Skip to main content

Her Pretty Face


Her Pretty Face

Told from three very different points of view, and set against the backdrops of a wealthy suburb and an elite academy, HER PRETTY FACE by Robyn Harding is a domestic thriller perfect for fans of B.A. Paris, Megan Miranda and Liane Moriarty.

In the world of Forrester Academy, the children are brilliant and polite, the husbands are rich and distant, and the mothers are slim, toned and cutthroat. Stay-at-home mother Frances is a bit of an outcast amongst the Forrester mothers --- not only does she not drop off her son, Marcus, wearing $400 leggings, she didn’t even know $400 sportswear existed before Forrester. She is about 20 pounds overweight, and despite her role as the homemaker, her house is always just a bit too cluttered and messy. Even worse, her son had an “episode” with one of his classmates that has pushed Frances and her family to the lowest rung of the social-climbing ladder in their small, gossip-ridden community.

Frances’ one friend and ally is the beautiful, confident Kate Randolph, a woman who not only seems to float above the judgmental stares and gossip, but is also kind and compassionate, immediately taking Frances (and her son) under her wing. The two soon develop a true-blue, comfortable friendship, but both women are hiding secrets --- and one might be a vicious killer.

"...a solidly enjoyable novel, with just the right amount of suspense to make it a real page-turner, as well as a few smaller reveals along the way that will truly shock you."

In alternating points of view, we meet Daisy, Kate’s bored, neglected daughter, and DJ, a young man whose sister was brutally tortured, raped and murdered by a young couple in 1996. From Daisy we see a different, colder side to Kate than the one we see through Frances’ rose-colored view. Kate is not abusive, per se, but she is not the warm, loving mother Daisy longs for and deserves. A bit of a social pariah herself, Daisy is really feeling the stress of her family’s constant uprooting (for her father’s work), the pressure to fit in (read: put out) at her high school, and now the mysterious appearance of a charming older man with whom she senses a deep connection.

As the timeline alternates between Frances and Kate’s present-day friendship and the 1996 murder trial for DJ’s sister, it becomes clear that one of our main characters is, in fact, Amber, the young woman who murdered DJ’s sister and ripped his family apart --- and that DJ might not be ready to forgive her. Reading about the trial through his young eyes is painful but illuminating. Harding really dives into the depths of evil here, and her stark, vivid writing never once holds back. There are some truly evil, conniving people in this world, and one of them has more or less gotten away with murder. But is it Frances, who battles with constant social anxiety and is punishing herself for a terrible mistake she made in her youth? Or is it cool, aloof Kate, whose coldness towards her own daughter indicates a darker side to her personality? You’ll have to read HER PRETTY FACE to find out, but get ready for plenty of twists and turns along the way, plus a few shocking reveals.

Harding is an adept and skillful writer who writes suspense remarkably well, with seemingly little effort. That said, in HER PRETTY FACE she gives away just a bit too much too early on. I am not one to guess big reveals, but this one came easily to me. Still, there is enough depth in Harding’s writing to make this a solidly enjoyable novel, with just the right amount of suspense to make it a real page-turner, as well as a few smaller reveals along the way that will truly shock you. I found the characters of Frances and Daisy to be perfectly crafted. Frances’ anxiety and love for her family make her instantly endearing, and someone you immediately want to root for. Daisy, meanwhile, is a pitch-perfect teenager: moody, stubborn and wise beyond her years, but not in a way that feels unbelievable or forced. I would love to see more from her in a future novel.

I also believe that the book could have benefitted from a single chapter from the point of view of Kate. The distance between her and the reader added a certain amount of tension and suspense, but without a single real insight into her personality, I found it difficult to care whether or not she was the killer after all. That Harding has the ability to write about evil and sociopathy is indisputable, and I would have liked to have seen her push that talent just a bit further in HER PRETTY FACE.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on August 10, 2018

Her Pretty Face
by Robyn Harding