My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel #TuesdayBookBlog #RBRT

41ltoxtRIQL._AC_US218_

 

I received this book from the author as a member of Rosie Amber’s Review Team ~RBRT, in return for an honest review.

I gave My Sweet Friend 4* out of 5*

Book Description

A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.

My Review:

I first came across  H.A. Leuschel when I read and enjoyed her collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives ( my review here, http://bit.ly/2BxfSVz.)

In this novella the author  has, once again, concentrated on the theme of manipulation; from the manoeuvrings for power in business to the exploitation that can be committed in personal relationships. This is an emotional exploration of the human psyche on various levels. It is also a brilliant story.

Told from the first person point of view of the two main characters, Rosie and Alexa, each have their own chapters, which move from present to flashbacks.  The plot takes us from absolute loyalty and hope in Rosie’s understanding of her relationship with Alexa, to the first seeds of doubt and distrust, (emphasised by the exchanges of dialogue with Jack; would be boyfriend and initially also taken in by Alexa). With Alexa the portrayal of  the ultimate confidence that she is in control of her life and is blinkered to any faults of her own, is gradually undermined by glimpses of vulnerability. Each character is so multi layered and believable that I found myself at various points throughout the narrative both empathising but being exasperated with Rosie and disliking yet understanding Alexa. Ultimately, though, I had compassion for both.

These are strongly- written characters; Leuschel has an innate sense of the way anyone can manipulate others through the facade of friendship and loyalty; even subliminally. Both the internal  and the spoken dialogue are used to give rise to unease and doubt in the reader’s mind as to who is actually the victim in this relationship.  Even the descriptions that give a good sense of place are used to show brilliant interpretation of the emotional weakness of each character.

I would have loved the intricacies of the relationships within the story to have moved more slowly, shift in the strengths and weaknesses between the characters. I felt this novella could easily have been made into a novel. But then, perhaps, it wouldn’t have worked; it is a very intensely controlled friendship so would have always burned out quickly.

There is only one tiny thing I really disliked in this story – and I will admit it sounds trivial and silly but it is a personal aversion; I did not like the word “sniggered” (Alexa sniggered a few times – it drove me mad!) the verb just did not fit in with the image I had of this character. Sorry H.A. Leuschel.

Putting such an inconsequential point to one side  I would certainly recommend My Sweet Friend to any reader; it’s a thought-provoking physiological and gripping read.

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2BpPp9K

Amazon.com: http://amzn.to/2k7Mw6a

 

About the Author:

H.A. Leuschel

 

Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.

My Review of Manipulated Lives by H.A. Leuschel for #RBRT #TuesdayBookBlog #BookReview

manioultaed

 

I was given  Manipulated Lives   by the author, as a member of #RBRT and on the understanding that I gave an honest review.

I gave  Manipulated Lives 4* out of 5*

The Blurb

Five stories – Five Lives.
Have you ever felt confused or at a loss for words in front of a spouse, colleague or parent, to the extent that you have felt inadequate or, worse, a failure? Do you ever wonder why someone close to you seems to endure humiliation without resistance?
Manipulators are everywhere. At first these devious and calculating people can be hard to spot, because that is their way. They are often masters of disguise: witty, disarming, even charming in public – tricks to snare their prey – but then they revert to their true self of being controlling and angry in private. Their main aim: to dominate and use others to satisfy their needs, with a complete lack of compassion and empathy for their victim.
In this collection of short novellas, you meet people like you and me, intent on living happy lives, yet each of them, in one way or another, is caught up and damaged by a manipulative individual. First you meet Tess, whose past is haunted by a wrong decision, then young, successful and well balanced Sophie, who is drawn into the life of a little boy and his troubled father. Next, there is teenage Holly, who is intent on making a better life for herself, followed by a manipulator himself, trying to make sense of his irreversible incarceration. Lastly, there is Lisa, who has to face a parent’s biggest regret. All stories highlight to what extent abusive manipulation can distort lives and threaten our very feeling of self-worth

My review:

This is an absorbing compilation of short stories that give a thought-provoking insight to human behaviour. Manipulators, those people who will do anything, try any tactic, to exploit those who they are involved with, who they sometimes purport to love, are all around. Manipulated Lives is a cleverly written book showing the diversity of this behaviour.

As I read each one I found myself becoming both angry at the manipulator and aggravated by the character who was being manipulated; why couldn’t the latter see what was happening?  Afterwards I realised that for me to become so absorbed proved the skillfulness of H.E  Leuschel’s writing.  The normality of the situations that the characters are set in lend to the credibility of every story; it’s so easy to relate to them; to sit back and think’ yes, I’ve met someone like that’. Or even, ‘have I ever acted in any way like that?’ Scary!

 Every character is rounded and believable. There are strengths and weaknesses revealed in them all; they are multi layered, true to all human vulnerability. My initial (yet fleeting) sympathy for who proved to be the antagonist in The Narcissist is a prime example. Even incapacitated, helpless in his sick bed, there is no remorse, no enlightenment to his behaviour. Yet in another story, My Perfect Child, I was uneasy from the very start.

H.E  Leuschel’s writing style is compact and evenly paced.  The inner dialogue is excellent,  revealing so much of human nature that I sometimes had to sit  back to think about a scene, a situation, an observation.

 To trust in another leaves anyone open to vulnerability, to being controlled. To be the recipient of that trust could, and often does, result in the ability to control. It’s a disturbing thought and one that is highlighted in Manipulated Lives.

To my mind there isn’t a story in this anthology that will leave the reader unmoved. It truly is a compelling read.

 Links to buy:

Amazon.co.uk: http://amzn.to/2hHLAly

Amazon.com:http://amzn.to/2gUhAmi