A gripping tale of romance, intrigue and deadly secrets – for fans of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, Colleen Hoover’s Verity and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.
Last night I dreamt I went to Malibu again…
Once-rising literary star Olivia Fitzgerald is in a downward spiral. After her second novel, a retelling of Rebecca, fails, her third novel can’t find a publisher. And Olivia’s boyfriend breaking up with her hasn’t helped her creativity much either. Broke, newly single and struggling to write another book, she jumps at the chance for a high-paying ghostwriting job when her agent calls with the opportunity.
It almost seems too good to be true: all she has to do is spend a few weeks in Malibu interviewing Henry ‘Ash’ Asherwood, a recently widowed billionaire recluse, who wants her to write a book about a stunning family secret involving his grandmother and Daphne du Maurier.
But when she arrives at his Malibu estate, nothing is what it seems. For one thing, Ash is strangely reluctant to truly share his family secrets with Olivia, and she keeps catching him in lies. For another, he seems more interested in her than their writing project. (Though is that really such a bad thing?) And when she discovers a more recent secret, Olivia finds herself caught up in a gothic mystery of her own.
Can she rewrite the past to reveal the deadly truth?
Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:
This was a riveting read that I devoured in one day. I was suspicious of everyone and I remained intrigued till the final page! Olivia is a sympathetic character. Her gradual shift from star-struck fan desperate for work to a more suspicious state of mind is handled well. Yes, there were times early on where I wanted her to make different choices. But honestly, if I was in the home of someone famous I idolised, and they dodged questions in favour of cooking me dinner and flirting with me, I’m not sure how assertive I would be! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, which limits how much I can say. But I laughed out loud when Olivia acknowledged how meta her situation was. This book really is a set of Russian dolls with Rebecca references all the way down! BTW, you don’t *have* to have read the original Rebecca to enjoy this, as the author does give you the information you need. I refreshed my memory with an online SparkNotes summary. As the book blurb says, if you love Rebecca, Collen Hoover’s Verity or TJR’s Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, you will enjoy this too! Lisa, QLD, 5 Stars
The Fiction Writer tells the story of Olivia Fitzgerald, a struggling author who is hired to write a gothic romance by a reclusive mega-billionaire. The book is a retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s classic Rebecca, and it is full of echoes of the Rebecca story arc in Ash’s own life. The chapters that unfold Olivia’s trip to California to meet with Henry Asherwood are interspersed with excerpts from what seems to be yet another version of the story, titled The Wife; by whom it was written is unclear. The clear point of the exercise is that literary retellings are not thievery—Rebecca itself can be seen as a retelling of Jane Eyre. A page-turner that encounters the right to tell someone’s else story. Roxana, VIC, 5 Stars
An enjoyable easy-to-read mystery that leaves you thinking. The characters are relatable and show their inner selves; I found myself connecting with all from Olivia, Ash, Noah and Clara each for their own story and vulnerability. The novel did end a little too romcom akin to a Hallmark movie but otherwise a very enjoyable read. Dianne, SA, 5 Stars
Get ready for a thrilling ride in Jillian Cantor’s The Fiction Writer. This captivating novel follows Olivia Fitzgerald, a struggling writer who’s offered an intriguing ghostwriting job by a wealthy and attractive billionaire named Henry Asherwood. Olivia jumps at the opportunity to help Ash write a book about his late grandmother’s connection to the famous author Daphne du Maurier. But as she digs deeper into the family’s history, Olivia finds herself trapped in a twisty and mysterious story of her own. Set against the stunning backdrop of the California coast, The Fiction Writer is a rollercoaster of secrets, obsession, and creativity. Cantor raises thought-provoking questions about the boundaries of storytelling and who has the right to tell certain tales. With its fast-paced plot and engaging characters, this book will keep you hooked until the very last page. So grab a copy, find a cozy spot, and prepare to be swept away by The Fiction Writer. It’s a captivating journey you won’t want to miss! Amanda, VIC, 5 Stars
