Happy publication day to Charlotte Duckworth, The Rival is out in hardback today, and I’m delighted to be sharing my review as part of the social media tour, celebrating the release of this fantastic novel.
Helena is a career woman with no job and a mother without a baby. She blames Ashley for destroying her life. But is what happened really Ashley’s fault?
When Helena hires Ashley to work for her, she’s startled but impressed by her fierce ambition. They form a dream team and Helena is proud – maybe this is the protégée she’s always wanted to have. But soon Helena realizes that nothing will stand in the way of Ashley’s drive to get to the top. And when Helena becomes pregnant, everything she has worked so hard for is suddenly threatened, with devastating consequences…
How many psychological suspense novels have you read centred around the family home and driven by the events that occur there? The cheating spouse, the missing child, the spouse with a secret that could ruin everything? I bet loads of novels come to mind, well how about a novel centred around the workplace – a female rivalry; a novel so filled with suspense, you can’t turn the pages fast enough to find out what happens, and most importantly, a novel that satisfied when you do find out. That novel, ladies and gentlemen, is The Rival.
Our two main characters, Helena and Ashley, narrate this novel in alternating ‘then’ and ‘now’ chapters, and we see just how cutthroat the workplace can be. This dual timeline, accompanied with alternating perspectives, worked perfectly to give you a well-rounded view of the occurring events, yet never became confusing as each woman’s ‘voice’ was distinct. Helena is instantly likeable, whereas Ashley isn’t, there’s no denying her ambition but her behaviour is almost mechanical, lacking emotion, in that her priority is her career, and she’ll be damned if she’s going to let a little thing like her manager (Helena) stop her advancing. I’d be lying if I said this novel didn’t rile me up at times, have me thinking Helena was allowing Ashley a bit too much leeway. You know when you just want to jump into a book and have a word with a character – “Hey Helena, wake up, she’s coming for your job! Don’t let her take it, don’t have it, you’re trying to make friendship bracelets while she’s trying to replace you!” You know you’re reading a good book when you want to intervene!
Although I was Team Helena, Ashley was a very complex character and, though they weren’t explored in great detail, you could see there were many layers that made up her character and this shined a light on why she behaved the way she did at times. What’s scary about this novel is, you can picture these scenes happening in real life, the underhand tactics, how these corporate industries pit women against each other, how job security isn’t as secure as it should be. How some women feel they have to be ruthless to advance in their career, and the ever-present debate of career and motherhood, can you really have both?
The marketing around this novel got it so right, The Rival is full of suspense, and that suspense builds and builds, in fact, I was slightly concerned because it was so intense, I wondered what kind of reveal could match such a high level of suspense. But I needn’t have worried because, wow, this novel delivered. It’s so frustrating because I can’t fully explain to you just how good this novel is, the important issues Duckworth addressed, without giving anything away. So I’ll say no more than, the themes of women in the workplace and motherhood are explored in a way that stays with you, in the darkness and the light. You just have to read this one for yourself to see how Helena ended up a career woman with no job and a mother without a baby.
The Rival emotionally involves you in the plot, especially if you are a woman, because it’ll have you asking yourself what you would do in either women’s position. It’s a well-written, fluid read; a compelling tale and a very impressive debut! It has very up-to-date references, including those in relation to social media, while the characters may be fictional, the events reflect today’s society, so I highly recommend The Rival to those who like their fiction contemporary, those who want to explore the psychology behind the complex relationship of these women in the workplace, the ambition and jealousy that drives them, and what happens when it all goes wrong!
*My thanks to the publisher (Quercus) for providing me with a copy of this book and inviting me to participate in the blog tour*
Charlotte Duckworth is a 2017 graduate of the Faber Academy’s acclaimed six-month ‘Writing a Novel’ course. Charlotte has spent the past fifteen years working as an interiors and lifestyle journalist, writing for a wide range of consumer magazines and websites.
She lives in Surrey with her partner and young daughter.
She is currently working on her second novel, THE INFLUENCER.
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