Rival Sisters

Book Review: Rival Sisters by Louise Guy

As the title suggests, this was mainly about two sisters, Hannah and Nat. Their mother died over 10 years ago and each is holding a lot of guilt and shame for different reasons.

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Nat is the younger sister, a little wild, led by her heart. Hannah is quite the opposite in that every situation has a pro and con list, a right and a wrong way of doing things. After the death of their mother, their relationship is fractured and doesn’t seem to recover. Hannah does her best to control everyone and Nat is a free spirit. In adulthood, Nat is trying to figure out how to manage her life and manage a growing gambling addiction, while Hannah is trying to keep a secret hidden of her own.

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I have said this before, but I love a book where a sister relationship is at the heart of it. Sibling relationships can be so complex and interesting and I love the way the author depicts the push and pull between Nat and Hannah as they navigate their delicate relationship. I wouldn’t necessarily consider them rivals, but more as adversaries. They aren’t competitive with eachother like the title suggests, but more that the distance in their relationship has created a barrier to understanding each other anymore.

Aside from the conflict between sisters, there was so much going on in this book it was kind of ridiculous at times. The author kept putting up different obstacles and creating new conflict so often that the characters didn’t get a chance to fully develop. There was no space or breathing room. They were constantly in reaction to external circumstances. It was a way to move the story along, because I was invested. But, I felt the book would have benefited from fewer conflict, and more character development.

Spoiler Alert. I am revealing some major plot points in the next couple paragraphs. Read at your own risk.

Let me give you some examples: Nat was dealing with a lot in her personal life. She was recently fired from ANOTHER job, she was broke, and then she becomes addicted to gambling, and she is also supposed to be a bridesmaid in her best friends wedding. Then she is living with her grandma who perhaps has Alzheimer’s. Nat joins a gambling addicts forum to get support and in the process gets swindled by someone posing as a concerned family member there for support.

Meanwhile… Hannah is dealing with a whole lot of things on her own. She is married to a man who was adopted. Through a hired P.I. she finds her husbands birth parents and it is revealed that he is the product of rape. She covers up the information to protect her husband, but later gets blackmailed by the P.I. for 10K. She is also worried her husband has a gambling addiction and joins… wait for it… the SAME Gambling addicts website as Nat. And surprise, surprise, they unknowingly end up in the same chat – they both used an alias. This gives them the opportunity to get to know each other again without realizing they are talking to each other.

All the while… their dad and step mom are also in the picture and have lost money on some bad investments and their retirement is at risk. They fall for the same scheme as Nat and invest all of their remaining money into a fake company. Hannah and Nat will try to get their money back by participating in a sting operation!

There was a character, the grandma, who was in early stages of dementia. That struck a chord with me because I’m familiar with that, having a close family member experience the same thing. She was probably my favorite part of the book. I just had a hard time connecting emotionally to the characters because there was just too much going on. They also seemed to be drinking in like every scene – grandma loved her bubbly.

I will hand it to the author, she kept things interesting. I just wish there was more opportunity for character development. I also enjoyed that the book took place in Melbourne, Australia and they used some slang that was interesting and new to me. I would recommend this book mostly, and probably give it 3 stars.

I received this book as a digital ARC through NetGalley. Thank you to the author, and Lake Union Publishing for my copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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