Book Review: She by H.C. Warner

Hello, my name is Judith! Welcome to my blog, ReadandReview.

She is the thriller novel I have been waiting for.

Ben can’t believe his luck when Bella walks into his life, just when he needs her most. Sexy, impulsive and intelligent, Bella is everything he ever wanted. And Bella wants him. All to herself.

In fact, Bella decides that everything is better when it is just the two of them, making it harder for Ben’s friends and family to stay in touch. And then a sudden tragedy triggers a chain of events which throws Ben headlong into a nightmare.‘ (Amazon)

A Quick Aside: Unfortunately, when She was first released on NetGalley, there was a mix-up with the uploaded manuscript, which meant readers were only able to read the first quarter or so of the book. This resulted in a few negative early reviews which were based on a formatting issue rather than the writing and plot. I was gutted to see this; I had really enjoyed what I’d read so far and was so excited to finish it! Thankfully, after I brought this to the attention of HQ and HC Warner, the issue was resolved quickly and I could get stuck back in.

As I said, She is the story I have been waiting for.

I love the trope of manipulative women – or manipulative men, for that matter – in thriller novels. Other books I’ve read with this  trope include The Good Friend by Jo Baldwin, The Sister by Louise Jensen, Through The Wall by Caroline Corcoran, and Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. I don’t know why I like manipulative characters so much; I promise I’m not a psychopath and I certainly don’t approve of this in real life! I just love books about characters who deliberately lie, twist words, and manipulate others for their own gain and I find these kinds of books fascinating, shocking and entertaining. She certainly qualifies as one of these books.

The book begins from Ben’s perspective, and then switches to Bella’s perspective about a third of the way in. I found Bella’s narrative voice much more interesting than Ben’s because she was calculating, cold, and callous whereas Ben, as an innocent and ignorant victim, was just sort of… there. His only purpose is to be Bella’s victim. In a way, though, this reflects how much Bella is truly in control; she dominates the narrative whereas Ben barely has a voice, drawing attention to the themes of emotional and physical abuse in the novel.

Bella’s parts of the book were so enraging and interesting at the same time – we see “behind the scenes”, as it were, and witness the shocking lengths Bella is prepared to go in order to control every aspect of Ben’s life. On the one hand, it could be argued that some of these scenes were somewhat repetitive and therefore a little dull because we first read the scene from Ben’s perspective and then, later, read the exact same scene from Bella’s perspective too. On the other hand, Bella’s narrative does also contain new, shocking scenes full of plot twists and secrets Ben that has no idea about, and I liked being “let in on” this information.

My only real criticism of Bella’s narrative voice is that she sounded too confessional. By this, I mean that Bella is aware of her cruel, controlling behaviour, and she knows it is wrong. I would have preferred Bella to be an even darker character. Perhaps she could have insisted to herself, those around her, and the reader that her actions are completely normal – she hasn’t done anything wrong, and it is everyone else who is deluded, not her. There are glimpses of this throughout, but I would have liked Warner to take this aspect of Bella’s character further.

Speaking of characters, all the characters were likeable (except Bella, obviously) and realistic. I particularly liked Matt and Freya, a married couple who have been lifelong friends with Ben. They were not only warm, genuinely friendly people – warning Ben against Bella’s meddling influences, for example – but they themselves juxtaposed against Ben and Bella’s relationship, and demonstrated to Ben what a happy and loving marriage should look like.

The only other aspect of She that I thought was a little disappointing was the ending. I’m not one for many happy endings in thrillers, and I wished it had been darker and longer, in order to include more conflict and tension.

Nonetheless, I loved reading through this book and finished it in just over a day. I definitely recommend She.

Star Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

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I acquired this book for free in exchange for a review via NetGalley and HQ, which is an imprint of Harper Collins UK.

Have you read this book? What did you think? 

– Judith

This post was last updated in January 2020.

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