Who hasn't wished for the perfect job or a perfect soul mate or a perfect escape... or a perfect something? Author Anna Downes weaves together a never-boring tale of three very different and interesting adults whose lives intersect in the quest for perfect happiness. Part of the interest is the subtly shifting focus on temp worker Emily, uber-successful businessman Scott, and rumored-to-be bitchy wife Nina. Just when a reader thinks that Scott might have been having just an unusually bad day, there are disturbing details about how "within a couple of hours, he was back to jittery, agitated, and semiviolent." Wait! Semiviolent? A reader's radar is on alert with that last adjective, and this is only page 29 (ARC page number.) But then, things seem to go back to normal since there are realistic challenges faced by all three. Emily, for example, really struggles emotionally with the fact that she is adopted. Her real problem - wait, make that plural: problems- however, stem more from unrealistic expectations (not everyone is going to suddenly be discovered and become a highly paid actress) and unusually poor performance in her real office jobs. Readers gain insight into Emily's emotional struggles with the flashbacks that are interspersed between some of the chapters. Scott is financially successful but has the unhappiness of a mother in a dementia ward. He seems to experience some temporary mental relief via self inflicted pain, but that does not stop his drive to find the perfect victim to attend to his wife and child. Unfortunately, Emily is such a loser as a temp employee at Scott's company that she catches his attention for all the wrong reasons.
Finally, there is Scott's wife Nina who is more difficult to describe without spoiler alerts. She seems to have it all, but does she ? Or is she more like her fabulous French country home which makes Emily's jaw drop but which, upon closer inspection, has some peeling paint? Is Nina an overly protective mother for her little daughter Aurelia or is that too a facade?
The story's pace and psychological thriller elements pick up as the adults spend more time together and as six-year-old Aurelia becomes more important to the book's plot. Thank you to BookishFirst giveaways and Minotaur books for my ARC. I enjoyed this read thoroughly - including the ending!