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4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
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ABSOLUTELY UNPUTDOWNABLE. This has got to be one of the best works of fiction published this year. I was hooked from the first page. The book is written in
the first person and Sarah is smitten from the moment she meets Alex. Reeling from the stillbirth of her baby son and the subsequent betrayel of her partner
Jamie with her best friend she sees a way out when Alex asks her to be his housekeeper in Somerset. Sarah thinks he's gorgeous and is deeply attracted to him and his gorgeous little boy Jamie. What happens when she arrives is not at all as she imagines and although this is quite a dark novel it is superbly told and whilst l guessed the outcome just before the end I was gripped with this plot and was desolate when I finished the book. Without a doubt one of the best books l have
read in 2011.
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The lead character is Sarah, a woman who has been through a lot of emotional turmoil which causes her to make a decision she usually would never make. After the stillbirth of her son and consequent end of her relationship with her boyfriend, Sarah goes on holiday with her sister May and husband Neil. There, she meets Alexander and his young son Jamie. It turns out Jamie's mum isn't on the scene, and soon Sarah and Alex become more than friends. But when Sarah moves in and starts to find out more about Alex's absent wife Genevieve and her sudden and strange disappearance, her mind starts playing tricks on her... wondering why Genevieve left and where exactly she's gone.

This is a fabulous novel that has so many twists and turns along the way, its impossible to guess the ending, something I really enjoyed! It's very dark, with Douglas building up the tension throughout the book and at points it really was a bit scary to read (I am a bit of a wimp!)! It certainly has the gothic overtones that are mentioned on the back, and I loved Douglas' complete control over the characters and the story. Sarah was a likeable character, a woman who has had an awful time looking for escape and someone to love her too. You do think she's naive deciding to move across the country to be with someone she doesn't know but it's a good start and straight away makes for interesting reading.

Alexander is the main male within the book, and I really couldn't make my mind up about him all the way through. Douglas' keeps you doubting whether he's a good man or not, and until the end, I couldn't say for definite whether he had done a terrible thing to Genevieve or not. I have to say I really liked the character of Jamie, the young child of Alexander who is struggling with the disappearance of his mummy. I didn't like the language he kept using, finding it a bit crass and rude for his age to be honest, but other than that, I feel Douglas got across his turmoil and feeling of bereftness well. Overall, they are a good cast to follow, and I also felt like Genevieve was very much part of the story even though she isn't about, simply because of how the story is written.

Douglas chooses to write the book in the first person narrative, and I think this worked perfectly for the book. It allows the reader to get into the mind of Sarah and therefore see the story from her point of view, and her uncertainty about everything, which in turns left me wondering what was going on and what to believe! I found the descriptions of Avalon, Alexander's house, quite brilliant, it was easy to imagine the old house to be frightening to Sarah, especially in the dark evenings! She also describes the town and surroundings well - it's definitely a book which relies on its narrative description to allow the reader to imagine everything in their mind as they are reading, which also goes to help understand Sarah's state of mind. I did find myself wondering why Sarah stuck around with Alexander despite her suspicions - most of us would probably run for the hills but I suppose it wouldn't have been an exciting read if she just jumped ship would it?!

I really could not put this book down as I was desperate to find out things were going to end for Sarah and Alexander, and whether we would find out what happened to Genenvieve, the mystery carrying on throughout the book. I have to say I did not see the ending coming at all - it was a complete bolt out of the blue and I have to give full credit to Douglas for managing to send me down the garden path with suspicions only to throw a massive curveball by the end! It was an incredibly enjoyable read, and is a real breakaway from Douglas' previous work, especially with the darker story within. I think this book will be a huge success, and I highly recommend it - one of my favourite reads of the year so far!
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VINE VOICEon 18 September 2011
I've taken a while to reflect on this book before writing my review - every review I've read so far has been glowing, whereas for me, the book didn't quite work.

Sarah has been through a very difficult time, dealing with both a stillbirth and the betrayal of her partner sleeping with her best friend. She goes away with her sister to think things over, and whilst there she meets Alex, and his son Jamie. She seems immediately smitten - after just two meetings she sleeps with him, and agrees to move in. Although this arrangement is partly to help with Jamie, it's also a romantic arrangement, and I think this early point is where I lost my connection with the story. Sarah is meant to be damaged from her experiences, and yet she's jumping into a new relationship without a second thought.

Once moved in, Sarah realises that Alex's missing partner, Genevieve, was loved by all around her. They find it hard to understand why she left, and why she hasn't been in touch since, and so Sarah is understandably not made very welcome.

From here, the book isn't sure if it's trying to be a romance, a ghost story, or a thriller. Sarah and Alex's relationship is rather volatile, and there were many times when I wondered why she stayed. The ghost story doesn't quite evolve enough, and the thriller aspect seems stronger during the second half.

As a positive, Louise does manage a good sense of menace throughout, with many of the characters changing, and making you wonder who to trust.

It is a good story line, with quite a few twists, and it keeps going until the end. I just think I've seen it better done. However, with the amount of 5 star reviews, it must be working for most people, so it's probably worth a go.

Black Swan Rising is published by Bantam, and was sent to me as part of the Transworld Book Group Reading Challenge.
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Sarah is fleeing her troubled past relationship when she meets strong, silent Alex on holiday - soon she's settled in his remote village home, partly as nanny to his young son, but rumours about his first wife haunt her and she begins to wonder who she can trust...

If you like domestic thrillers with a gothic edge (Nicci French, Sophie Hannah) this is likely to be a good choice. Douglas writes well in an unobtrusive way and I was soon gripped by this book and reluctant to put it down.

