Her Pretty Face
Novels centered around toxic female friendships are a dime a dozen these days, and Robyn Harding’s Her Pretty Face is another book that covers this all-too familiar topic. It doesn’t do anything ground-breaking, but it’s an enjoyable read all the same.
Frances Metcalfe sometimes wonders how she ended up with the life she’s currently living. She and her husband aren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination, but they live comfortably enough. Their adolescent son Marcus struggles with myriad behavior problems, and over the years he’s become Frances’ full time job. There are days when she fantasizes about running away and living a different, more adventurous life, but she knows she’d never really leave. Her love for her family is far too strong.
When Marcus gets accepted as a scholarship student at the elite Forrester Academy, Frances thinks she’s finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Surely, the specialized teachers, small class sizes, and countless extracurricular activities will help him. Unfortunately, not long after he starts attending the school, Marcus gets into an altercation with another student, the results of which cause the Forrester parents to ostracize the Metcalfes. Now, Frances feels lonelier than ever, and she begins to wonder if things will ever improve for herself and her family.
Then Frances meets Kate Randolph, a new Forrester mom who seems to be everything Frances is not. Kate is wealthy, beautiful, confident, and powerful, and she doesn’t appear interested in any of the other mothers, only wanting to be friends with Frances. Suddenly, Frances’ outlook on life is a whole lot brighter.
Months pass, and Kate and Frances become virtually inseparable. In fact, Frances sometimes finds it hard to remember a time when Kate wasn’t an integral part of her life, but the closer the two women grow, the more the reader gets the impression that something isn’t right with one of them. Someone is hiding a terrible secret, a secret with the power to plunge the entire Forrester community into extreme danger.
Her Pretty Face is billed as a psychological thriller, but it didn’t quite feel like one to me. Instead, it had a women’s fiction vibe with a bit of a mystery thrown in for good measure. Both Kate and Frances have things to hide, but I never felt like I was on the edge of my seat waiting for the big reveal. The story is much quieter than most thrillers, relying on character development rather than an action-packed plot to move things forward.
The secret itself is big, but it didn’t knock my socks off the way I was expecting it to. The blurb on the back of the book actually gives part of it away, so I urge potential readers to avoid looking at it if possible.
I felt quite a bit of sympathy for Frances. It’s obvious her family is super important to her, but it’s equally obvious that she’s pretty overwhelmed by the demands they place upon her. I really enjoyed watching her blossom into a more confident version of herself. She comes into her own in a way that feels quite authentic, and that’s one of the very best things about this novel.
There’s one thing about the narrative structure of the book that didn’t make total sense to me. We see most things through Frances’ lens, but there are a few chapters from the point of view of Kate’s teenaged daughter, and I found those chapters to be kind of jarring. They distracted me from the main story, and I was tempted to skip over them so I could continue reading about Frances. Even as the story went on, I never felt fully invested in the secondary plot-line, which simply isn’t very compelling.
Her Pretty Face is a quick and easy read, and I blew through it in a little over a day. It isn’t the most gripping book I’ve picked up this year, but it ended up being an enjoyable way to spend a few hours on a lazy summer afternoon.