My Sweet Friend
by H.A. Leuschel
Publication Date: December 6, 2017
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/ Women’s Fiction
Synopsis: A stand-alone novella from the author of Manipulated Lives
A perfect friend … or a perfect impostor?
Alexa is an energetic and charismatic professional and the new member of a Parisian PR company where she quickly befriends her colleagues Rosie and Jack. She brings a much-needed breath of fresh air into the office and ambitiously throws herself into her new job and friendships.
But is Alexa all she claims to be?
As her life intertwines with Rosie and Jack’s, they must all decide what separates truth from fiction. Will the stories that unfold unite or divide them? Can first impressions ever be trusted?
In this original novella, H.A. Leuschel evokes the powerful hold of appearances and what a person is prepared to do to keep up the facade. If you like thought-provoking and compelling reads with intriguing characters, My Sweet Friend is for you.
From the author:
Lying is a symptom shared by the most convincing, cunning and ruthless individuals such as psychopaths and narcissistic manipulators. They have an invincible sense of self-importance and an addictive urge to project an image of power and perfection at all cost which are fuelled by the rewarding tools of charm, diversion and … clever deception.
Like anything in life, whether the skill is morally laudable or not, skills require training, effort and hard work. The danger lies in the brain progressively adapting to the dishonest behaviour and the longer the lies, the harder it would seem to be able to change the conditioning of one’s sensitivity to telling the truth. The truth and nothing but the truth or at the very least the intention to do so most of the time therefore appears to be a basic requirement for any interpersonal trust.
In my new stand-alone novella, I explore the idea that when crossing the line between truth or lie too often, it becomes a curse the person is eventually unable to shed …
Want to see an excerpt? Of course you do 🙂
I was brushing my teeth the next morning when Alexa called, crying over another nasty phone call from her ex. I was running late as it was but was unable to stop her barrage of insults against a man I didn’t even know the name of.
‘He’s driving me absolutely insane. I’ve really had enough,’ I heard her shout, the heels of her shoes clicking on the pavement. She was clearly on her way to work while I was only slipping my feet into my shoes. It had been her second frantic call that morning.
‘Listen. Alexa, calm down. I understand you’re upset but I’ll be late if you don’t stop.’
‘I’m there for you when you need me but when I’m the one in need for once, you fob me off. Great, really nice, thanks.’ She hung up, leaving me in an angry sweat. I was her polar opposite – organized and calm – but lately I felt out of kilter myself. I’d missed out on seeing my mum because, for one reason or another, Alexa managed to ambush my attention.
When I eventually rushed through the office door, Alexa was looking up at me indifferently, in deep conversation with Jack, who tapped his watch with pursed lips and raised eyebrows. I lowered my eyes, my stomach heaving with repressed fury. Alexa had crawled under my skin yet I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why and how it had all come about.
I hid in the ladies’ toilets, panic rising to my throat, and utterly lost for words. I realised that if it had been Alexa running off, I’d have made sure I was giving her moral support, coaxing her back to work. Where was she now that I needed her? Was I getting hysterical, losing the plot?
Be prepared for mind games, this is a thrilling read.
About the Author
Helene Andrea Leuschel grew up in Belgium where she gained a Licentiate in Journalism & Communication, which led to a career in radio and television in Brussels, London and Edinburgh. She now lives with her husband and two children in Portugal and recently acquired a Master of Philosophy with the OU, deepening her passion for the study of the mind. When she is not writing, Helene works as a freelance journalist and teaches Yoga.
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My thoughts: 4/5 stars
Don’t you just love a book that demands debate? I know I do. This depiction of the relationship between work colleagues, Alexa and Rosie, does exactly that.
We first meet Alexa while she’s on sick leave. Although, she’s not at home recuperating from her stressful life, she’s in Biarritz. Hmm, say no more, the poor thing! You might actually feel sorry for her at this point.
A call from Rosie – who is still at work – puts Alexa on edge. There is something amiss.
Then comes the backstory to their first encounter when Alexa joins the marketing firm. Everyone at the office is impressed by her, but Rosie, in particular, is captivated by her magnetic aura of confidence and self-assurance. When Alexa drops a few compliments in her direction, Rosie is enchanted, and Alexa soon becomes her closest friend.
With their friendship now established, the story alternates between their points of view and they seem to muddle along well. However, very little is as it seems. While Rosie struggles financially (due to exorbitant care costs for her mother), Alexa is frivolous (until we see her apartment). She buys Rosie expensive gifts galore but doesn’t want anyone else to know she bought them.
They seem to be polar opposites, yet each find something in the other that holds the relationship together.
Bringing Jack, the Account Manager, into the mix adds another layer to the story. Alexa seeks to attract his attention. Her reasons for doing so are not those of a ‘sweet friend’, that’s for sure. She certainly doesn’t expect her ‘grey mouse’ of a friend (her words, not mine) to see through the lies, after all, she has convinced herself that her ‘truth’ is just that: why would anyone doubt her?
Comments made during conversations lead to ‘misunderstandings’, but Alexa talks her way out of everything, always coming out on top. But these inconsistencies continue, creating confusion and doubt in Rosie’s mind . The cracks deepen. Lies unravel further once Jack and Rosie ‘swap notes’, deceptions become clear and confrontation is inevitable.
This is a clever piece of writing. The reader is never quite sure who to believe at the start, but the hints are there, building to the only possible conclusion (or at least the one I hoped for).
This novella left me with many questions. Did Alexa really not expect the outcome? Was she so convinced by her own lies that the truth became fiction to her? Why did she need to lie? What was so wrong with her life that she had no other recourse than to re-invent herself? Why did her employers let her go quietly, only to effectively pass the problem onto the next? Is that ethical? Where would she go next? Where will it end?
The story has novel potential to me – I would have liked greater insight into what made Alexa who she was and more on what lay ahead for her. For me, this was a little like reading the middle of a bigger story – I wanted a beginning and an end too.
Nonetheless, a fascinating, well-written read. Totally plausible and insightful.
This was a story that pulled me in, as evidenced by the many moments spent screaming at the characters:
“Don’t fall for it, Rosie!”
“Not nice, Alexa! Not nice at all.”
“Did she really just wriggle out of that?” … among others.
Fortunately, no-one spotted me yelling at my Kindle 😉
If you choose to purchase Helene’s novella, please consider leaving a review once you’ve read it.
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Thanks for reading 🙂