As soon as I read ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Malibu again’ I was captivated by The Fiction Writer and couldn’t put it down until I’d finished. Jillian Cantor has created an engaging premise: Olivia Fitzgerald takes a ghost-writing job to tell the story of Henry (Ash) Ashwood’s grandmother. However, the grandmother’s story mirrors both Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and Olivia’s own novel, Beccy, which is a reimagining of the same novel. Cantor’s ability to create a modern-day gothic novel equipped with a mansion on a hill, a cast of shadowy characters, family secrets and one mystery after another, kept me intrigued and guessing till the very end. I was also captivated by the central question raised by Cantor in her novel: Does anyone truly have ownership of a story? It’s a question I’m still thinking about. If you love a gothic mystery or even just a great mystery, I think you’ll love The Fiction Writer. It is more than a reimagining of Rebecca. This is a great, fast-paced, fascinating read. Leigh, QLD, 5 Stars
A very crafty story that’s equal parts re-telling and original storyline. Keeps you guessing right to the end! Jacqui, NSW, 5 Stars
How is it that I hadn’t heard of Jillian Cantor before now? I am already poised to read another one of her novels while hunting down the rest. This amazing author has a way of seamlessly weaving stories within and around each other that keeps you enthralled until the very end and beyond. The main characters are both relatable and a little bit mysterious, leaving you wondering how honest they are being with each other as well as themselves. The Fiction Writer centres on one main character, Olivia, and it is through her that the story weaves amongst the lives of others to create this amazing plot of mystery and intense intrigue. You will laugh and cry with Olivia, as well as occasionally cursing her for her naivety, and then possibly yourself as the story progresses. It is also the type of story that you would feel the need to read again to see if you missed clues along the way, or if Jillian Cantor is just that good a writer that you were never going to see them all coming. This was an utterly delightful read and I would encourage anyone who enjoys reading to give it a try. Suzanne, VIC, 5 Stars
An interesting read with the format of a ‘novel within a novel’. Strong links to Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca but you don’t need to be fully across that book for the plot to work. Clearly drawn characters, enough intrigue to keep you guessing and a fast-paced narrative to keep you turning the pages. If you liked Verity by Colleen Hoover, you’ll love this! I’d recommend it as a good book for traveling or a holiday, where you can feast on it all in one go. Well worth it! Jane, VIC, 5 Stars
I wasn’t sure what to expect with The Fiction Writer, but it took me by surprise. The tale woven through twists and turns kept my attention throughout. Even with many references to Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (which I have never read), I followed the trail that was put before me. The mystery and secrets had me double-guessing how it would turn out. Definitely not how I expected – but way better. Caroline, QLD, 4 Stars
An intriguing and entertaining thriller. It tells the tale of Olivia Fitzgerald, a struggling author who has recently ended a long-term relationship and is feeling at a bit of a loss. She gets a call from her agent who informs her that she has the chance to earn a large sum of money to complete a writing assignment for a recently widowed billionaire. It seems like a dream job that has come at the right time for Olivia. All she needs to do is spend a few weeks in Malibu, interviewing the recluse Henry Asherwood and writing a book about a shocking family secret that involves famous author Daphne du Maurier. But everything is not as it seems, and Olivia begins to wonder if she has made the right decision taking on the job. Cantor writes well and hooks the reader early. She swaps between Olivia’s perspective and that of a mystery character which keeps the reader guessing and invested in the story. She builds the suspense well and develops the characters nicely. I would recommend this book to mystery lovers and anyone who enjoyed Colleen Hoover’s Verity and du Maurier’s classic, Rebecca. Mary-Jo, VIC, 4 Stars
We meet Olivia, a failing author who, after poor sales of her second novel, accepts a lucrative job as a ghostwriter for a rich billionaire, Henry ‘Ash’ Asherwood. Olivia’s novel was essentially a retelling of the well-known novel Rebecca, by English author Daphne du Maurier, about a young woman who marries a wealthy widower, before discovering that both he and his household are haunted by the memory of his late first wife. Ash wants Olivia to re-write his grandmother’s story as he claims she was essentially the original writer of Rebecca before her ideas were plagiarised and published. The book raises some important issues about who really owns an idea and who should tell the story. After a slow build-up, this novel finally begins to intensify with a few plot twists that have you guessing right up to the end, as the story begins to start imitating the real Rebecca. Despite wanting to tell Olivia to wake up and forget this job and being frustrated with Ash for stalling on telling Olivia what he wants her to write about, I thought the concept was very clever and overall I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Melissa, VIC, 4 Stars
