By Ekta R. Garg
July 8, 2020
Release date: July 14, 2020
Rated: Borrow it / 3 stars
A young woman gets the chance to start her life over when she loses her job and her acting prospects within the same day. Her new life, however, comes at a price. She just doesn’t know she’s paying it. Debut author Anna Downes amps up the thrill factor toward the end of her slow-to-start novel The Safe Place.
Emily Proudman thought she really could make a go of her newest temp job. She put in her best—well, maybe her second best—effort to get to the office in downtown London on time so she could answer phones and get coffee for people. It seemed like the perfect job for her, because she could take time off to go to auditions. Her acting career is on the cusp of taking off, she just knows it. She just needs the right role.
Unfortunately, that role isn’t coming any time soon. In fact, it’s pretty much long gone when Emily learns that her agent is moving and the agency isn’t retaining Emily as a client. Which wouldn’t be so bad if she hadn’t been fired. Or gone back to her flat only to find out she’s being evicted.
She could move back in with her parents, but she hates the way they doubt her abilities. Yes, it wouldn’t kill her to call home for something other than money, but her mom and dad just don’t get it. They never have. Maybe it’s because she’s adopted.
Everything is going downhill fast. Then the CEO of the company that just fired her approaches her with a new job. Scott Denny is handsome, charming, and seems genuinely worried about Emily’s situation. When he offers her the opportunity to get out of England and become his wife’s personal assistant in their ocean-front home in France, it seems like something out of the movies.
Emily arrives in France with the understanding that she’s going to take care of the house and help with Scott’s six-year-old daughter, Aurelia. Nina, Scott’s wife, welcomes Emily with open arms. Within weeks of arriving, Emily feels a sense of belonging at the house. Yes, she spends her days painting, weeding, and trying to make friends with Aurelia, but for once she knows her place and is completely content with life.
Except she can’t ignore the nagging feeling that Aurelia is not all right. It’s more than just the medical condition that Scott and Nina have described. The longer Emily stays in France, the more she realizes that she may have walked into a situation much bigger than she, Nina, and Scott can all handle.
Author Anna Downes presents readers with the charming bustle of London before moving Emily to the coast of France, a welcome change from the usual locations of Paris or another large city. The setting is ideal for keeping secrets. While Emily really doesn’t have any, she figures out that Nina does.
The pacing of the story, however, works against the book. Emily knows Nina is hiding something from her, and she suspects it might be something big. Yet for weeks she allows herself to get distracted by all the manual labor at the house. While Emily’s change of fortune is welcome after all the challenges she experiences in London, several chapters of her enjoying lunch on the back patio by the pool or her renewed sense of confidence don’t make for as compelling reading.
Downes manages to keep readers engaged by alternating chapters from the points of view of Emily, Scott, and an unnamed character. Readers won’t have much trouble guessing who the third person is, and as the book progresses even that third POV character’s issues become clear. What remains, then, is waiting for Emily to catch up to it all. The engagement might turn into impatience for some.
Once the ball starts rolling, it speeds toward the end. By that time, however, it might be too late for some readers to stay with the book. This novel might provide some with a pleasant distraction, but it doesn’t necessarily challenge readers. I recommend they Borrow The Safe Place.