Book Reviews

In Our Family Portrait We Look Pretty Happy…


Title: A Suitable Lie
Author: Michael J. Malone
Publisher: Orenda Books
Release date:
August 5th 2016
Format: eBook
Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Andy Boyd thinks he is the luckiest man alive. Widowed with a young child, after his wife dies in childbirth, he is certain that he will never again experience true love. Then he meets Anna. Feisty, fun and beautiful, she’s his perfect match, and she loves his son like he is her own. When Andy ends up in the hospital on his wedding night, he receives his first clue that Anna is not all that she seems. Desperate for that happy-ever-after, he ignores it—a dangerous mistake that could cost him everything.


When you have been reviewing for some time, you realize something both important and frustrating. Writing about a book you love is immensely more difficult than ranting about a story. Words come easily when you need to vent about how threads were left loose and characters lacked personality. But when you need to shout at the world to read something that has had a strong effect on you, words are sparse. We’ve all felt the frustration of not finding the right adjectives to put our feelings into words. When I finished A Suitable Lie, my head was filled with onomatopoeias. You get my problem, onomatopoeias are fun but not very handy to write a constructed review. I’ll spare you the “Ooooh” and “Ah!” and “OH MY GOD this can’t be happening!” and do my best to give this story justice. (In case you haven’t understood yet, this is a 5-star review!!)

Andy lost his wife four years ago. Raising his son Pat and doing his best at work keeps him going. He does not need more from life than smiles and cuddles from his son and the supportive presence of his mother and brother. But the latter does not want Andy to miss out on life’s opportunities and believes it is time for his brother to have more than a shadow life.
So when Andy meets Anna at the pub, it feels like fate. She is like no other woman. He is willing to give it a try. So willing that marriage is soon mentioned, and a few months later the family picture is perfect.
Or is it?

Have you noticed how the psychological thriller genre is inhabited by women. Strong women, weak women, damaged women. Males don’t have much of a voice when it comes to these stories, other than playing the perfect suspect (remember I love the suspect-husband trope!). But it seems unfair to have men pictured the same way over and over again. Before A Suitable Lie, I did not mind that 90% of my reads were told from a women’s point of view. Michael J. Malone showed me I was missing out on a different and equally interesting side of the world.

It is not hard to fall for Andy. He takes care of his little boy on his own, making sure Pat keeps a connection to his deceased mother and feels a real sense of family surrounded by his uncle and grandmother. He is a man who lost the woman of his life, and I felt his pain through Malone’s descriptions of life when the shiniest light brightening up your days has been switched off. Andy did not drown in the pain thanks to Pat’s presence, and his love for both his son and his wife shine through everything he does. My heart melted for the man and his little boy more than once. There’s nothing more natural for a father to try and recreate a “normal” life for his son. Andy’s reluctance to date and his fear of replacing his first wife Patricia broke my heart. Andy deserves to be happy again, and finally finds the strength to move on, without giving up on what’s left behind.

Raised by divorced parents, I witnessed what adding a family member to the lot means. Although the situation is different here, I found every emotion and situation perfect, the fear of the first times, the hopes for new bonds to be strong, the balance to find to keep everyone feeling happy and important. Seeing Andy handle all of it was moving and I really prayed for him to success throughout the story. Blame my hormones for rooting for the lonely and adorable father to get away from his nightmare.

But it’s not all about creating a new family. What happens when the result don’t match the picture you had in mind? What happens when everything is not what it seems? What happens after the glitter is gone and reality takes over? You’re slapped in the face.

A Suitable Lie is a slap in the face, a whirlwind of emotions, a roller-coaster that takes you on a journey from paradise to hell.

It does not take long for Andy to discover his new wife has hidden a few things from him. Anna is a complicated character – the perfect wife might not be so perfect. Or is she just misunderstood and hurting inside, just like so many of us?

Okay, now you’re wondering if I am ever going to mention the plot. Well, I already did. You see, I have the feeling your enjoyment of this story is deeply linked to your attachment to the characters. The more you care about them, the faster you turn the pages. Don’t worry, the brilliant writing and the characterization make it easy to fall for them and you won’t even realize how involved you are in the story until you can finally detach your eyes from the page to see an hour has gone and you did not notice.

Enough with the characters, I hear you say. But this is my review, I do what I please! Okay.

A domestic thriller is tricky. People want to know what happens behind other people’s door, it’s human nature. But we all have a picture of marriage, happy or not, and stories about such a familiar concept can easily turn dull and lifeless. Fear not, for Michael Malone brings you a star couple and the key to their bedroom. This sounds way sexier than planned. In addition to an array of characters worthy of an Oscar-winning movie, you get to take a look at how bad things can turn between two people. A Suitable Lie is not an easy read. I was devastated, frightened, angry, hopeful, scared witless, heart-broken. Because there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. Because you can’t help but hope. Because it can’t be any worse. Well, I learned the hard way that it can be terribly worse than you expect. The author masterfully throws you into a hellish tailspin with nothing to hold on to. I ate so much chocolate during my reading I almost got sick. Because you’ll need support to watch Andy try and hold on to happiness. Try to fight for himself and his family. Try to understand. Try to be a husband. So much happens between those pages, I was blown away by Malone’s ability to keep me on the edge of my seat, nibbling at my beautifully painted nails like a neurotic addict waiting for the guillotine to fall. Abuse takes many forms and leaves scars of all sizes. I think what made the biggest difference here is that we get to see a man dealing with it. We are sadly used to hearing women talk about their experience, so to sit with Andy through it all – the jealousy, the possessiveness, the blows, the lies to cover everything up, the hurt, the guilt, felt familiar but also so different. The author hides nothing, and it is painful to turn pages but if you are anything like me, you won’t be able to stop. An argument, an accident. Another argument. A simple remark. It escalates so quickly you are thrown into this nightmare with the family and there’s nothing to do but to keep on reading.

