Darling Girls
December 19, 2023

Book Review

Darling Girls

reviewed by Sandra Hoover


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Darling Girls firmly secures Author Sally Hepworth’s position as one of the masters of psychological domestic thrillers.  Her amazing talent for incorporating and exploring unique relationships within a compelling plot line results in dynamic characters that resonate with readers.  Brilliantly rendered, Darling Girls explores the journey and unbreakable bond of three women who escaped the horrors of a demented foster mother decades earlier . . . or did they?

Twenty-five years ago, three girls from different walks of life find themselves living at Wild Meadows, an idyllic looking foster home run by Miss Holly Fairchild.  From outside appearances, their life is better than anyone in their situation could hope for; however, they soon learn appearances are deceiving and things are vastly different behind closed doors.  Like a chameleon, Miss Fairchild’s temperament changes in a heartbeat – mild mannered and pleasant to outsiders . . . and a heavy-handed, conniving disciplinarian to those under her charge.  The girls quickly bond in their efforts to survive her abusive, psychological games until the day they finally managed to escape her clutches.  Fast forward a couple of decades and readers meet three intelligent women who remain sisters of the heart – each of whom struggles daily with their own demons because of their terrifying childhood experiences, secretly fearing the day the past comes calling.  And one day it does in the form of a dreaded phone call from the police asking them to return to their former home to answer questions about skeletal remains found buried under the old farmhouse.  They escaped Miss Fairchild’s clutches once . . . will they survive another encounter?

Darling Girls is a heart wrenching story that’s rendered through past/present chapters via the voices of three young girls and one mystery voice revealed through past sessions with a psychologist.  Hepworth is simply brilliant at creating complex characters with unique characteristics and daring them to survive in spite of the hand life has dealt them.  Over time, readers have a front row seat to the evolution of each of the three mentally abused girls as they struggle to survive, watching as they morph into women fighting daily to overcome a history of mental abuse instead of letting it define them.  A dark, dire tone permeates the pages drifting into readers’ homes as a growing sense of fear squeezes both characters and readers hearts.  The pace builds steadily along with the girls’ anxiety and trepidation to the final shocking climax which I predict no one will see coming.  I applaud the author’s choice of setting – a beautiful, peaceful old farmhouse with a sense of tranquility on the outside that lulls one into a false sense of security . . .  in contrast to the horrors being perpetrated on the young and innocent on the inside.  

Stories of abuse are never easy to read, but Hepworth does a magnificent job of balancing the dark with a story of hope with three protagonists who are vulnerable yet clearly survivors, who become strong, loyal, empowered women with bright futures in spite of their harsh beginning.  Darling Girls is an intense, beautifully rendered psychological domestic thriller that I highly recommend to fans of suspense thrillers and mysteries.  In this readers opinion, this is Author Sally Hepworth’s finest work to date.

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