Thriller & Suspense

Gilding The Lily

By

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Worth reading 😎

An intriguing suspense novel with a villainess that will make you question just how far you'd go to protect what's yours.

Synopsis

A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies.

An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York, sees London-based Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful businesswoman, feels guilty about never liking her father’s women, so does her utmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her…

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wits’ end. It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them answers, but the ruthless truth is something no one expected…

Gilding the Lily follows Amelia Jones, a smart, amicable middle-aged woman who is attempting to further mend a once tumultuous relationship with her father, Roger Kavanagh. Roger's subsequent romantic relationships following the divorce of Amelia's mother years ago established a rift between himself and Amelia; a painful fact she so desperately works to erase by trying to be the quintessential perfect daughter - a model of career success and modesty.


Unfortunately, Amelia's good intentions are put to the ultimate test by Roger's most recent girlfriend, Evelyn. Scheming, manipulative, and spiteful, Evelyn is every bit the wicked stepmother figure - and then some. With the help of her husband, Jack, Amelia must try and not only save her relationship with her father, but very possibly save his life as well.


Let me just say this book gave me whiplash - in a good way. Evelyn DeGrawe is such a nasty piece of work as a villainess that I initially struggled to understand how she could get away with such vile behavior. I was finding it too ridiculous to be believable. As the story progressed, I questioned my own criticism. The precarious nature of Amelia's relationship with her father and his past romance, the fact that they live overseas from one another, and Amelia's innate desire (obsession, really) to be the ideal daughter all culminate to create the perfect storm. A storm which enables someone as horrible as Evelyn to come in and wreak havoc. By the time her behavior becomes truly unbearable, it's too late.


Amelia seems unlikable in her extreme one-track mindedness toward pleasing her father, but this lack of appeal adds to the suspense. Her refusal to speak against Evelyn and risk losing her father's approval allows Evelyn to push the limits and go unchecked. Amelia's partner, Jack, is interesting and well-rounded. A former cop and current devoted husband, Jack appears picture perfect. He has his fair share of flaws, though, with an undercover history working with drug dealers (details of which are mostly hinted at, never too explicit) and his sometimes smug, possessive perception of Amelia. These flaws effectively ramp up the intrigue, making the reader unsure as to whether Jack is truly one of the good guys. As a couple and the primary narrators, the two mesh well together and their dynamic keeps the plot progression engaging. However, while it's evident the minor characters just want to steer clear of Jack and Amelia's family drama, they mostly come across aloof and unsympathetic to their plight, which strikes a false note.


John's choice to alternate between 1st person and 3rd limited point of view seems unnecessary and would have made more sense to commit to alternating 1st person. There are some editing oversights as well: at one point it's mentioned that Evelyn was born in 1936, married at seventeen, but divorced two years later in 1950 (huh?).


Overall, the novel comes together nicely. The twist is well crafted; it caught me by surprise but wasn't one of those outrageous twists that the author makes completely beyond the reader's imagining. I would have loved to hear more details of Evelyn's backstory (because it's QUITE a backstory) and also would have enjoyed seeing the climax more drawn out. Gilding the Lily is a quality recommendation for fans of Lucy Foley and Shari Lapena.

Reviewed by

I'm a teacher and book lover. Books have always played an important role in my life, and since I was young I quickly figured out that nothing is ever so bad that it can't be made (even slightly) better by reading. I'm probably best described as first and foremost a horror/thriller junkie.

Synopsis

A gripping mystery of jealousy, murder and lies.

An invitation to her estranged, wealthy father’s surprise 75th birthday party in New York, sees London-based Amelia and her husband, Jack, set off across the pond to meet a whole new world of family politics.

Amelia, now a successful businesswoman, feels guilty about never liking her father’s women, so does her utmost to give his new socialite partner, Evelyn, the benefit of the doubt. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just all get along? But there’s something very dark, determined and dangerous about her…

When Amelia’s father, Roger, becomes ill, Jack grows suspicious that there is more to it. Amelia understands why, but no one else will believe them. They travel back to America to piece together the puzzle, but when Roger goes missing, the couple are driven to their wits’ end. It takes a DEA officer and a secret assassin to bring them answers, but the ruthless truth is something no one expected…

Prologue

She stood solemnly at the graveside. A single tear ran down her cheek. A man and a woman stood either side of her, and a younger man opposite. They all looked down at the expensive coffin being lowered in to their family plot. A few other mourners were scattered around; they formed a small, sad crowd, as the priest said the familiar burial prayer. But she barely heard the words as the coffin settled with an audible thump.