I was excited to read The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It was a clever re-imagining of the classic Rebecca by Daphne de Maurier now being set in beautiful Malibu. With plenty of twists to keep the pace nice and swift, and a handsome main man to raise the heat, you have a winner on every level. The Fiction Writer was extremely immersive and drew me in immediately with a riveting storyline and lots of tension to keep me reading long into the night. Thank you to Better Reading for this early reading copy, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would definitely recommend it to any lover of a good thriller and of course lovers of the classic Rebecca. Cassandra, VIC, 4 Stars
I am so very grateful to have been given the opportunity to read and review The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor. This is the first novel that I have ever read by Jillian Cantor and on the basis of this read I will be seeking out her back catalogue. The book describes the life of a young woman Olivia Fitzgerald, who is a fiction writer whose last published novel Becky, a retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, was poorly received in literary circles. Worse still, her latest novel has been knocked back by publisher after publisher. In the meantime, she has bills to pay! Out of the blue, her agent calls and offers Olivia a very well-paying write-for-hire gig. It seems to be the answer to all Olivia’s financial problems. Overall, I found The Fiction Writer an interesting and enjoyable read and I am sure it will appeal to readers who enjoy modern-day gothic mysteries and those who enjoyed Rebecca. Thank you to Better Reading and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book to review. Toni, SA, 4 Stars
Thank you Better Reading for the opportunity to preview The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor. The Fiction Writer starts with a bleak professional and relationship period in the life of the main character, Olivia Fitzgerald, whose second novel, a re-telling of the novel Rebecca, was a total flop. However, an amazing opportunity soon arrives for Olivia to redeem herself when she is offered a lucrative ghostwriting job for a recently widowed, billionaire recluse in Malibu. What follows is a deliciously gothic mystery/love story cleverly interwoven with themes from the novel Rebecca. The Fiction Writer features short, engaging chapters, an eerie atmosphere, and a likable main character in Olivia as well as an eclectic cast of mysterious characters who keep you guessing up until the very end of the novel as to what their true motives are. The kind of book that makes you want to read Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier immediately afterwards as The Fiction Writer captures the spirit of du Maurier’s novel so well within its pages whilst also spinning a whole new mystery of its own. Emma, ACT, 4 Stars
Thoroughly enjoyed this easy-read book. It held the reader’s interest well and you just wanted to keep reading to find out what happened. Olivia is a fiction writer who is trying to save her career as an author after a couple of failed books when she is hired to write a book for a wealthy but very mysterious man, Henry Asherwood. Henry believes that his grandmother had originally written a very well known novel but it was stolen from her; Olivia is there to write the truth. Throw in some romance, and mystery surrounding the death of the wife of Henry, and you have a gripping story. Loved this book, great read. Rebecca, QLD, 4 Stars
I don’t normally read mysteries but this book had me hooked in from the start. The opening line of the book reads ‘Last night I went to Malibu again’. The storyline in this book is tight, the characters are well described – but not always endearing – as the reader is taken into a web of mystery. Recommended particularly to fans of gothic mysteries. Renate, VIC, 4 Stars
First time reading this author and thanks to ARC from @betterreadingau. The Fiction Writer is about an author struggling with writing. Olivia’s second novel failed to sell and her relationship just broke up. Following a request from a billionaire to ghostwrite his family story he thinks another famous writer stole, Olivia thinks this is too good an opportunity to miss. Reconnecting with an old uni friend, continuing dead-end leads and visiting a very interesting old lady in retirement fills the chapters ahead. But secrets, lies and a very serious twist will have you racing to finish till the end! Who and why is the question? Enjoyed reading this novel! Debbie, WA, 4 Stars
Jillian Cantor’s latest novel is the tried and true formula: down-and-out creative who’s just been dumped and looking for a new opportunity to reinvigorate her career and win back/find a new love. There’s some frustratingly slow pacing through the mid-section, throughout which you scream at our heroine Olivia to make better choices, but some of this is rectified towards the end with some more unexpected twists and turns that aren’t as obvious as you first think. I found it difficult at times to empathise with Olivia – she seems like the kind of friend you might phase out slowly because you can’t hear one more story about her dating another walking red flag. Having just read the wonderful 2023 book du jour Yellowface, this paled in comparison – but it is a soapy, easy-to-read guilty pleasure for fans of Colleen Hoover. Alex, SA, 3 Stars
