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Too Good to Be True


Too Good to Be True

Carola Lovering, the author of TELL ME LIES, returns with TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE, an enthralling thrill ride about one man, his two wives and the three versions of the truth that exist between them.

Skye Starling has never had it easy as far as romances go. Although she’s a total knockout with a glamorous job and a hefty inheritance, men are turned away by her OCD, a condition she has struggled with ever since the tragic death of her beloved mother. In her friend group of four --- all beautiful, ambitious young women living in New York City --- Skye is the only one who has never had a serious romance, and as her friends are starting to settle down, she has never felt more held back by her OCD.

However, that all changes when she meets Burke Michaels, a 46-year-old financial advisor who is tall, dark and movie-star handsome. They fall head over heels in love almost immediately, and when Burke proposes just six months later, Skye feels as if her life has finally begun. Her best friend, Andie, has qualms about the speed at which the two became serious, but Skye knows she has found her person. Burke has said and done all the right things, from accepting her OCD to formally requesting her hand from her father. If alarm bells aren’t ringing in your head right now, I’ll spell it out for you: Burke is TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE.

"As a thriller, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE is practically perfect. Lovering is a taut and clever writer, and even when you think you’ve spotted a plot hole, she quickly fills it --- usually with yet another shocking twist or revelation."

In alternating chapters, Lovering cuts right to the chase by revealing Burke’s real motives. In diary entries to his marriage therapist (yes, you read that right), Burke explains his perfect plan. He and his wife, Heather, have three wonderful kids and a decent house in New Haven, Connecticut, but kids and houses come with serious bills attached. After being laid off for no good reason, he is seriously strapped for cash. His marriage has been on the rocks for months, and he knows the only way to fix it is to finally give his wife the life she deserves: financial security, a gorgeous forever home and the freedom to live on their own terms, not held back by their credit card debt or empty wallets.

When Burke takes a weekend away from the stress and meets a gorgeous young girl for a little fun, he can’t believe his luck when he learns that she’s an heiress. Desperate to save his marriage, Burke comes up with a plan to tell his wife that he is on a contract gig, fully commit to Skye for a few months, marry her, and then flip the switch and push her toward a divorce. When the dust settles, he’ll have not only the cash that he slips from their joint account during the engagement, but hopefully a cushy divorce settlement.

But there’s another player involved in Skye and Burke’s whirlwind relationship: his wife. Jumping back 30 years, Lovering invites readers to the tiny upstate (very upstate) town of Langs Valley, New York. Low-income and drug-filled, Langs Valley is not the sort of place that fosters dreams, especially for its citizens who want nothing more than to get out, like teenager Heather Price. With two parents who are addicted to drugs, Heather has grown up fiercely independent and sharp, her street-smart traits balanced by her almost maternal love for her baby brother, Gus. Her devilishly handsome boyfriend, Burke, likes to party, but she knows he has her back and that the two of them are each other’s real family.

When Heather meets glamorous, wealthy Libby Fontaine, a Connecticut housewife with the perfect life, her complacency in Langs Valley starts to crack. Seeing how the wealthy live --- how their money gives them freedom in so many ways --- she realizes that she has to get out of there and starts planning for a life in New York City, even if it means leaving Burke behind.

Alternating between Skye’s wedding planning, Burke’s confessional diaries and Heather’s past, Lovering expertly blends these three perspectives so that the truth always seems just out of reach. All three characters are masterfully drawn --- Skye’s battle with OCD is heartbreaking and endearing; Burke’s motivations perfectly fiendish; and Heather’s ambitions utterly relatable --- and together their stories propel one another forward, always adding new details to the overarching narrative that make you question everything you thought you knew.

In terms of technique and character development, no single storyline is better than the other, but I found Heather’s the most compelling. As the character with whom we spend the most time, it was her growth and motivations that kept me absolutely riveted. Her desperate desire for more, simply more, was painfully relatable. Through her, Lovering touches on so many prevalent issues in today’s world, like the opioid crisis, financial inequality and the fight to live the American dream.

As a thriller, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE is practically perfect. Lovering is a taut and clever writer, and even when you think you’ve spotted a plot hole, she quickly fills it --- usually with yet another shocking twist or revelation. There were so many times when I thought “Aha, I’ve got it!” while reading, only to be completely thrown off by the next chapter. This is a masterfully plotted, intricate book, and Lovering’s control of her narrative, characters and big reveals is spellbinding. I read it in one night for its unputdownable, fast-paced plot, and I already want to read it again to marvel at its mechanics.

Perfect for readers of Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, Alex Michaelides and Paula Hawkins, TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE is a must-buy for thriller readers who want an ending they cannot predict and characters they cannot forget.

Reviewed by Rebecca Munro on March 19, 2021

Too Good to Be True
by Carola Lovering