Jealousy is a curse, so the saying goes, and jealousy – and revenge – are what lie at the heart of I Invited Her In, the latest engrossing page-turner by UK author Adele Parks. It begins when Mel (Melanie), hears from Abi (Abigail), her bestie from her university days for the first time in 17 years.
Abi is a mess, shattered after surprising her adored husband, Rob, in flagrante with his young assistant. Mother of three, Mel, invites her broken-hearted friend to stay, relishing the thought of seeing Abi after all this time yet panicking at the thought of what her stylish, rich, famous friend is about to encounter: scuff marks on the walls, a trail of lost shoes and socks and all the clutter and chaos of a household that includes working parents, young twin girls and a teenage son.
Mel rushes about doing a mini makeover on the house and herself, hastily stuffing things into cupboards, worrying that the accessories she’s chosen to wear the day Abi arrives – hooped earrings and multiple bracelets – are more gypsy fortune-teller than hippy chic. Abi arrives, sleek and perfect: ‘Her skin is pale, cool and smooth. No spots, no freckles, no lines or creases. She looks brand new…with her arrives a waft of something exotic, a shiver of something exciting.’
It’s a great set-up for a story: two friends, each with a secret, and a reunion all the more intimate with Abi moving straight in from the get-go. A bit like a school reunion that goes on and on (nightmare or what?), and there you are, sitting there like another visitor at Mel’s kitchen table, all ears to hear know what happens next.
It’s a classic tale in many ways. Mel is desperate to soak up some of Abi’s luxury life and sophistication. She feels drab, boringly domestic, out of shape, over-weight, badly dressed and although in a loving relationship with her husband Ben who is a Good Man, a touch underwhelmed by the lack of adventure and spark in their marriage.
Unsurprisingly, Mel begins to live vicariously through glamorous Abi, who became a famous television interviewer after marrying the man she met at university, Rob, now a bigwig TV producer and entrepreneur in the US.
But by letting you into Abi’s head, Parks lets you in on a big secret – Abi is as enamoured of Mel’s life as Mel is of hers, maybe even more so. She envies Mel her everything, even how quickly her noisy household cranks up when everyone is getting ready in the morning, and ‘the hunt for a lost shoe or book would begin.’ The family ‘anthems: I’m tired. I’m hungry. I love you. She started it, I hate her,’ are welcome sounds to Abi. She envies Mel the cuddles from little ones, being wanted and needed and loved, and especially for having the love of a man who is not only faithful, but handsome. The housework and cooking, not so much.
Before very long, Abi is revealed to be more cunning enemy than friend, brewing a treacherous plot aimed at putting a bomb in Mel’s cosy nest.
Parks breathes life into her characters with skill and ease. The two lead women, Mel and Abi are so well rendered, you can picture them. The twin girls are crafted beautifully, so real I could almost feel the sticky jam everywhere. And I really liked Ben, who genuinely struggles with the new house guest and her impact on his life, but tries to tolerate her.
There’s a great unravelling in I Invited Her In, which is enormous fun. One scene in particular towards the end, let’s say it’s at a formal function, is dynamite. Parks knows how to create tension, and deliver the unexpected, using flashbacks to their university days to fill in the jig-saw and so you get to witness firsthand the mistakes that shaped their lives
I Invited Her In is a terrific read, juicy and emotional. It’s like a fire is lit by Mel and Abi and you can feel the heat coming off them. It’s smart, too, with the run-away plot hitting some high notes about wanting what another has so badly, you’d do anything to have it. About the lies and fakery of the celebrity life and above all, about not appreciating the extraordinary gifts to be had in the simple things in life.
This is the one book you could put with confidence under the Christmas tree knowing that it will be thoroughly enjoyed by whoever is lucky enough to score it.
About The Author:
Adele Parks was born in Teesside, England. Since graduating from Leicester University, where she studied English Language and Literature, Adele has worked in advertising and as a management consultant. One of the most-loved and biggest-selling women’s fiction writers in the UK, she has sold over 3 million copies of her bestselling titles in the UK alone and her books have been translated into over twenty-five languages. Her novels have all been top ten bestsellers in The Times (UK).
Adele is a judge for the Costa Book Awards and The British Book Awards. During her career she’s lived in Italy, Botswana and London. Adele now lives happily in Guildford, Surrey with her husband, teenage son and cat.