I reviewed Isabelle Grey’s debut Out of Sight in September 2012 which was a keeper for me, so when I was offered The Bad Mother to review, I was eager to start reading.
We begin with a prologue. It’s a crisis scene, four months later than the story begins. We are led up to that point, and beyond, from Chapter One.
We get to know Tessa’s background before the unexpected caller is on the doorstep of the B & B. The next day, Tessa is at her parent’s house when the caller visits and is revealed as Aunt Erin – sister to her mother, Pamela. There is tension from Hugo (her father) but joy from Pamela.
The secret that is revealed makes sense to Tessa as she feels as if there has always been a barrier in her family life which is why she has never fully engaged with ex-husband Sam. The first inkling we get that Tessa doesn’t deal with situations is when she finds out about Sam and his girlfriend. Their children have known for a long time …
Alongside Tessa’s relationship with her parents/father, is son Mitch’s growing relationship with wealthy teen Tamsin. Mitch is such a creative and sensitive character. The feelings and emotions in this first love relationship are very true to life. He’s the first one to notice that sister Lauren’s eating habits have changed and takes on much more than the son/sibling role in the family. His observations of people are very accurate!
A regular guest at the B & B has connections that helps Tessa trace her birth father. It is very transparent that Tessa is lied to and the danger she is putting herself and her family in. I did find myself wanting to shake her! but Grey is only showing us how easy it is to put our gut feelings aside and believe what we want to. Tessa is so desperate to find a place where she belongs that she takes everything at face value.
Grey has growing tension throughout The Bad Mother with a third person narrative from Tessa, Pamela and Mitch’s perspective. Mitch is my favourite character and Tessa provoked the strongest emotions in me. Just like Patrick in Out of Sight! I wavered between empathy and not liking her at all. To me she was very self-centred throughout. It’s good to have characters that provoke strong emotions … this isn’t a negative!
I didn’t connect with this story as much as Grey’s debut. I would recommend you add to your reading list (the relationships and the building tension/suspense are fabulous).
The Bad Mother is about secrets, the holding apart, a family scarred … and how that passes on to the next generation.
I would like to thank Margot at Quercus for a copy in exchange for an honest review.