The Safe Place by Anna Downes

The blurb…

No phones

No outsiders

No escape

Emily Proudman has been offered the chance of a lifetime – leave her messy London life, move to a beautiful estate in France and help her boss’s wife take care of their daughter. It seems like the perfect opportunity to start again.

But once there, Emily soon starts to suspect that her charismatic new employers aren’t telling her the whole truth. That there are even dangerous secrets hidden beneath the glamorous facade.

Why have the family been moved to this isolated house so far from home? Why does her boss’s daughter refuse to speak or be touched? Why are there whispers in the night?

The only problem is, the more Emily knows, the less chance there is she will ever be able to leave…

My review…

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5

Doesn’t the sparkling blue swimming pool on the cover of the book just draw you in! I thoroughly enjoyed this brilliantly written, eerie, page turner. After having read the blurb, just the thought of being stuck somewhere with no phone is enough to make most people feel vulnerable!

With themes of loss, grief and mental health, the story is told from the points of view of the two main characters Emily and Scott, in alternating chapters, with flashbacks from Nina. Emily’s life is crumbling down around her but she is saved by her knight in shining armour, Scott, with the job opportunity of a lifetime. Emily heads off to France to help Scott’s wife Nina, and their daughter Aurelia, as a live-in housekeeper/personal assistant. Emily is in awe of the property as well as the owners, but struggles to connect with Aurelia whose behaviour is troubling. The characters are all so well developed I felt sympathy and empathy with all of them, even when they were in the wrong. I particularly liked Emily, she was such a relatable character and some of her internal dialogue was very witty.

The descriptions of the house and grounds on the coast of France were beautiful and created such an atmosphere that I almost felt I was sitting at the side of the pool in the sun sipping a chilled glass of Rose (or definitely wished I was!). There were two houses on the estate, Emily lived in the guest house and Nina, Scott and their daughter Aurelia lived in the main house where Emily was not allowed under any circumstances. The descriptions of the coldness of Nina’s house were so vivid that you could feel the chill and I found I was actually holding my breath in several places waiting for something dreadful to happen.

I was well over halfway through this book and I still didn’t know where the story was going and what Scott and Nina were hiding, it definitely keeps you guessing right up until the heartbreaking ending. When you do finally realise what is going on with the family, it will definitely remind you of something but I won’t give anything away!

I would highly recommend this book to fans of suspense novels, and I look forward to reading more of Anna’s work in the future. I also really enjoyed reading the author’s note at the end of the book. It’s so interesting to get to know the author and the inspiration behind the writing.

I would also like to say thank you to Netgalley and Hodder & Stoughton for the ARC.

About the author…

Anna Downes grew up in Sheffield, UK. She studied drama at Manchester University before winning a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and moving to London to pursue an acting career. In 2009 she left to go travelling and spent time in France, Egypt and Central America before finally settling in Australia in 2011. Anna became a dual citizen in 2016 and now lives just north of Sydney with her husband and two children. The Safe Place is her first novel and is partly inspired by her experiences working as a live-in housekeeper / caretaker on the French coast during her travels.

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