After her boyfriend drops her for a more glamorous girlfriend, Anne Morgan decides to lie low for a bit, taking a job as a housekeeper for a famous couple. But the career move may not be as restful as she had hoped.
What could be better for forgetting her troubles than working for Emma Helmsley, a psychologist-turned–celebrity lifestyle writer, and her husband, Rob, a BBC personality writing a book about a mysterious psychologist? Eager to sort out the messes of Emma and Rob’s glittering shabby-chic lifestyle, Anne finds herself a much-needed and perhaps beloved member of the Helmsley family. Cooking, dusting, dog-walking, straightening the children’s room—all the quiet tasks of the chatelaine appeal to Anne’s romantic sensibilities. Most days, Emma scurries off to work while Rob lingers over coffee before settling in at his home office. Soon enough, Anne and Rob realize they have something in common: Anne may have grown up in the cultlike commune run by Rowan McLeish, a psychologist notorious for privileging hallucinogenic drugs over the pharmaceuticals truly needed by his mentally ill clients. Rob’s research suggests that Anne’s mother was one of McLeish’s favorite patients. Anne’s strange dreams seem to support Rob’s theory, and she begins spilling them into a private journal, hoping to sift through the layers of memories. As Anne struggles to crack the code of her past, she suspects that the Helmsleys might not be the perfect family after all. Can she silence the whispers in her head that all might not be well? Dainty (After Everything, 2015) carefully spins the web of deceit, tangling Anne thread by emotional thread into the Helmsleys’ lives and contorted affections. She deftly tilts Anne’s world—full of bright lights, precise corners, and a simple desire for family—into a labyrinth of guttering candles, shadowy edges, and jarring relationships.
Secrets abound in this spellbinding Gothic-tinged mystery.