Gothic romance fans should enjoy The Fiction Writer. Olivia Fitzgerald, recently single, has one moderately well-received first novel, a panned second novel – Becky, the retelling of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, and a series of rejection slips ever since. She is almost ready to give up on her writing career when her agent calls out of the blue with the offer of $50,000 to ghostwrite for one of the world’s richest men, the handsome and reclusive Henry Asherwood III (Ash). Naturally, she jumps at the chance to get away from her failures and go to Malibu. Once there, to her surprise, he tells her he loved her novel Becky, and that he is convinced she is the perfect person to write his grandmother’s story, a story that was stolen by du Maurier and published as Rebecca. In true Gothic style, The Fiction Writer stays close to the spirit of Rebecca. Olivia is drawn into a strange new world of incredible wealth and luxury, where secrets are everywhere and everyone seems to know more than they will say. Olivia finds it harder and harder to know what is true. Is she really in danger? Is there anyone she can trust? Juanita, NSW, 3 Stars
The Fiction Writer by Jillian Cantor has an interesting premise that had potential to be a really good story. Unfortunately, I don’t think Cantor quite nailed it. The plot and sub plots were intriguing, sometimes confusing, but fell short of an outstanding part gothic mystery/part love story as Cantor describes her novel. Cantor has an easy writing style and her use of descriptive language was well-placed. The most interesting part of this novel was Cantor’s invitation to the reader to ponder the delicate balance between a new story and creative theft. Who really owns a story and are there any new stories, or are they just new versions of old stories? Maree, ACT, 3 Stars
I love books and writing, and would love to be a fiction writer like Olivia, a semi-successful author who is suffering from writer’s block and fears she may be dumped by her publisher. Taking a job as a ‘ghostwriter’ purely for the money, she has no conception of what the job entails. Enter gorgeous and charismatic Henry ‘Ash’ Asherwood III, who explains he wants Olivia to write the story of his grandmother Emilia’s life as translated from her journals. From here, the weirdness starts, with allegations of plagiarism against famous author Daphne du Maurier, and her novel Rebecca. In fact, everyone in this story seems to be obsessed with that book in one form or another. It got a little exhausting. However, I soldiered on, very much intrigued, and kept reading, hoping to untangle this messy tale of love, romance and sex that surrounded the pair. Throw in some serious gaslighting of all the characters by Ash and a lingering unrequited love interest for Olivia, and what you end up with is The Fiction Writer. Kathy, VIC, 3 Stars
I was intrigued by the plot of this one and loved the extra chapters from The Wife. Money and power can be dangerous things; they can control a person to no end. It definitely had me guessing and I enjoyed the ending! Madison, SA, 3 Stars
This is an easy enjoyable read. The story has a slow build-up but there are several unexpected twists that I didn’t see coming, I couldn’t put it down and read it over a few days. The book title is very apt and clever, raising questions about who is the actual fiction writer. The book has a possible murder, romance, questions of plagiarism, and drama from a collection of flawed characters – what else could you want? Jillian Cantor has written a novel within a novel with the original Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier as the backdrop to the story. I haven’t read Rebecca and it didn’t stop me from enjoying this book. Grahame, NSW, 3 Stars
Olivia is a writer with ‘writer’s block’ but she is offered a chance to ghostwrite a story and is hired by Henry ‘Ash’ Asherwood. All isn’t what it seems. Ash claims that his grandmother was the first person to pen the story of ‘Rebecca’ and he would like her to tell his grandmother’s story. There are secrets and suspicions in the Malibu household. I have read books about writers for hire which are similar but different and must admit that I’m not a fan. This book is quite easy to read and quite enjoyable. Vivien, ACT, 3 Stars
This was an interesting book. The storyline was very good. I had trouble at times working out how all the characters fitted into the story. It came to a very quick end, but was well worth reading. Sharon, NSW, 3 Stars
I feel the storyline was good but while reading it I felt annoyed at Olivia for her lack of instinct, the characters were a bit boring, and the story felt repetitive and lacking. The description of places was well written and at times I felt I was in Malibu. Evelyn, NSW, 3 Stars