Little Darlings – Melanie Golding

I’m not usually a fan of unreliable narrators, on the page or in the flesh. I also don’t tend to seek out stories that include potential changelings, so I’m not entirely sure what drew me to this book. Whatever the reason, I’m so glad I found it. I love any book that challenges me to want to read outside of my comfort zone and this one succeeded.

Lauren and Patrick are first time parents to twins, Morgan and Riley. Despite some initial hesitation as she waited for the instantaneous motherly love for her babies to arrive, Lauren is smitten. Exhausted, but smitten. After terrifying encounters with a strange woman who threatened to steal her perfect bundles of joy and replace them with her own creatures, Lauren refuses to let her twins out of her sight. The staff at the hospital are certain that Lauren’s experiences are mental health related and DS Joanna Harper is the only police officer who isn’t entirely convinced they’re correct.

Weeks later, Lauren’s babies are missing and when she sees them again she knows they’re not her babies. They’ve been switched but, because they look identical to her own, there’s little she can do to prove it. She knows what she needs to do, but if she’s wrong there’ll be no turning back.

I know what I believe happened but I can’t give you definitive evidence to prove my point. I could just as easily argue the opposing view and that, to me, is proof of how well Melanie Golding writes. It’s not only what really happened that is up for grabs in my eyes; I could argue motives of different characters as well, chiefly Lauren’s husband.

I didn’t trust him from the very beginning and I still don’t. I felt he was a condescending, manipulative slimeball but I still don’t know if it was my instincts kicking in or if I’m judging his actions through Lauren or Joanna’s eyes. Regardless, I love a book that messes with me like this.

I had anticipated this story ending during a specific series of events and was surprised when it continued for another couple of chapters, but would have been satisfied either way. I do have a couple of niggling outstanding questions, mostly relating to the book with the old-fashioned gold lettering and Natasha.

I’m really interested to see how this book translates to film, especially the portrayal of Lauren’s thoughts and whether it encourages the viewer to make up their own mind or if it weighs the evidence in a way that provides a definitive answer. Despite my own (thankfully unfounded) prejudices going into this book, I finished it feeling its early hype is warranted.

Thank you to NetGalley and Crooked Lane Books for the opportunity to read this debut.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own … creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things.

A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley – to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. As everyone around her celebrates their return, Lauren begins to scream, These are not my babies.

Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw … she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.

Compulsive, creepy, and inspired by some our darkest fairy tales, Little Darlings will have you checking – and rechecking – your own little ones. Just to be sure. Just to be safe.

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