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Gilding The Lily


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.

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

Horror, thriller/suspense, and mystery are my areas of reviewing expertise, although like most dedicated readers I'll delve into (nearly) anything with a great plot. I love being a reviewer and having the chance to interact with talented writers as well as help their stories gain exposure.


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 mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

Reviewed by