Book Reviews

Book Review: The Pretenders, by Agatha Zaza

The Pretenders,

by Agatha Zaza

Publication: Agora Books; November 5, 2020


I’m perfectly happy lying to myself…If it means getting to stay with you.’

Jasper is ready to surprise his brother; Holly is ready to celebrate their engagement.

Anne tags along for fear of missing out, and John might just be going for another drink.

But Edmund and Ovidia had other plans for their Saturday.

Over the course of one day, these couples must own up to the secrets they’ve been hiding from one another and the lies they’ve been telling themselves. And face the devastating consequences.

Three couples. Two exes. One day. One reckoning.

*My Review*

Wow! I am so happy to bring you my review of The Pretenders, the debut novel from Agatha Zaza releasing November 5th! I loved the blurb of this so I anxiously requested it from NetGalley, but this book ended up being so much more than I expected…

So Ovidia and Edmund live together but she still has her flat across the street. When the novel begins, it’s obvious that all is not well with this couple. His brother Jasper decides to pay him a visit one Saturday morning with his brand new fiancé, Holly, and their close friends John and Anne. Talk about incredibly bad timing for a random and unannounced visit! 

So let me start with my criticism, but mind you, it’s minimal. This book started out incredibly boring for me. I started reading it and put it down several times to watch t.v., which I never do. However, if you give it a little bit to warm up, it’s so worth it. 

Moving on to what I love about this book – pretty much everything except for the slow start. I have read books by authors that have been writing for years or even decades that can’t develop their characters as thoroughly as Agatha Zaza. Mind you, I really have no clue what anyone looked like in this book except for Ovidia, but she painted a beautiful and painful picture of each of their souls, making me feel all of their emotions right along with them.

The Pretenders is a slow burn novel, but painfully so. As soon as the two couples show up at Edmund and Ovidia’s home, you immediately know that there is going to be tension and discomfort. But she reveals everything in very careful layers that are completely unexpected. I hate spoilers so I am trying my best to hold my tongue, but this author addresses a seldom discussed and almost taboo topic concerning Ovidia that I feel is long overdue. Ovidia and Edmund have some major issues. John and Anne have some major issues. And then there is Jasper and Holly’s relationship that by the end, almost seemed to be an afterthought. 

This novel is a character study involving lies, charades, masks that we wear, and the difficult moments of removing those masks. It begs the question of, “how well do we really know our family and our friends?” Even more important however, is the question, “how much are we willing to overlook concerning the ones that we love?” This book contains just about every screwed up issue you can think of. There’s emotional and physical abuse, miscarriages, death, eating disorders, co-dependence, adultery, depression, and so much more. However, I can say without pause, that The Pretenders is one of the best things I have read this year. 

I cannot fathom how this debut author can improve with her next novel, but she is certainly someone I would consider an author to watch and I cannot wait to see what else she brings us in the future. Take a chance on this new author and give this one time to settle in. It’s not a HEA novel but one that you should read. 5 amazing and enthusiastic stars!

*Thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for providing this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion!


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