When Dan asks Chloe to marry him, she feels as if all of her dreams are about to come true. Sure, they’ve only known each other a month, but Dan understands her in a way no one else ever has, and she can’t imagine living her life without him by her side. Of course, she says yes, and is soon caught up in the whirlwind of planning a wedding. It might be small, with only six guests in attendance, but weddings aren’t supposed to be fancy, right? All that matters is the fact that she and Dan are deeply in love.
It’s not long after they’re pronounced man and wife that Chloe begins to wonder how well she really knows the man she’s married. In fact, as soon as they embark on their honeymoon, Dan begins to act strangely. He won’t let Chloe check in with her family. He insists on performing elaborate security checks of the villa they’re staying in, and most troubling of all, he totally changed their honeymoon plans without checking with Chloe first. She’s understandably concerned about these things, but Dan brushes off her misgivings, chalking everything up to his deep and abiding love for her and his need to keep her safe.
As the days pass and Dan’s behavior grows ever stranger, Chloe begins to wonder if marrying him might have been the biggest mistake of her life. What is he hiding from her, and how can she uncover the truth without incurring his wrath?
AAR reviewers Shannon and Lisa read Rona Halsall’s The Honeymoon, and are here to share their thoughts on the novel.
Shannon: I love stories about marriages on the verge of implosion. Everyone keeps secrets, but there’s something extra disturbing about the secrets one spouse keeps from the other. When I read the synopsis for The Honeymoon, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a newly married couple whose honeymoon goes terribly awry. What drew you to the novel?
Lisa: I love thrillers with creepy, creepy domestic plotlines, and I was hoping this one would fit the bill! Sadly, it didn’t quite turn out that way for me.
Shannon: I’m sorry to hear that. I had a few problems with the plot, but I still managed to enjoy it.
So let’s talk about Chloe. She’s a complex character who brings quite a bit of baggage to her relationship with Dan. The author gives us glimpses into her early life that shed some light onto her emotional difficulties, but I still found her difficult to relate to. At different points in the novel, she’s both incredibly suspicious and overly trusting of Dan, and while I understand conflicting emotions, it didn’t take long for me to yearn for her to make up her mind once and for all. What was your take on her?
Lisa: Chloe is one of the better parts of the novel; though initially she comes off as paranoid and an A-type personality, we soon learn that she’s anything but overreacting to the things she’s noticing that are ‘off’ about Dan and their union. I couldn’t really relate to her either, but I liked her better than anyone else in a novel filled with pretty unlikable characters.
Shannon: Most of the story is seen through Chloe’s lens, so I didn’t feel I knew a great deal about Dan. This lack of knowledge would have been a problem for me if the novel had been a romance, but I actually found it to be quite effective since this is a thriller. We learned about Dan right along with Chloe without spending time in his head to give us extra clues. Did this work for you, or would you have preferred a bit more insight into Dan as a character?
Lisa: I understood why the author kept things going through Chloe’s perspective; if we learn anything about what Dan’s thinking too early, the plot would fall apart. The author’s general narrative intent was pretty clear until the initial mystery is solved, and those last twenty or so pages happen.
Shannon: Speaking of the novel’s ending, let’s talk about the big reveal for a moment. Obviously, I don’t want to give it away, but I’m wondering how easy it was for you to buy into it. Parts of it felt really authentic, but there were a couple of things that caused me to raise my eyebrows.
Lisa: My eyebrows went sky-high. I thought the main reveal was decent, if an easy way to close the plot. The secondary mini-shock was utterly unnecessary and felt almost like leftover plot notes the author had that were inapplicable to any of their other projects, so they got shoved them into this story in the hope of delivering a late-book surprise. Since this all happened within the last fifty pages, it was unnecessary as heck.
Shannon: I agree with your last point. I’d have enjoyed the novel more if that last bit had been left out.
Shannon: Neither Dan nor Chloe seem to have strong relationships with other people in their lives – Chloe is mostly estranged from her family. She does help take care of her elderly grandmother, but that relationship appears to be quite unhealthy. Dan came to his mother’s aid when she was injured in a fall, but I didn’t get the impression there was a lot of depth there. Do you think this played into the intensity of Chloe’s feelings for Dan?
Lisa: I think Chloe was looking for someone, anyone at all, who thought she was a good person. Like it could’ve been the postman down the lane, it could’ve been a co-worker; Dan just happened to be in the right place at the right time so to speak, and that he seemed a caretaker when she’d been caretaking all her life was an added attraction. Neither of them understood what a healthy relationship was, so their own relationship ultimately turned out to be unhealthy.
Shannon: Guilt is a powerful theme in the novel, especially as it relates to Chloe. Did you find it to be a convincing motivation for the way the characters behaved?
Lisa: In Dan’s case? Absolutely, especially because he couldn’t healthily process his (guilt) and was acting in a strident and self-righteous manner. Chloe’s application of guilt and vengeance to the situation ultimately felt faulty.
Shannon: I was actually able to buy into Chloe’s guilt more easily than Dan’s. Her feelings seemed more real to me somehow.
Lisa: That’s because Chloe feels more like a fully-fleshed out human, I think? Dan seemed like a cut-and-paste from Noir Central Casting. Let’s get to the reason why I rated the book so low: the quality of writing. Did you think it was up to snuff? I found it lazily written to a degree, almost amateurish.
Shannon: The writing wasn’t great, but neither did I find it especially sloppy. I don’t think it managed to set this novel apart from the rest of the domestic thrillers out there in either a positive or a negative way.
Lisa: I think that’s my main problem – it truly fails the originality test.
Shannon: The Honeymoon turned out to be a quick and engrossing read, but it’s not without its flaws. Some aspects of the ending bothered me, and my lack of patience with Chloe got in the way of my overall enjoyment. My final grade is a B-. What about yours?
Lisa: I’m going with a C – the writing was a hair too amateurish, the characters too stock, and you’re 100 percent right about the faults with the ending – which kind of wrecked the novel for me.
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