“… commit her body to the earth, for we are dust and unto dust we shall return..”

She looked around her. It was a warm, bright day in September, but there was an unusual wind – a hurricane was forecast. There were many head-stones here, and a few statues. Of angels mainly. Different colours but somehow the same hue. A few trees lined the perimeter fence, some bare, some evergreen. Beyond them the city buzzed – it went on with its day and didn’t notice anyone missing.

The woman next to her was wearing a hat that didn’t suit her. It kept catching the breeze and the woman’s gloved hand caught it each time. It was annoying. She should have pinned it or something. She shivered as a gust blew by them and then smiled inwardly. How was it she came to be here? How was it that it all went so well? Was it her own cleverness, or was it luck?

“…the Lord lift up his countenance upon her and give her peace. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

“Amen”, she joined in.

Amen indeed, she thought to herself. The relief was immense. The day after it happened, it flooded through her. How was it she had become capable of such a thing? And now, it was a huge secret.  But she had always been good at keeping secrets. It was over now. She could get on with her life.

“The Lord be with you.”

“And with your spirit.” everyone replied together.

Another gust. She felt it curl around her stockings. The woman next to her snatched at her hat.

“God of the living and the dead, accept our prayers for those who have died in Christ.”

She wiped away the tear. The young man opposite caught her eye and sympathetically smiled. She smiled back in a way that said ‘yes, I’m ok, thanks’.

And she was ok.

“Let us pray.”

They bowed their heads, some held hands and some sniffed as they all solemnly recited the Lord’s Prayer.

Her mouth moved as she mumbled the words but her thoughts were still elsewhere.

It was thrilling what had happened. And justifiable. She wondered if she could do it again. But the need would never arise, of course. She now understood how others could do it. This criminal act. How other people could get away with it. If she could do it, anyone could. How many people could be getting away with it right now? Thousands, millions? Was the city beleaguered with people crawling around getting away with their sins?

“Gracious Lord, forgive the sins of those who have died in Christ.”

It was easier than she thought. That’s what surprised her the most. It was just a matter of thinking it through carefully. Planning well.  Did this make her a bad person? She was still the same inside. She was still capable of love, big love, and still wanted to be loved in return. Isn’t that what life is all about – what everyone wants? And she felt more… worthy… or worldly, perhaps that was a more appropriate word. She felt more ‘something’ anyway, and that could only be a good thing. To feel more. To be more understanding of other people, and why they do things. Yes, she was still a good person – in fact a better person. Its not as if she didn’t know the difference between right and wrong. What she did was wrong, but also right. She had righted the wrong. It felt good.

“Kindle in our hearts a longing for heaven.”

There was a sudden movement from the woman next to her as her hat actually blew off. The woman made a quiet apology as she ran gracefully to the point where it had landed. The wind allowed it to stay there, and she picked it up, before returning to her place in time for the next Amen.

“Amen”.

“Lord, have mercy.”

Would anyone else forgive her if they found out? Or just God?

She looked for the words in her booklet and joined in again: “…raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness…”

Righteousness? What is righteousness, really? A state of mind? A quality? A knowledge that one is morally correct? What she’d done was morally correct, even though it could be termed bad. So it was righteous. She stood a little straighter. A small movement. Yes, it was righteous. She was righteous.

“May the love of God and the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ console you and gently wipe every tear from your eyes. Amen.”

“Amen” she repeated. Amen indeed.

About the author

After 30 years in corporate life in London, I decided to write the novel that was ‘in me’ since I was a child. Gilding the Lily is the result of this. While I’m not writing I love spending time with my husband, riding my horses or walking the dogs. We live in the alluring and inspiring Surrey Hills. view profile

Published on October 01, 2020

70000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by

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