Title: The Safe Place
Author: Anna Downes
Published: June 30th 2020
Publisher: Affirm Press
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Psychological
Rating: 4 stars
For struggling actress Emily Proudman, life in London is not working out as planned – in fact, it’s falling apart. So when she is offered a live-in job working for a wealthy family on their luxurious coastal property in France, she jumps at the opportunity to start over.
The estate is picture-perfect, and its owners exude charisma and sophistication. But as Emily gets to know the family, their masks begin to slip, and what at first appears to be a dream come true turns out to be a prison from which none of them will ever escape – unless Emily can find a way to set them all free.
The Safe Place is the debut novel by Anna Downes. This psychological based title transports the reader to a stunning but remote French estate. With secrets abound and twists around every corner, this is one deeply tangled domestic based story.
Meet Emily Proudman. A struggling actress, Emily decides to take up a lucrative new position with a family based at a stunning property located on the French coast. Hoping to reboot her life, Emily sees this new role as an opportunity to reinvent herself. However, as soon as Emily settles into her new home and role, alarm bells start to ring. Initially, Emily believes that her new employer and his family are sophisticated and they live an enviable existence. However, the cracks begin to show and Emily’s dream job turns into an absolute nightmare. With questions of freedom, self-determination, status, secrets and lies circulating around this family, Emily is determined to find a way to release them all from the burdens they are carry.
The Safe Place is written by actress turned author, Anna Downes. The accompanying author’s note is perhaps one of the most honest, revealing and moving accounts I have come across. I am thankful to Anna Downes for sharing a great deal about her writer’s journey and her personal life experiences. I have a lot of respect for this new writer and I do hope The Safe Place is the start of a long and fulfilling career for Anna Downes.
The Safe Place is book that I would shelve in one of my favorite genres, contemporary noir or domestic fiction. The inviting summer feel cover definitely exudes a sense of escapism. In fact, I would have loved to have read this one on a warm summer holiday. However, a mid winter vacation read was a great alternative. The setting is a strong and formidable force in this novel. With the majority of the action set on the French coast, one of my own preferred holiday destinations, this one was a real treat just for the location descriptions. There are plenty of vivid and indulgent passages illuminating this stunning locale. The reader feels like an extra tourist, taking in all this beautiful, but ultimately dangerous atmosphere the remote estate setting base of Querenica has to offer.
Character wise, Emily Proudman is the lead protagonist of The Safe Place. A slightly flawed heroine, we accept Emily’s faults, but ultimately we want her to pick up the pieces of her broken life. With a career crisis and other personal issues to contend with, Emily has quite a lot on her plate when we meet her. Unfortunately, the dream job Emily sees as her chance to reinvent her mess of a life turns out to be something equally difficult to contend with, which forms the basis of the narrative. Supporting Emily are a cast of well-drawn secondary characters. The family in which Emily works for are carefully composed, but some areas are deliberately withheld to suspend the tension and intrigue level of the tale.
As this this a domestic suspense novel, with an emphasis on the psychological front, do not expect a fast paced thrill ride with twists and turns on every corner. There is a steady and measured beat to The Safe Place. It slowly builds to a revealing crescendo, working to solve some of the unanswered questions the reader may have compiled over the course of the novel. The final results are surprising, somewhat shocking, but also satisfying.
All in all, The Safe Place is a gratifying domestic fiction title. The eventful character journey of Emily Proudman is compelling, pulling the reader in to this dark contemporary novel. I would be more than happy to read further books by Anna Downes, an exciting new voice in the fiction world.
To learn more about the author of The Safe Place, Anna Downes, visit here.
*I wish to thank Affirm Press for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.