Title: Inlaws and Outlaws
(I read this book through NetGalley.)
Author: Kate Fulford
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
Publisher: Thistle Publishing
My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐
Evelyn “Eve” is still in the early stages of a relationship with her professor boyfriend Gideon Rowe when she meets his parents, Malcolm and Marjorie, only to face the thinly veiled hostility and manipulation of his mother.
Gideon, though not exactly a mamma’s boy, believes that his mother is an amazing woman, all because she donated one of her kidneys to a stranger’s kid. So it’s all the more necessary to be accepted by her.
Marjorie does everything she can to thwart Eve and prevent her from marrying Gideon. The measures she invokes involve high-level melodrama and it seems that everyone, but Gideon, can see through them. Even Joe, the husband of Gideon’s sister, Helen, warns Eve to watch her back in the presence of Marjorie. He tells her that Marjorie thinks she alone knows what is best for her family.
But is Eve as nice as Gideon thinks she is? Not quite. She has her own secrets, which include a prior marriage, one that Gideon has no idea about. She makes it her business to find out more about the family, and stumbles upon Meg, Marjorie’s identical twin, who can’t get along with Marjorie at all and who hints at a deeper secret, one that might help find her way through the problem that is Marjorie.
But the enemy is a formidable one. Will Eve be able to marry Gideon? Or will she be yet another casualty?
The book is written in the past tense PoV of Eve. There is a self-deprecatory tone in her PoV that adds to her appeal.
I liked the author’s style of writing, the turns of phrases, the subtle humour, the observations about people that we read in Eve’s account. I loved this line: I felt very much as rats must when they are put into mazes by people in white coats.
Eve’s humour showed her felicity with the English language, a skill which reminded me of PG Wodehouse, though not quite at the same level. I liked the manner in which she casually used a particular skill, and then in an offhand manner, told us that she had worked there before. The list of places in which she has worked before include work with a detective, a lawyer, a researcher and even a realtor. These are all workplaces that she ended up leaving because she didn’t play by the rules, but the skills come in handy as she tries to find the chink in Marjorie’s armour. It is as if her whole life has been a preparation for her run-in with Marjorie.
The only thing I didn’t like about Eve was that she didn’t have a steady job and that made her seem like a sponge.
The characters are all well drawn.
Eve hasn’t known a happy family life and I could understand her need to want Gideon’s parents to like her. Having lost her parents at the age of six, she was raised by her aunt Audrey, who was emotionally distant from her. Younger brother Dominic was raised by other relatives. Eve hopes that the Rowes will be her own family someday.
There is a subplot related to Dominic and his ex-girlfriend Sophie, and their 9-year-old daughter, Pixie, who Eve is quite fond of, and to save whom she even jumps into the water. The jumping into the water to save a drowning person is a motif that is used to great effect here.
If there was one thing I didn’t understand, it was Eve’s friendship with Claire. Despite being a highly qualified person, Claire didn’t seem to have any great insights for Eve. Maybe her only reason for being a part of this story was so that Eve could use her as a sounding board.
At the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to make of Eve. There was so much she wouldn’t share with us, so many secrets she held. When she did share her secrets, there was no slow build-up to them, but a sudden full-blown revelation, indicating that she clearly enjoys shocking the reader. She also admits that Gideon’s posh house was a factor in the all-out move she made towards him.
She asks us, Why do so many people lie… especially when they are so bad at it. I could sense that Eve wasn’t completely reliable as a narrator, that there was something she was hiding, but what that was I couldn’t tell. Also, Malcolm and Gideon too behave oddly.
But then a few chapters later, I began to warm towards her. Partly because of the insidious manner in which Marjorie plays a game. Believe me, you don’t want a mother-in-law like her.
Since this is a first person past tense PoV of Eve, we can’t look into the workings of Marjorie’s mind, but it isn’t hard to realise the lengths to which this woman might go to destroy Gideon’s romantic relationships. The hard-headed Claire insists they are all coincidences, but we’re smarter than Claire. We can see through Marjorie’s attempts.
There was a twist ending and I particularly liked the resolution.
The title was apt and gave us a foretaste of the fireworks that we could expect from the story.