Hi and welcome to FromBelgiumWithBookLove where it is my absolute pleasure to share with you an excerpt from Keep Her Sweet! Check out my review here if you missed it the first time around, but the long and short of it is that Keep Her Sweet is absolutely brilliant! It’s about this dysfunctional family (and their rather dysfunctional therapist) that kinda descends into madness and it’s quite dark but it’s just oodles of fun and if you like your psychological thrillers pitch black but with a healthy dose of humour, this is the one for you.
Many thanks to Anne Cater for having me on the tour, and to Orenda Books for the excerpt.
Let’s have a quick look at the blurb first:
Desperate to enjoy their empty nest, Penny and Andeep downsize to the countryside, to forage, upcycle and fall in love again, only to be joined by their two twenty-something daughters, Asha and Camille.
Living on top of each other in a tiny house, with no way to make money, tensions simmer, and as Penny and Andeep focus increasingly on themselves, the girls become isolated, argumentative and violent.
When Asha injures Camille, a family therapist is called in, but she shrugs off the escalating violence between the sisters as a classic case of sibling rivalry … and the stress of the family move.
But this is not sibling rivalry. The sisters are in far too deep for that.
This is a murder, just waiting to happen…
Chilling, vicious and darkly funny, Keep Her Sweet is not just a tense, sinister psychological thriller, but also a startling look at sister relationships and the bonds they share … or shatter.
Ready to go to Australia? Great! Here goes:
Penny was into therapy. CBT, for example (first and twelfth year of marriage); as well as psychotherapy (post baby blues with child number two); and marriage counselling (year twelve again, that was a tough time. Andeep had abandoned her to wail by his mother’s death bed in Glasgow, for seven months). But this one, family therapy, had made her so nervous she did a vomit-swallow during the hot plank. She wished she’d never emailed the therapist and had only done so because Camille went on and on about it to her and Andeep, and she wanted to gain the upper hand. When they had marriage counselling, Andeep made the appointment, and the therapist was so on his side the whole way through. Penny exhaled. She definitely wasn’t the bad guy this time. Also, the therapist was an older woman so might be more inclined to see through the lovable façade and see the true man who was her (all right, whatever) lovable husband. She stretched and breathed. The sessions might help her. But with what, her habit of point scoring? Penny had recognised it as an issue in CBT no.2 and had since done Very Well at not doing it. Perhaps she was terrified of being accused of poor parenting. This seemed unfair when she had done absolutely everything in her power to be a good parent all the way to the finishing line. She only ever worked part time, for example, right up till they left school. She had wanted to drop them off and pick them up and ferry them round and feed them food. She had wanted to read them stories at night and make mud pies with them and go to parent-teacher group and organise play dates. She had wanted to be a good mum, and she was. She had given herself over to it completely.
Sometimes she had to look through old photos to remind herself of all the above – and indeed there was a lot of evidence of her excellent parenting. There were so many photos of the meals she had made, for example. Andeep always insisted on snapping a shot of the table before they started eating, so there were hundreds of photos of picnics, barbecues, beautifully laid table after luscious food-filled table – in the garden in Preston, in the kitchen in Preston, in the holiday house in Portsea, in the tenement in Glasgow. In every photo she was smiling – a genuine beaming smile – because she loved hard work and she loved being a mother and she loved food. Penny added it up and estimated that she had made at least twenty-one thousand meals since having children. This meant she had probably smiled genuinely more than twenty-one thousand times, and therefore could again.
Andeep held her hand all the way home, a hold that had become more and more of a hand brake since they decided to create the perfect life. He was using all his energy to slow her down, and she was using all hers to pull him along this allegedly beautiful boulevard.
She had imagined this walk from yoga a great deal before the move, and they had walked a lot faster than this, and when Andeep stopped to chat to a friendly country local, he had said something really funny that she had never heard before. Penny had imagined a lot of things about Ballarat differently – much of her knowledge based on satellite view. She realised now that everything looked lovely in satellite.
Andeep pulled the hand brake on full to wave at Brendan Valencia from Mount Clear, who they had absolutely no time to talk to. Penny breathed in and zoned out, ‘almost as if you’re inhaling smack,’ a counsellor with burgundy hair had said to her once; ‘let everything go blurry.’ She was really good at this now but could never do it for very long.
And your third wish?’ Andeep was saying to Brendan Valencia from Mount Clear in a genie voice that he had perfected in August 1990 and which had lost its zing in September of the same year. ‘Tell me, what is your third wish?’
Penny squeezed his hand gently and looked at the time on her phone, but he did not take the hint. A good thing probably, because whenever she squeezed his hand like this, or kicked him under the table at a dinner party – despite lengthy discussions regarding secret codes beforehand – he would without fail loudly announce: ‘Why’d you kick me under the table?’ She didn’t squeeze again – risky. She was Ballarat Penny now and she could listen to the rest of her partner’s joke and work towards enjoying it. She would start with a fake smile. ‘A fake smile might well turn into a real one,’ a counsellor dressed in yellow had said to her once. The genie joke was a particularly long one though.
Ready for more? No worries: Keep Her Sweet is out now! Order directly from Orenda Books.