Today I am thrilled to be sharing my review of The Dream House by Jess Ryder. Happy publication day Jess.
About the Book:
When I first set eyes on Westhill House with its breath-taking views of the sea I knew Jack and I could make this our forever home.
It may be falling apart with an overgrown garden, but with some tender loving care, we can repair this beautiful building and perhaps our relationship too…
But the more time I spend renovating our new house, the more time Jack is spending at work.
At least Lori is here to keep me company.
She has her own troubles yet she always listens to mine.
She’s helping to restore the house, uncovering its secrets one by one.
Like the children’s drawings under the wallpaper in the back bedroom.
The hidden papers underneath the floorboards in the turret room.
And the fact that Westhill House is a place women used to go to feel safe…
Lori seems to know a lot about Westhill House.
The question is, why?
After the tragic death of her parents, Stella uses her inheritance to purchase a home for herself and her partner Jack. Known as Westhill House, which is located in the small town of Nevansay, it was once a refuge for battered women unbeknownst to Stella. Now in need of major renovations, Stella is up to the task with her contractor Alan and she gets stuck into it with gusto, with the hope that this is going to get her relationship with Jack back on track and bring them closer.
But then Lori enters their lives one night, when she turns up at the house badly beaten. Confused as to why she has come to their home, she tells them that she was given their address from a domestic abuse hotline. Unable to turn her away much to Jacks disapproval, Stella let’s Lori stay just for the night. But one night turns into weeks and this causes a wedge between Stella and Jack who does not like and trust Lori and feels she is not being honest and has a hidden agenda. As Stella learns more about Lori’s life with her abusive husband, she also learns more about the history of her homes past horrors.
In addition to this story set in the present day, there is also a subplot set in the past, told from the perspective of a young woman named Kay, who after she marries her husband, becomes his victim of domestic abuse. Unable to carry on, she makes the courageous decision to flee with her daughter to a refuge. As the story unfolds you know that this it going to find its way to the present day into Stella’s life.
The characters in the book were all very well written and developed and I could resonate with them all. Ok maybe not all, Jack definitely was not a favourite. His lack of empathy towards Lori and her situation as well as his disregard to Stella’s feelings did not win him any favours with me. I loved Stella’s strength in standing her ground with Jack insisting that Lori was staying even though it did cause tension in their relationship. We are given a glimpse into Stella’s life as a teenager and the events that lead up to her strong need of wanting to help people. I was completely sympathetic towards Lori and her situation as well as for Kay. My heart broke for them and the suffering they both endured at the hands of someone who is meant to love them.
I love any book where the sea is a part of it. As someone who’s favourite season in Winter, as story got darker, I loved the descriptions of the grey skies with choppy water and storms, it just set the eerie tone of the book perfectly, especially with the unusual going ons in the house.
The pace of the book:
The book was written and flowed at decent pace. Not too slow or too fast. It keeps your attention right through to the end and is not drawn out.
There was a great twist in this story. Everything was wrapped up including Kay’s story which is an integral part of it. Sometimes narrative from present to past or vice versa makes me nervous and I have read a few books where you are left scratching your head but I’m happy to report that this is not the case with this story.
I really enjoyed Jess’ writing style. There was just the right amount of suspense used that kept me hooked and I felt I was not left hanging at all, except in parts that were necessary in the build up to the reveal. Domestic violence isn’t an easy subject to read about and I am sure it would also be hard to write about. I thought Jess handled the sensitivity of the subject well without going into too much graphic detail. I especially loved the dedication at the start of the book “For the survivors of domestic violence everywhere” it was a lovely touch.
Right from the prologue I was hooked on this story. A gripping compulsive dark read that with keep you enthralled right up to the final page. This is the first book I have read from Jess and I look forward to reading through her back catalogue and I also her future work.
Thank-you to NetGalley, Bookouture and Jess Ryder for allowing me to read an advanced copy of The Dream House in exchange for an honest review.
All opinions are my own and are not biased in anyway
About the Author:
Jess Ryder is the pseudonym of Jan Page, author, screenwriter, playwright and award-winning television producer. After many years working in children’s media, she has recently embarked on a life of crime. Writing, that is.
To keep up to date with Jess’ work you can follow her on these social media accounts.