I enjoyed H. A. Leuschel’s collection of short stories, Manipulated Lives, and I was really pleased when she offered me the chance to read and review her latest novella, My Sweet Friend.
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?
Like Manipulated Lives, My Sweet Friend focuses on the affect that a manipulator can have on those around them, why those being manipulated might not realise immediately, and why they may try to excuse the manipulator’s behaviour. It’s a topic that Leuschel knows extremely well through her studies, and this comes through in this novella (and her short story collection) with authentic characters and situations.
Throughout, I found myself wondering how I would react to the situation between Rosie, Alexa, and Jack. I like to think that I wouldn’t have allowed it to go so far (I like to think that I wouldn’t be in such a situation at all!) and yet I think it’s human nature to forgive to a certain extent, to not rock the boat too much and it’s this facet of human behaviour that manipulators seek to take advantage of. I thought that this was cleverly portrayed in the way that the manipulator in My Sweet Friend blames a misunderstanding or a misremembered event for their actions, and I could see how such a situation might evolve.
I loved the structure of My Sweet Friend which alternates between the manipulator’s perspective and that of their victim, giving both sides of the story. Whilst the victim’s perspective evokes sympathy and gives the reader a character to root for, hoping that they’ll come out of the situation unscathed, I did find the manipulator’s point of view to be absolutely fascinating. I thought that Leuschel was deviously clever in the way that the manipulator would twist events in their own mind and find a way to take advantage of the situation, even when it didn’t look all that good for them.
I thought that the length of this novella suited the story well, and for me personally it worked better than the short stories I’ve read by Leuschel. This is just my opinion, but I thought that this format allowed her to explore the manipulation over a longer period and through a variety of means so that the reader could see the full extent of their actions and the effect it had.
My Sweet Friend is available to purchase now and is currently available for the bargain price of £0.99 via Amazon Kindle! Many thanks to H. A . Leuschel for the copy.
Rating: ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