Thursday 19 October 2017

BLOG BLITZ: Her Dark Retreat - J.A. Baker

The coastguard’s residence Chamber Cottage, which sits high up on the North Yorkshire cliffs, overlooking The North Sea, holds many dark secrets.

Alec and Peggy are struggling to overcome their marital problems. Both damaged by issues from their childhoods, they are trying to get on with their lives. But this is hard for them to do when they both believe they are being watched. As a result, Peggy, who has terrible scars on her face, becomes more agoraphobic.

To make matters worse, Peggy discovers her estranged mother is stalking both she and Alec, claiming she has a dark secret that is putting Peggy in danger.

What caused the scars on Peggy’s face? Is Alec really the monster Peggy’s mother believes him to be? And what secrets does Chamber Cottage hold?

What did I think?

This is one of those books that I find very difficult to review; it's a case of the less said the better for fear of revealing any spoilers but, believe me, this is a book that you really must read.  If you haven't read Undercurrent, J.A. Baker's debut, you don't want to miss that one either.  Although both Undercurrent and Her Dark Retreat are standalone novels, I don't want you to miss out on discovering some outstanding fiction.

The blurb tells us that Chamber Cottage holds many dark secrets, and doesn't it just!  Peggy and Alec live in the remote coastguard's cottage on the edge of a cliff where they struggle with their inner demons as well as their marital issues.  Peggy's face is badly scarred, leaving her with very low confidence and no desire to leave the house.  Her husband, Alec, tries and fails to encourage Peggy to socialise and he struggles to remain faithful to their marriage.  Is their marriage the only thing that is dying in their house?

Have a good look at the cover to get an idea of the setting: this remote house on the edge of a cliff, but even without the cover photo the description of the cottage and its surroundings are sublime.  It sounds so craggy and desolate that I could almost taste the salt on my lips and feel the wind whipping my hair.  I certainly wouldn't want to stand too close to the edge with the angry North Sea crashing against the cliff face.  It may be an isolated cottage but Maude, a distant neighbour, can see the comings and goings at the cottage and one day sees more than she bargained for.  The only problem is, Maude is suffering from dementia and nobody believes a word she says.

Each chapter is told from many different viewpoints: Peggy and Alec, Peggy's estranged mother Audrey, neighbour Maude, Maude's daughter Brenda, and Rachel who is searching for her missing sister, Sheryl.  At the end of a few chapters there's the intriguing voice of somebody clinging on to the last breaths of life - is it Sheryl? Where is she and who put her there?  For a reasonably short book (at 305 pages) there is a lot going on but with the dedicated chapters, it never gets confusing.  Whilst Peggy and Alec are the main characters (and both creeped me out), it was Maude's chapters that evoked the most emotion in me.  J.A. Baker's description of the mist descending in Maude's mind had me choking back tears.

Her Dark Retreat is another excellent edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from J.A. Baker.  I thought I had worked it all out at one point, and I may have been right in some aspects, but there were still plenty of those wide-eyed gaspy moments to keep my pulse racing right up to the very last page.  

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

Buy it from Amazon

About the author:

J.A.BAKER was born and brought up in the North East of England and has had a love of language for as long as she can remember.

After gaining an MA in Education & Applied Linguistics with the Open University, she found herself with spare time and embarked on doing something she always wanted to do – write a novel.

She has a love of local history and genealogy and enjoys reading many genres of books but is an addict of psychological thrillers.

In December 2016 she was signed by Bloodhound Books who published Undercurrent. J.A. 
Her second novel, Her Dark Retreat was published in October 2017. J. A. Baker's third book, The Other Mother is due out on 5th December 2017.

She has four grown-up children and a grandchild and lives in a village near Darlington with her husband and madcap dog.

You find out more about J.A.Baker by visiting her website at

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