The Perfect Husband

Written by Danielle Ramsay

Review written by A J Hill

AJ (Andy) Hill is a former Customs and Police Officer, his debut novel (DEAD DRIFT) in the Jack Lunn crime mystery series set in Hampshire’s New Forest, where he lived for thirty years. BLOODY BUTCHER is the follow up. An avid reader across the crime genre, reviewer for Shotsmag and regular at crime writing festivals, he now lives in West Sussex and works in property.

The Perfect Husband
Boldwood Books
RRP: £12.99
Released: May 26 2023

When a book opens with the bride in her wedding dress, nursing a broken wrist in A&E, a feeling of unease swiftly manifests itself.

This is a tough read, particularly for this middle-aged, middle class, ex-police officer like me. The use of violence against women, in fact anyone within a relationship, is anathema to me. Something deeply ingrained in my upbringing makes this behaviour abhorrent. Coupled with the mental abuse that Sophie suffers at the hands of her new husband, Jay, it’s a starkly lit and frightening portrayal of the realities of domestic violence. Something that 1:20 adults will be subjected to every year.

To then know the author, as I do, and that this story contains swathes of her own life experience is indisputably brave of her. I understand that she felt compelled to write it, and that must have been at a good deal of emotional cost in reliving those traumas. But sometimes ghosts need to be exorcised.

Back to the story.

Sophie’s new husband, Jay, is a musician. A guitarist with a string of stories about bands he’s been in that almost made it or made it without him according to his bitter retelling. His back story consists of no living relatives, no long-term friends, no real money and a string of relationships that failed because of the other person. Having met Sophie some eight months ago and whilst she was vulnerable after the death of her beloved father and the breakup of the long-term relationship with her erstwhile fiancé, Jay relentlessly ‘love bombed’ her with laser guided precision. Sophie has completely bought into him as a caring, selfless, loving partner that life just hasn’t been kind to. Why wouldn’t she believe this man who so clearly adores her?

However, we rapidly discover that Jay is an ‘add alcohol = instant asshole’ type and here’s where his mask most often slips, though never in public, revealing the psychopath lurking just below the surface. Jealous, controlling, a pathological liar, narcissist and hellbent on isolating Sophie from her family and friends. His aim is to make her utterly dependent on him, whilst destroying any self-worth she may have.

There is that element of, ‘Surely she must see the signs?’, ‘How could she not know?’. But here’s the thing. Love does make fools of us; it can blind us to the red flags and aberrant behaviour. As Kierkegaard said, ‘There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true, the other is to refuse to believe what is true’. This is the space that Sophie inhabits and she even tussles with her own inner voice, which emerges as a character within the story, in the battle between her gut feeling and her heart. There were times I was pleading to her to get the hell out.

This is a challenging and at times harrowing read, as I said earlier. But so worth it. This is what thousands of people in marriages and partnerships are going through every year and it needs to be spoken about. There is an old saying, that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors. The author has ripped the curtains down and kicked the doors in for all to see. Compulsive and compulsory reading.

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