I liked the way this introduces various gothic elements - menacing visions, female paranoia, a slight supernatural edge - without them ever taking over. My one criticism (and, hence, the dropping of a star) is the incredibly clichéd and over-the-top final confrontation with the villain, and the absurd deus ex machina to bring it all to an end.

That aside, this is an absorbing homage to classics such as du Maurier (Rebecca,My Cousin Rachel) and Jane Eyre. It's not great literature but it is a gripping read which kept me up half the night - recommended.
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on 13 June 2012
good plot and good storytelling but sarah was incredibly irritating. granted she'd been through a lot but she seemed to spend the whole time being dizzy or too hot or sobbing with fear/panic/frustration or drunk and putting her foot in her mouth. she seemed very slow witted, mulishly stubborn, scarily obsessive and clingy - and just when i thought she couldnt get worse she tries to do something completely insane, driven by a breathtaking amount of naivete. i found sarah to be very childlike, but if the intention was to model her after du maurier's entirely sympathetic portrayal of rebecca, it fell very wide of the mark for me. however it was still a page turner, even if sarah's histrionics did make me want to fling my kindle across the room.
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on 23 August 2011
From my very first encounter with a Louise Douglas book I could forecast that I would be in for a fabulous read - and I was, and she gets better with every book. And that's an achievement when she was bloody good to start with. Her plots are slick and full of cleverly executed twists and turns, her characters flawed and real but endearing, her writing mature and poem-beautiful (yep, I'm envious - but in a nice way). I've loved all of her books and she is one of those authors who I get rather giddy about knowing they have a new offering.
I saved this for a couple of weeks to take away on holiday because I didn't want to read it in snatches - I wanted to lose myself in the narrative and I did and loved it. It's a beautiful story, very Rebecca-esque, but no lame copy of it, because it has a strong and original and haunting voice of its own. Buy this book and save it for a weekend when you can shut yourself away with it. Then, if this is your first LD book - snap up the back list. Exquisite - is the word that comes to mind when I think of her books.
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on 27 April 2013
What a load of utter tripe!! This book has a ridiculous and completely unbelievable plot. The main characters need their heads banging together . I would not have bothered to finish if it were not for the fact that I had paid for it.
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on 14 August 2012
If you're looking for a gripping page-turner with plenty of twists along the way, then this is the book for you. It is very atmospheric and the attention to detail (eg. Descriptions of food) makes some passages really vivid. The plot itself is quite complicated and although it has a satisfying ending, I would have liked to know more about some of the key characters, to build up a clearer picture in my head. Without spoiling the outcome, some of the characters actions could have done with a clearer explanation as to why they did them.
I think I would have preferred the book if it was told from several different perspectives. This is because I found the character of Sarah to be the least convincing and the most annoying. She came across as being very miserable, naive, stupidly impulsive and for a significant proportion of the book, a drunken idiot. Because Sarah was narrating, it let the book down for me, as I did not find myself sympathising with her and found myself frequently thinking `Why would anybody do/say that?'.
I read this book very quickly, because it's exciting and an interesting idea. I would read more from this author as long as Sarah is not the central character.
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on 17 November 2012
This was quite a promising story, but for several reasons it didn't quite live up to its potential for me. I struggled through to the end to find out what had really happened, but to be honest finishing it felt like something of an achievement! The story revolves around Sarah, a woman who has recently suffered a personal tragedy and been through some resulting mental heath problems. She meets Alex and and his son Jamie on holiday and ends up working for him as a nanny/housekeeper. She then becomes suspicious about what happened to his wife shortly before her arrival.

There are several factors that reduced my reading pleasure with this book. The first is Alex. I think I was supposed to be wondering whether he was a nice man or not throughout. In fact I found him thoroughly unlikable and Sarah's attraction to him was inexplicable to me. Secondly the sex scenes. Cringe! They were very poorly written and I found them embarrassing to read! They certainly didn't generate any heat. Made me feel a little queasy if anything. Next was Sarah, she behaved in ways that I found impossible to understand; kept deciding to stay with Alex, even when he virtually shoved her out the door, despite her having strong suspicions that he was a very unpleasant man who had killed his wife. I found it frustrating. Then there was the author's attempt to create suspense by including an element of the supernatural. Was Sarah being guided by voices from the beyond or was her mind slowly unravelling? Clunkily handled.

I did make my way through and, on a technical basis at least, the writing wasn't bad, just a little long-winded at times. When it came to the big reveal, I was surprised by who the culprit was, so that was something positive too.

It's not dreadful, but I was surprised by quite how wearying I found it to read, given the positive reviews.
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on 27 November 2012
This book is appalling and one genuinely has to scratch one's head in wonderment at the good reviews this book has received thusfar. From just a few pages in the book is totally unrealistic. Of course a book should dabble in the realms of fantasy and romanticism but this doesn't do either - it is simply a farce. The female protagonist Sarah is quite severly mentally ill, has random sex with someone she's just met and then decides to up sticks and move to the South West as the man's au pair to his brat of a child.

There is absolutely NO character development, every single person that features in the book is dull, cliched and terribly one-dimensional. The writing is awful, the use of "is all" being one example. Douglas obviously tries to evoke elements of du Maurier's Rebecca and falls flat on her face in doing so. The "plot" is predictable (I figured out what happened half way through the book), there is no love whatsoever between Sarah and Alex (in fact he seems to merely be in it for a handy shag with a feeble-minded and obsessive nutjob) which makes the whole love story element totally laughable.

I merely finished this book out of sheer bloody mindedness. I read a few books a week and it took me nearly a full week to painfully wade through this river of sticky, uninteresting literary treacle. If you care about what you read then please don't waste time on such tripe.
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