Hello readers. This review will take on a different format than my usual! I hope you enjoy 🙂
For some background, Tell Me Lies by Carola Lovering is about a toxic college romance. Lucy Albright, a young woman with a damaged, mistrusting relationship with her mother, leaves for college in California to get away from her East Coast life (interestingly enough, it’s the opposite trajectory of Richard Papen in The Secret History, who went from California to the East Coast for college). Lucy falls for Stephen DeMarco, a charming older boy with past issues of his own. The story is told from both of their perspectives, and we see how time and time again how easy it is to slip back and forth into a manipulative relationship.
I rarely give thrillers or mysteries 5 stars. This book spoke to me so strongly, and I felt the need to write the author a love letter.
[Note: technically….some may consider this letter to contain spoilers….but no plot points ….mostly characterization….so go at your own risk!]
Dear Carola Lovering,
I wanted to take a moment and thank you for your excellent debut novel, Tell Me Lies. I was hooked from your dedication page “And to everyone who’s ever had a Stephen DeMarco- this book is for you.”
Who is Stephen DeMarco, and why is this book written for people who have had one?
Upon reading you get a quick sense of a menacing sociopath, a man who is not at all interested in love, and tries to manipulate situations for sexual gratification and political power. Blinded is Lucy, who is drawn to his charm and sexual prowess. She is still hurting from a betrayal by her mother, and is easily swayed by charming nicknames and confusing sex with love.
I didn’t just have one Stephen DeMarco, I had two. I felt in many passages like I was reading moments straight from these relationships. One of the guys even gave me nicknames (“Daisy,” as in from The Great Gatsby….oh, what a red flag that should’ve been!).
While I can never know if they share Stephen’s removed and pathological sensibilities, I felt the similar desire Lucy had to get attention and to feel loved, even after my own trauma before going to college (my mother was sick my senior year of high school).
Fiction has the power to transcend reality, and the power to heal. I feel validated. I feel like I’ve been embraced by women who have used their art of creative writing to say, in the words of my former therapist….”maybe it wasn’t you…maybe he was just a jerk.”
To know that my experience is not unique, and for your future readers to know they are not alone. That will be the mark you leave on this Earth. I can’t wait to read whatever you write next!
Sandra at Reading with Champagne
Source: I received this book as an ambassador for the BookSparks in Paradise Summer Reading Challenge campaign! Thank you BookSparks for sending such an incredible book!