Valentina by S. E. Lynes

Valentina S. E. Lynes

RATING: ★★★★★

When Glasgow journalist Shona McGilvery moves with her partner Mikey and their baby to an idyllic cottage in rural Scotland, they believe that all that lies ahead of them is happiness.

But with Mikey working offshore, the frightening isolation of the Aberdeenshire countryside begins to drive her insane…

That is, until she is rescued by a new friendship with the enchanting Valentina.

She has the perfect home, the perfect man, and a  charismatic new best friend – or does she?

As her fairytale life begins to unravel, the deep dark wood becomes the least of her fears…


I was sent a copy of Valentina in exchange for an honest review. The description of a woman alone in the isolated Scottish countryside immediately grabbed my attention, and although the story wasn’t quite what I had expected from the description, it was still a great read.

Most of the book is narrated by Shona, a worn-out new mother adapting to looking after her baby daughter. On the surface she has the ideal family set up – a loving partner, a beautiful cottage surrounded by stunning scenery and time off from work to begin her new life and spend time with her baby, Isla. However, soon after the family make the move to Aberdeenshire, the reality of having a partner who is away for two weeks working offshore every month begins to sink in.

Shona has no friends or family living nearby, and no close neighbours. She is used to working in a bustling news office, and she struggles with her sudden intense isolation from people, which is is made even more difficult by a patchy WiFi and phone signal.

Shona begins venturing into town, but making friends isn’t that easy and most of her attempts fall flat. However, a chance meeting outside a nursery will change Shona’s life. It is here she meets the energetic, charismatic and free spirited Valentina.

Following their first brief meeting the two women begin to meet regularly for lunch and long afternoons spent in the garden at Shona’s cottage while their babies play together. With Valentina around, Shona can just about manage with Mikey’s two weeks away every month.

***SPOILERS***

However, things are not as idyllic as they seem. Shona begins to doubt the truthfulness of things that Valentina shares with her. The mystery shrouding Valentina deepens with a dropped letter, and a oddly placed photograph of Mikey. Shona will soon find herself asking, who is the real Valentina, and can she be trusted?

***END OF SPOILERS***

Shona’s life soon starts to unravel as paranoia sets in. Will her suspicions turn out to be based on fact, or is she over-reacting?

Although I guessed what was happening quite early on in the story it didn’t spoil my enjoyment of it – I had to keep reading to find out how it worked. I also really enjoyed the character development in the book, particularly of Valentina who is such an enigmatic character.

Valentina is a very well-written and gripping and twisted debut from author S. E. Lynes – I would definitely recommend to fans of Gone Girl and similar. I really hope Lynes is working on another book – I wouldn’t hesitate to read it!


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