The Pretenders

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Pub Date 5 Nov 2020 | Archive Date 11 Dec 2020

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Description

'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.


In her debut novel, Agatha Zaza crafts a modern domestic tragedy simmering with betrayal and deceit.

'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...


A Note From the Publisher

If you enjoyed reading The Pretenders, we'd really appreciate seeing your honest review on Amazon. Thank you and happy reading, Agora Books.

If you enjoyed reading The Pretenders, we'd really appreciate seeing your honest review on Amazon. Thank you and happy reading, Agora Books.


Available Editions

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ISBN 9781913099565
PRICE £0.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 205 members


Featured Reviews

** spoiler alert ** This was a really well-written book with an excellently weaved storyline. It follows the lives of different adults, through flashbacks as they sit together having a conversation. I thought the way that Zaza wove together the stories was seamless, and very compelling. That kind of book you don't want to put down. The stories themselves were surprising, which I loved, because I never feel surprised by books anymore, I often feel like authors are just doing the same things over and over. This however, was completely new, and every twist had me shocked. [spoiler alert] I didn't give it a 5 stars because I was sooo unhappy with the ending! I just wanted Jasper to be loved long-term by Holly, and her leaving him... well I literally wanted to scream at her. But a good emotional reaction is how you know it's a good book! TW: I wouldn't recommend this book to you if you're sensitive or vulnerable to descriptions of physical abuse, domestic abuse, miscarriages, or child abuse. The descriptions are intensely detailed, but they are there.

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It should be a normal, lovely day. Two couples visiting a family member, with happy news to tell. But while Jasper wants to surprise his brother Edmund, the latter has other plans (along with another loved one). Anne and John aren’t married but with daughters and a hectic life, feel as though they are. She doesn’t want to miss out on the celebrations, while John seems to have other plans. But everyone’s got a secret that they’d prefer not to tell… Over one day, there are big announcements and not all of them happy. This is a carefully layered read that draws you in – you are almost blinded by its simplicity but there is layer upon layer of revelation and the characters are written so beautifully. I had my heart in my mouth throughout.

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A story that the reader pleads with to develop as the desire to know what happened and how all the characters intertwine pushes on and on. The characters seem very real and the writing is an uncomfortably enjoyable setting of the scenes that all come together in a brutal finale. The reactions of the characters cleverly portray that modern-day stereotypes are often misguided and ill informed. The struggles that Jasper encounters both for himself and others are very well illustrated and lets the reader know that life is just never as simple as it should be. Moral dilemmas also make this book keep you turning page after page.

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This is an angsty book about relationships. I tend to like this kind of book and I really like the couples in it they’re very believable. I highly recommend it.

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6 people who lives are intertwined in a way that cannot be undone. Anne is married to John who is blithely unfaithful. Jasper still cannot deal with a past relationship (PTSD) but has asked Holly to marry him. Then we have Edmund, Jasper's big brother who for 4 years has been carrying on a relationship behind closed doors and unknown to anyone. We enter their lives on a fateful day, a sad day and a horrific day when you realise how it all ties together. A stonking good read thank you!

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Initially I found this book slow but once the characters were introduced, I was hooked. The underlying theme of secrets in the characters lives was thoroughly believable. As the book gained momentum, I couldn't put it down. The storyline behind each character was so well thought through and how the author then pulled it all together was so clever. I would highly recommend this book. I'm not quite sure of a specific genre as it is quite unique but I loved it.

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Loved this book a lot. 3 couples ask with secrets that mix between them all and none of them ready to share.. Great story, great characters and enough intrigue to make me read this book in 2 sittings.

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Well this certainly kept me on my toes... a book full of many twists and turns, stories old and new and relationships that connected the six characters. It was a fairly easy read and well written with a good use of words and character descriptions. I enjoyed it and it left me with wanting more...

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So good I read it in a day. A lovely writing style, accompanied by a solid set of main characters. I love the multiple perspectives throughout and the fact that the story is told cleverly, throughout one day. Or at least, the events unfold in one day. The mixture of past and present was a great way to have this story explored / explained. It was eye opening, heart breaking and honestly amazing.

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The story begins with Edmund smashing a child's outdoor activity centre. We are not told why but from chapter one you know you are in for a bumpy ride. The story follows the lives through flashbacks as they each tell their story. A very powerful and gripping story. Lots of shocking twists and raw emotion. I couldn't stop reading even though I was so emotional reading some of the pages. This would make a good TV show.

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I really enjoyed this book all the way through. It had a really good plot, great main characters and really keeps you hooked on the plot. I would highly recommend this book.

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Families are complicated but this one more than most. Jasper and Holly’s visit to his brother Edmund was to reveal the surprise of their engagement but Edmund has a life they knew nothing about. At first, it seems just like a group of family with little to say to each other. The fact that Jasper’s friend John and his wife Anne are there too and have never met Edmund makes for strained conversation. The real problem, though, is Edmund’s girl friend whose existence he has concealed for four years. Why? Because his brother and his girlfriend have a bad past. Not even the most dysfunctional families clock up so much cause for distress. The underlying tensions are well written and there are constant surprises for the reader. The prevailing question throughout is how it will end. This is a very well written, tense book and I recommend it.

