I review The Loving Husband by Christobel Kent.
Can you ever truly know the one you love?
Fran Hall and her husband Nathan live in a farmhouse on the edge of the Fens with their two children. One February night, when Fran is woken by her baby, she finds the bed empty beside her and Nathan gone. Searching the house for him she makes a devastating discovery.
As Fran finds herself under intense police scrutiny, she and her two small children become more isolated as she starts to doubt whether or not she really knew Nathan. Was he really the loving husband that Fran had trusted him to be?
As police suspicion grows the questions for Fran begin to mount. Is there something that she is hiding from them – something that she has kept hidden from everyone, including her husband?
From the author of The Crooked House comes another stunning psychological thriller about family, secrets and the lies we tell ourselves. For fans of Gillian Flynn and SJ Watson, The Loving Husband draws readers into a marriage where nothing is as it seems.
Whenever I’m unsure about a book, I always read a few reviews on Goodreads, to see how it’s gone down in general. The Loving Husband has received a mixed reception; some reviewers love it, others aren’t impressed. And I’m probably in the middle, so I’d agree with the average 3* review.
One cold winter night, Fran Hall is awoken by her husband, Nathan, getting into bed beside her. A few hours later, she wakes up alone, and wanders downstairs to find her husband. Find him she does, but he’s in a ditch on the outskirts of their property, with his head caved in. So begins a police investigation into Nathan’s death, and Fran’s own investigation into Nathan’s secrets. But doesn’t everybody have secrets?
I love a good thriller, particularly these “domestic” thrillers that are gaining popularity. I like how you’re usually trickle-fed information, where you spend half the book wondering who and what to believe. Gone Girl‘s unreliable narration is what gripped me something fierce, and Flynn is almost the standard to which every author writing in this genre has to meet. Kent, or at least, The Loving Husband, doesn’t quite match up.
I really, really, don’t like Fran. Not liking a character is fine – the worst thing is when you don’t give a damn about them – and Fran is convincingly insufferable. She’s thrust into the ‘victim’s wife’ box, and stays there for the entirety of the book. I want to know more about Fran, not just her deserted career and borderline abusive marriage. Fran is the wife and mother, a cardboard cut-out of a woman who doesn’t seem capable of deep thought. I usually appreciate and enjoy authors writing about women in abusive relationships, and how they don’t react in ways one might expect a person to react (which is, of course, how it can be in real life), but Fran just reacts. She doesn’t act. And, sadly, I’d say the writing style is to blame for Fran’s shortcomings, rather than any reason within the story.
Trickle-feeding your readers makes great storytelling, but in my humble opinion, it has to be done right. I was mostly frustrated by this dancing around, giving hints then pulling back, like a child hiding behind its’ mother’s skirt. This ‘hard-to-get’ style of writing can be highly enjoyable, and I like the subtle hints Kent drops in to make sure you’re paying attention. But Kent was playing a bit too hard-to-get, at times, which made the story feel strained.
In short, I did enjoy The Loving Husband, but certain aspects stopped me from really loving it. Which is a shame, but I will keep an eye out for Kent’s other work. I’d still urge lovers of this genre to give it a try – it might be perfect for you.