part of growing up, this growing apart. But when she saw her friends interacting with their MATERNAL FIGURES, she realized that what was going on between her and her mom was far from typical." When I read 'maternal figures' instead of 'mothers' or 'moms', I had to stop and think about that...was she trying to be so inclusive, to include all the variations of just who is doing the 'mothering' in today's world?? I just felt that was an odd way for someone 14 to be thinking to herself. But I have to say, as I got deeper into the story, I noticed these instances less and less and enjoyed the book very much. I received an arc of this novel from the publisher via NetGalley for my honest review. Many thanks.
Her Pretty Face is my pick for what will be the most talked about book of the summer. After finishing it I am dying to talk to others about it and I think word of mouth will propel it to be popular. It is very difficult to discuss or review without any spoilers but I promise to mark them clearly. Everything I want to talk about happens after the first big reveal but I can’t get into it without spoiling the surprise. It wasn’t a huge surprise to me as I suspected Amber’s identity but I don’t want to ruin it for anyone else. XXXXX Spoiler Alert! XXXXX [This feels totally based on Karla Homolka. I’m not sure how much people outside of Canada know about her but her story is fairly parallel to Amber’s. Karla and her husband, Paul Bernardo were an attractive young couple who kidnapped, raped and tortured at least three teen girls together, including Karla's sister. When they were finally caught, Karla took a plea deal which gave her a short sentence in return for testifying against her husband. There is a famous picture of her leaving the trial in a car and her expression matches the one Amber is said to have in her similar picture. If I hadn't already made the connection, that would have done it. The general consensus on Homolka seems to be that she played a much more active role in the crimes than the prosecutors knew at the time and that she played the innocent victim but was actually a cold-blooded serial killer who had gotten away with murder. She served her short sentence, was released from prison, got married and had kids. To this day I see stories in the news about where she and her family are living and the uproar when the locals discover her past. It’s a terrible story and although I don't feel much compassion for her I feel awful for her children. I wonder what it is like to be the child of a sociopathic killer and have everyone know all the gruesome details. In this story it is Daisy and Charles who pay the price for their mother’s past and really, psychopaths never change they just adapt their personality in ways that are convenient to them. Daisy sees this most clearly of all and she’s totally right to be concerned about her brother’s safety. I’m concerned about Charles and I know he’s not real! XXXX End of Spoiler XXXX Her Pretty Face is a disturbing, haunting and infuriating story that has left me desperately wanting to talk to someone about it. On that note, this would be an excellent book club pick if your friends can stomach the implied violence. The worst acts are alluded to but never explained in detail so it’s graphic, but not too graphic. It is a book that gets in your head and will make you wonder about everyone. Is that PTA mom you hate actually a psychopath? Is your best friend? Your husband? Research says that 1 in 25 people are a sociopath. 4% of Americans are psychopaths and 5-15% are “almost psychopaths." Not all of these people kill but they are capable of it. It’s chilling to think about it too much. And after finishing this book you will be thinking about it. Too much. Thank you to Gallery/Scout Press and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing an Electronic Advance Reader Copy via NetGalley for review.
Her Pretty Face by Robyn Harding is a recommended domestic thriller. Frances Metcalfe has low self-esteem and feels like a pariah to the other mothers at Seattle's exclusive Forrester Academy. Her son, Marcus, eleven, who was recently accepted into the elite school, has ADHD and oppositional defiance disorder. After an incident at the school, Frances and Marcus are now shunned and looked down on by the other mothers and students. Then Kate Randolph steps up, befriending and supporting Frances. Kate's son, Charles, even makes friends with Marcus. The two women are very different, but share a common scorn for the arrogant snobs from the school. While acceptance with the others might be nice, it is even better to have a confident friend by your side. The problem is that both women are hiding secrets. One of them is hiding her real name, Amber Kunik, and she was involved in a murder in 1996. Can people change their essential personality and character? Can all past actions be forgiven? The narrative is told through the alternating voices of Frances and Daisy, Kate's fourteen-year-old daughter, who is going through some problems and not telling anyone about them. Additionally, there are flashbacks showing Amber Kunik's role in the 1996 murder. The big questions are who is Amber and what is happening to Daisy. The characters, Frances, Daisy, and D.J., are basically well developed and their storylines are interesting. The writing is okay. I had a few issues with some of the descriptions and remarks made by characters. The problem for me was that the big questions were easily figured out early on in the novel so the plot needed to be interesting enough to hold my attention as the characters all figure things out or have their big secrets revealed. It is an okay mystery/thriller. It is not a stay-up-all-night to finish book. Certainly it fits the airplane book rating - it is interesting enough to pass the time but you aren't going to cry if you lose it, misplace it, or never finish it - which is fine. Be forewarned that the ending is weak and anticlimactic. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of Gallery/Scout Press.
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.