Kirsten Calloway's life seems complete: with a happy marriage, talented teenage daughter and a fulfilling job in the NHS, she really does appear to have it all. But, while she loves her teacher husband, Mark, and has no desire to leave him, there is a problem: very little excitement, and a completely barren sex life.
Things come to a head when Kirsten attends an ill-advised school reunion. Memories of her first love are rekindled and bring into focus her current loneliness and frustration. When an old school friend reveals she uses an upmarket agency to arrange casual sex - and what’s more, it has done wonders for her marriage - it’s not long before Kirsten signs up.
Enter Zac, seemingly the answer to Kirsten's prayers: young, handsome and a thrilling lover, like her he has no desire to end his marriage. Kirsten revels in her new-found sexuality and for a while life has never felt so good. As the affair snowballs, juggling marriage, work and family with this sexual freedom becomes increasingly tricky, but still she is reluctant to give it up. Until Zac starts to want more. A lot more. Rapidly things start to spiral out of control, with fatal consequences ...
RJ McBrien attended York University, the Sorbonne and graduated from the Yale School of Drama. He writes for TV (Wallander, Spooks and Trust for ITV) and has sold scripts to major Hollywood studios, for whom he regularly works as a script doctor. Reckless is his first novel.
The idea of exploring the shadowy world of 'affair' agencies has been with author RJ McBrien for a long time - first coming to his attention (for research purposes!) back in the early 200s, and then being revisited first as a potential tv series, and now as a novel. The agency forms the main thrust over how this plot unfolds - and it's a fascinating one to choose - the initial decision to have an affair making lead character Kirsten initially rather unlikeable, but the authors skilful writing allows her character to come through well - the consequences of her decision taking her to extremely dark places that, whilst obviously upsetting for Kirsten, make fantastic reading.
This is a thriller that kept me guessing throughout - and whilst it is sexually charged (in the sense that Sex is the thing that spurs on the plot here), it doesn't feel gratuitous, and Kirsten's sexual frustrations and gratifications are key elements of the action.
R.J McBrien has mentioned that he was cautious in utilising a female narrator, but Kirsten feels very much like a well rounded person rather than a caricature - and the decision to have this thriller revolve around a woman having agency over her sexual impulses is rather refreshing - if this had been written with a man in the lead I daresay it'd feel like a very different kind of book altogether. There can often be a danger for thrillers to become rather over the top and silly, but there is a sense of realism here that keeps things grounded - it's fast paced and thrilling, yes - but it never goes out of the realms of possibility - with that sense of realism perhaps coming from R.J. McBrien's experience as a screenwriter for film and tv - and it certainly feels like this could be a tv show itself - a sexy and divisive piece in the vein of Apple Tree Yard perhaps.
Many thanks to MidasPR for a copy of the book