Thank you to NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for my honest review.
Synopsis (Goodreads): Sophie’s husband James is a loving father, a handsome man, a charismatic and successful public figure. And yet he stands accused of a terrible crime. Sophie is convinced he is innocent and desperate to protect her precious family from the lies that threaten to rip them apart.
Kate is the lawyer hired to prosecute the case: an experienced professional who knows that the law is all about winning the argument. And yet Kate seeks the truth at all times. She is certain James is guilty and is determined he will pay for his crimes.
Who is right about James? Sophie or Kate? And is either of them informed by anything more than instinct and personal experience? Despite her privileged upbringing, Sophie is well aware that her beautiful life is not inviolable. She has known it since she and James were first lovers, at Oxford, and she witnessed how easily pleasure could tip into tragedy.
Review: This is a story that could literally be about some of the scandalous news items we hear about everyday: a married politician or man in power who has an affair, and is then accused of rape. The story revolves around Kate, the prosecutor who is convinced that James is guilty of this crime, and Sophie, the wife who refuses to believe that her loving husband could do something like this.
This is not really a thriller, in terms of pacing or plot. There is no real thrill. Yes, the reader wants to know if James was actually guilty or not. But the story is about more than just that. It is about the abuse of power that we see happening around us all the time. It is about privilege and whether that allows someone to be exempt from facing the consequences of their transgressions. And it is about the people who are affected by one person’s selfishness.
I’m really glad that the story did not focus on James’s character. Apart from a few excerpts that are flashbacks to another incident in the past, James doesn’t really get a voice. Kate and Sophie are the alternating narrators of this story, and they each have their unique struggles with this case. I really liked that the author used this method to tell the story because it shifted the focus to the people that mattered most; usually in stories like this, the novel is focused on the accused and tries to make the reader feel sympathy for them. The author does not do that here, and does not excuse James for his alleged behaviour at all. There was a lot of complexity behind the emotions that both of the women felt and I really connected with them. I could understand why they reacted the way they did. I preferred Kate’s character to Sophie’s because I generally like stronger, more powerful female roles, but both women were well developed.
The pacing of this novel is slow, and that is something that readers should be aware of. In trying to explore these different issues, there is less time for a fast-paced story. There was also more of a focus on the British law and government, so if you are not familiar with the way things work there, this might be a bit confusing to read. While the pacing made sense in terms of helping the author achieve her goals with this story, I would have preferred a more high-intensity story.
To sum it all up, this was a very close examination of the effects that a high-profile affair and rape charge can have on people. I thought the author did a really great job of considering factors like preferential treatment, justice, consent, and privilege – all of which are factors in real-life cases like these. I thought that the pacing was a bit slow and perhaps, not all of the details were needed. But it was a good read and I am happy to give it a 3.5/5 stars! I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this author!