As I said, my review was late to come because A Suitable Lie has made it to my top 10 reads of the year and I feel I can never do justice to my favorite stories. If you are looking for a story that will shake you and stay with you for a long time, characters that will haunt you and pages that will fly so fast as you’ll turn them to find answers, don’t look any further. Michael J. Malone’s book is a brilliant piece of work.

This disorganized rambling is my eternal thank you to Karen at Orenda books for so kindly providing me with a copy of this masterpiece and a thank you to the author for writing such an intense story.


46 thoughts on “In Our Family Portrait We Look Pretty Happy…”

    1. Thank you Marshie!
      Hahaha, I schedule them super early so I can pretend I’ve been up and very busy! 😂 It makes me feel productive even when I don’t do anything for the rest of the day!

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I’d like to wake up at 6am, that’s my shift start time so I have to get up at 5am, the week before Christmas I have to start work at 4am, up at 3am – now that’s crazy early!😂

            Ah, yeah, totally agree about going to bed early when you have to get up early to.😀


                1. The universe hates you 😂 My poor Marshie! But at least you’ll enjoy the entire day of your birthday! You’ll have more hours to receive love and enjoy your day! (Trying to find the bright side here….!)

                  Liked by 1 person

    1. This is a brilliant book, you won’t be sorry to read it! 🙂 I’m so glad my review convinced you to give it a try. Let me know what you think of it! I have the same issue, books are piling up in my Kindle and still I keep adding more!


  1. I have to rad this. Glad to see that you enjoyed the book so much and I do like the angle of having a male at the heart of the story. As always, great review. I will definitely add this to my TBR.


    1. Thank you! 🙂 I was a bit nervous about this review because it all sounds like a bunch of nonsense to me, I only threw in all my feelings and hoped for the best. I’m glad it convinced you to give it a try. It truly is a fantastic read, I would love to hear your thoughts on it.


    1. Thank you! I am happy you appreciate the review. I had such a fantastic time reading A Suitable Lie that I was hoping to convey all of my feelings in the review to let people know they just HAD to get the book 🙂


    1. Hahaha, I wish I could write that and get away with it!! It takes forever to stop fangirling and get my fried brain to work after a brilliant book. Maybe I should make my own reaction gifs and put them as reviews!
      A Suitable Lie is a must-read for fans of the genre, or people who want to see what a psychological thriller can do to you, or for … everyone actually! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Holy!!!!! This review rocks my socks off! You definitely did the book justice with your thoughts on it and I absolutely want to read this one!

    I also learned a new word- onomatopoeia- so all the boxes ticked with this review for me! 🙂

    Yeah, blown away! Again! 😉


    1. THANK YOU! I was so nervous about this one because it looks more like a fangirling piece to me, haha! But I love the book too much to tame my feelings. I had to check the spelling of onomatopeia, so I turned the writing into an English lesson. Thank you again, I’m so relieved you enjoyed it!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 😊 yes, one can see you absolutely loved this book but you did a fine job or drawing parallels from the book to real life and I think it has great impact. one can relate, you know?! you’re welcome! 😉


    1. I wish my brain would think of more to say than just “I loved it, go buy it!!” 🙂 Thank you, this book was very special to me because it made me feel so many things so strongly that I just needed to get it all out in the review. It still feels like a fangirling piece for me, but I could not find a better way to talk about the story.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This review is excellent! You are so correct about how hard it is to review something we love versus a book that didn’t quite do it. But this reviews conveys a great amount of appreciation beautifully!

    I also love that the MC is a male who seems to have been constructed so well with a lot of depth! I do not do it on purpose, but the majority of my books have strong female leads. I was just asking myself why this happens so much, a few days a go!

    Definitely adding this ❤


    1. Thank you! Sometimes I wish I did not love stories as much because reviewing them becomes so difficult when you’re suffering from a book hangover!
      It is the same for me, I read so many stories told from a female point of view that it has become the norm, and I was a first surprised to meet Andy and to like him so much.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you 😘 I wanted so much my review to be clear, detailed but not spoilery and most importantly well-constructed, but I only managed to unleash all of my feelings like this 🙂
      I must admit that when I hear about abuse, my mind races to the idea of a woman suffering. This is not right and this book puts things into perspectives I had not imagined.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. For someone who didn’t know what to say about a book you love, I’d say you did very well indeed!! I so want to read this one, I’ve heard nothing but praise for it – I think it may have to go on my Christmas list (cos even though I’m reducing the TBR, Christmas doesn’t count!)


  5. “Writing about a book you love is immensely more difficult than ranting about a story.”

    YEP. Yet you managed to write about this book both coherently and engagingly, seemingly without effort. I’m so jealous of your book-praising skills! *Two thumbs up.*


    1. Aw, thank you! 😘 it was only seemingly without effort! I stared at my screen more than once to try and conjure up the right words! But it was worth it, I love this book to pieces!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This was an amazing review of an amazing book! I gave this one 4 stars but the more I think about it, the more I like it. This was such a complex story!!


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