The Ex-Husband - Samantha Hayes

Reading Challenge Category: Free ARC from NetGalley

Official Blurb:

You thought you were safe. Until he moved in next door…
I haven’t lived here long. The house is small and a little rundown, but each piece of faded floral wallpaper I peel away feels like unwrapping the second chance I never thought I’d get. I’m finally free to wear what I want, and I don’t flinch when I accidently burn dinner. My new home is warm, and the kids are safe inside. Anywhere would feel idyllic after the nightmare marriage I’ve just escaped.
But then I see my ex-husband Craig stroll past my window and let himself into the house next door. Fear chokes me. How did he find me? Does he want me back, or to destroy me for good?
As the removals van pulls away, Craig tells me it’s just a coincidence, that we can all get along and be good neighbours. But at night I lie awake listening to the sound of laughter and lovemaking through the thin wall that separates us, wondering if his new girlfriend is safe. And in the morning, I rifle through his trash, trying to guess his next move. I know how crazy I look, but I’d do anything to protect my children.
Weeks later, when the night air fills with smoke, and this quiet street dances with blue and red flashing police lights, all the secrets behind our two closed doors will be revealed. But after everything that’s happened, will anyone believe I’m innocent?

My Thoughts:

I've read most of Samantha Hayes' previous books and loved them all, so I went into this one with high expectations. I was utterly disappointed, as this was bad! I'm afraid I will not hold back with this review as this book was just terrible.
We meet Leah, who has escaped an abusive husband and has finally found a haven in her new home with her kids and a budding romance with Gabe. The book starts quite well as you get to know the character; she appears calm, serene and has her life in order. She is excited to meet her new neighbours when they arrive and hopes they can become friends. However, this turns nasty quite quickly, and her life unravels straightaway.
She suddenly becomes a screaming, irrational woman that has no support, and no one will listen to her. I was frustrated with the actions of the other characters around her; Gabe all but abandons her, her mum keeps singing her ex's praises, and even her best friend isn't that helpful. She is suddenly all alone dealing with her tormentor. I was happy at the end that we got an explanation as to why Gabe and her mum acted the way they did, but this was all that was good about the book. As for her lawyer, if mine ignored me like that, I'd dump her and find a new one. The situations she needed help with required immediate action and not just a lackadaisical phone call here and there.
There was just so much wrong with it, and there were a couple of times I wanted to throw my kindle across the room in exasperation with Leah's actions and thoughts. For example, she claims that she is petrified of Craig, yet she opens her door willingly for him one evening when he is obviously inebriated and allows him into the house. She just screeches at everyone who will listen instead of centring herself and getting her point across; she just made herself look like the crazy person Craig portrayed her to be.
Now that ending. I know the author was trying to give us a red herring by telling us what was going on in Leah's head, but those thoughts just didn't match up with her final action. She was obviously trying to descale the situation with Craig and telling him what he wanted to hear, but she was lying to us, the reader. This was all done for us to feel confused. However, I knew she was acting, and therefore her inner monologue made no sense whatsoever. It was poorly executed. The author should just not have included her inner thoughts, especially as they can't have been true.
The body we are introduced to in the prologue was a bit of a shocker, but the reasons for his death were clumsy, and I just rolled my eyes when I read the conclusion. In fact, I kept forgetting the prologue even existed throughout the book as we'd been introduced to a character and her problems back then that didn't really play that big a part in the story. I didn't need to know about her marital problems as she was inconsequential to the story. Leah's attempt to bond with her over similar issues also felt forced. Not every woman is in an unhappy marriage, so for Leah to assume she was just made no sense.
For me, this story dragged, and I only stuck with it as I've been so impressed with this author's work in the past, and I thought something amazing was going to be pulled out of the bag at the eleventh hour. I wish I'd given up at the 20% mark when I considered doing so, as it wasn't worth persevering with. The characters were all unlikeable; it was hard to care about any of the story as it was just so unrealistic (don't even get me started on who bought which house first, that isn't really explained, just accepted when it's revealed and once again made no sense). So, overall a very unsatisfying read and has left me wondering whether to read anything by this author again in the future? Was this just a blip?

The Ex-Husband
by Samantha Hayes
Date Started
2nd June 2022
Date Finished
7th June 2022