Lowen Ashleigh is a starving writer whose luck unexpectedly changed when she landed a lucrative writing contract for a renowned author named Verity. To fulfill this contract, she moves to the author’s home. Since Lowen arrived, she felt out of place and scared. Things get complicated when she starts to develop feelings for the author’s husband, but not as complex as when she finds a hidden manuscript containing Verity’s darkest secrets.
This thriller is narrated mainly from Lowen Ashleigh’s point of view. Still, it switches to Verity’s point of view for the manuscript parts. The story begins with Lowen being the witness of a terrible accident. In shock, she roams the Manhattan streets when a man intercepts her to ask if she’s okay. Instantly, she feels curious about this man who stopped because, in the city, no one seems to care about anyone. Not only is this man kind, but he also has a striking appearance. After sharing deeply personal experiences, Lowen notices he has a wedding ring and immediately feels disappointed. They parted ways, and she left for a meeting she couldn’t afford to be late for.
When she arrives at the building where her meeting is, she is surprised to find the man who helped her, Jeremy, in that same place. Lowen asks him if he’s also in the writing industry, to which he replies that his wife is. To her surprise, he knows that she writes under her real name. After her bizarre encounter with Jeremy, she finds her publicist, who was also her lover at some point. Lowen kept Corey as her publicist because he was good at his job, and they didn’t work as a couple only because he couldn’t separate the real her from her characters.
The meeting starts with the publicist, a lawyer, a representative, and Jeremy as a client. During this meeting, she discovered that Jeremy’s wife is Verity, a renowned and beloved author who suffered injuries and needed someone to finish her series. Lowen desperately needs this contract because she’s bankrupt, so she listens to the offer. They offered her 75,000 dollars for each book, 3 books in total. Lowen never had this money in her life. She quickly denied the offers when they mentioned press conferences and public events. Lowen is uncomfortable in public and feels pressured to have her name attached to someone so big.
Corey, the publicist, asks for a moment alone with her to reconsider the offer. Jeremy interrupts them, asking to have a moment alone with her. Corey doesn’t like the idea very much because he thinks he will lowball her, but he leaves the room anyway. Before Lowen even talks, Jeremy tells her to ask for a million dollars instead and no press. After trying to deny the contract, she ends up accepting it.
Lowen knows that Verity is injured but doesn’t know the extent of her injuries. Jeremy tells her that she would need to go to their house in Vermont to go through Verity’s documents and notes for her to deliver the books. Even though she’s hesitant, she makes the drive because she was evicted. Before going to the Crawford house, she studied the house online but still had an eerie feeling when she arrived, mainly because tragedy followed that family close. She read online about how their twin daughters died months apart and how Verity suffered a car accident.
She’s received by Crew, the only kid the Crawfords have left. When she meets Verity, she is shocked that her publicist team downplayed her injuries. Verity Crawford is a vegetable. The author’s office was crammed with documents and papers, making it impossible for Lowen to tackle it in a day. Initially, she was going to stay for only 2 days. Then, her apartment application was rejected, and Jeremy offered her to stay there until she could find a place when she got her advance.
During her book’s investigation, Lowen stumbles across a different document that seems like an autobiography. Despite the author’s note saying there would be darkness ahead, she continues reading. The first chapter is about how Verity and Jeremy met and how intense their relationship and sex life were. Lowen can’t stop reading because she wants to know more about Jeremy; this is her only way. She continues reading with the justification of getting into Verity’s mindset. Lowen decides to avoid getting sidetracked with reading the manuscript because it has nothing to do with the books she was assigned to write. That didn’t last long because she hoped to find more intimate scenes with Jeremy so she could fantasize about them instead of acting on them. The manuscript talks about how Verity became a writer and her obsession with Jeremy until it took a very dark turn.
Horrified, Lowen reads how Verity writes about hating her daughters before they were born because they took all of Jeremy’s love. She talks about how she tried to abort them and even disconnected the baby monitors and let them cry all day. After reading that, Lowen starts to doubt what happened to the twins.
After that, she becomes scared of Verityand she feels Verity staring at her. She then brushes it off as being too susceptible. After that, strange things happened, like she slept, walked and ended up in Verity’s bed. One day, Crew, the son, was in Verity’s room and ended up cutting himself with a knife, but when Lowen tried to retrieve the knife, it wasn’t there anymore.
While all of this is happening, Lowen’s feelings for Jeremy start to intensify as they begin to spend more time together. At this point, Lowen can’t stop continuing to read the manuscript, even if she’s horrified about what’s in there. She thinks about giving Jeremy the manuscript when she finds an entry that describes Verity attempting to murder one of the twins when the girl was just an infant. Even though it could benefit her to tell this to Jeremy, she decides against it because, after all, Jeremy’s suffering, she wants him at least to preserve the image and memory of his marriage.
Lowen and Jeremy were having intimacy when she spotted Verity at the top of the stairs and started having a panic attack. Jeremy assures her it’s not true because Verity is paralyzed. After this and other incidents, Lowen is dead set on catching Verity, so she puts a baby monitor and a video recorder; when she sees Verity moving, she calls for Jeremy, but it is too late. Lowen is fed up with her and goes to Verity’s room full of rage, and when Jeremy finds her there, he asks Lowen to leave the house. That’s when she decides to show Jeremy the manuscript. Consumed by pain and rage, Jeremy confronts Verity and is stunned that she was faking her injuries all this time. Lowen remembered a page from the manuscript and tells Jeremy how to kill Verity and make it look like an accident.
The epilogue narrates how they got away with the murder. Officially, Verity passed away in her sleep. A few months pass, and Lowen is expecting Jeremy’s baby. They needed a fresh start, so they sold the house. One day, when they go to the old house to finish cleaning it, Lowen sees that Crew got some things out of Verity’s bedroom floor, so she investigates. She finds a letter addressed to Jeremy written by Verity and starts doubting whether Verity killed her daughter and if she was innocent. Still, she doesn’t want Jeremy to find out or feel guilty because she believes Verity was evil and a threat to them. Therefore Lowen decides to swallow the letter.
What are readers saying?
With over two million ratings to this date, this book has an average of 4.34 stars. Fans are divided because of this open to interpretation, ending up taking sides as #TeamManuscript or #Teamletter. There was a bit of controversy regarding this book because it is not Colleen’s typical genre. While some loved it, others thought she should stick with writing romance novels. Colleen Hoover released a collectors edition version with an extra chapter that fans hoped would give them closure, but readers were even more confused.
Vannessa Johansson and Amy Landon narrate the Verity audiobook version. This rendition appears as a number #1 seller in the Thriller Romance category. They are mixed reviews with the narrated version. While some didn’t like the story, they recommended the audiobook because of the incredible performance of the narrators. Other consumers commented that they had difficulty listening after a while, specifically Verity’s voice. The highest reviews described this version as impossible to pause.
What Pros and Cons Readers seem to agree with?
- Page turner
- Plot twist
- Extra Chapter
- Full of Suspense
- Bland and dislikable characters
- Ambiguous ending
- Unnecessary sex scenes
Should I read this book?
Fans and detractors of this story seem to agree with an adjective to this story, and that word is “disturbing”. If this is your first thriller, you will either become a genre fan or never pick up a thriller book again. Some very disturbing scenes in this book will leave you wondering if everything was real. Read this book if you like jumpscares, psychotic characters, and plot twists. This book is not for the faint of heart. Make sure to check the trigger warnings before starting. Due to graphic scenes it is recommended that only people over the age of 18 consume this book.