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Actual rating 4.5 stars The Pretenders is an intensely dark thriller which had me intrigued from the very first page. Edmund is demolishing a playhouse in the garden of his architecturally modern impressive home. My immediate question was why? There’s a strange tense atmosphere as Edmund and partner Ovidia, returning from a long run, converse and the reader is left in no doubt that today is portentous for both of them. Again, you automatically want to know why. The spotlight then transfers to Edmund’s brother Jasper and his fiancée Holly together with friends John and Anne as they make their way to Edmund’s for a surprise visit. That Jasper is unsure he has the correct address for his brother, the fact he finds this suburban family home at odds with his brother’s character piques your interest. Furthermore when finding the front door ajar and Ovidia in residence in the kitchen you have to wonder why Jasper is so alarmed by her presence. Finally discovering Edmund, normally impeccably attired, in his pyjamas in the garden with the crossword and a tumbler of whiskey by his side completes the sense that this Saturday will be far from ordinary for all involved. You could literally cut the atmosphere with a knife and I was excited to discover what the author had up her sleeve in terms of ‘thrilling’ the reader. As with any thriller there are bound to be secrets that will become exposed as the day progresses but it is the manner in which these are divulged that will really hold your attention. Reading this thriller was like a breath of fresh air in terms of the writing style. In a departure from the norm, the author employs an understated way of revealing some earth shattering secrets that will shock you to the core, the impact of which is far greater simply because it doesn’t conform to what you may ordinarily expect. She doesn’t rely on cliffhangers or dual timeframes or multiple points of view but instead weaves these unpalatable truths into the narrative seamlessly, focusing on conversations that take place over the course of one Saturday. I loved the fact the narrative is simply divided into sections of one day in which individual backstories are revealed so that we can make sense of the uneasy atmosphere hanging in the air, learning of the secrets occupying their inner thoughts and shaping their current state of mind. It’s quietly compelling, shocking and sad in equal measure. In terms of the characters a few are either rather odd or simply detestable. Their relationships with their partners are perplexing and definitely complex which adds to the sense of intrigue. The problem is I couldn’t really relate to any of them although Ovidia’s obsession with running as a way of removing herself from reality does make total sense. Both Edmund and Ovidia come across as cool and aloof, almost detached from life going on around them which is again understandable once you learn of the turmoil and secrets they have endeavoured to keep hidden. Jasper is perhaps the most complex character in this group, his relationship with his brother Edmund playing an integral role in proceedings and is a pitiful figure. John is frankly quite repulsive, in terms of his behaviour particularly towards his partner Anne, who in turn is the most down to earth,pragmatic individual of them all. Holly, Jasper’s fiancée, being the outsider in this group is maybe the most deserving, alongside Jasper, of the readers sympathy. She reminded me of a rabbit caught in the headlights as she desperately tries to understand the reasons behind the tense atmosphere pervading this impromptu gathering on what should have been a happy day for her. The all important question is did I like this debut thriller and how would I rate it in terms of enjoyment? For writing style alone The Pretenders is worthy of at least 4 stars, providing the reader with a welcome change from what is usually on offer with this genre. I did struggle to engage with the narrative initially because of the cool detached tone in which events are relayed but it did grow on me so that I found myself applauding the author for her fresh approach. Having had the opportunity to consider my thoughts before writing this review I still can’t decide exactly how I felt once I’d read the last page but my feelings veer towards a more favourable opinion overall. The fact I found at least a couple of the characters strange and aloof also didn’t help when processing my thoughts;with their introduction I immediately felt that this group of individuals were pretentious and I would find it difficult to understand their mindset, which admittedly I did! Of course you don’t necessarily need to like the characters in a novel to engage fully in the storyline and it’s fair to say they are not the easiest people to relate to. As debuts go I think this is impressive and I will be interested in seeing how the author manages that ‘difficult second novel dilemma’. On the strength of this thriller we should be in for a treat. My thanks as always to the publisher and Netgalley for giving me the opportunity to read in exchange for an honest review.

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Really enjoyed this book of secrets . From the very beginning we are left with a sense of unease. What was planned for today? What has been interrupted? What is being hidden? The narrative was well written and the secrets were woven skillfully into the tale. The characters were layered and had depth to them which made them engaging and created empathy.

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this book is a must read. Compelling, dramatic and heartbreaking. It covers the story of one day as Jasper and his friends surprise his brother at his home, to celebrate his engagement to Holly. But it swiftly becomes apparent that all is not as it seems, and a series of vignettes show a deeper, darker story, The present day moments are all captured at the house of Jasper's brother Edmund, and the tension in the room is palpable as the various characters come to terms with events. Although the book is a slow burn, it had me gripped and I found it unputdownable. Spoiler alert - this book portrays domestic abuse, baby loss, and child abuse. All very sensitive topics but delivered in a way to really make you think. It would be a good choice for a book club, Thank you to Netgalley and the publishers for the ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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A very impressive debut novel with well developed characters, and the page turning question of what did Edmund need to do? The reason for the friendship between John and Jasper didn't quite work for me, but I look forward to recommending it to my bookgroup friends and discussing the motives and actions of Ovidia (trying not to give spoilers here!) and I look forward to reading further books by Ms Zaza Thank you to netgalley and Agora books for an advance copy of this book

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The Pretenders are three couples, newly engaged Jasper and Holly are in a taxi with older couple Anne and John travelling to call in unexpectedly on Jasper’s brother Edmund. They clearly arrive when something is badly amiss between Edmund and his partner Ovidia. The events take place across one day and track back to several years earlier. This is a good debut and it’s evident that Agatha Zaza has a lot of talent. She has created a good domestic noir with seething undercurrents which sometimes break through the surface and you hold your breath in anticipation of what may happen next. There are some shocking revelations which catch you unawares and shake you to the core. All the characters have secrets and some are BIG and difficult to get your head around. The characters of Jasper, Edmund and especially Ovidia are very well fleshed out but Holly, Anne and John less so. The storyline does take a while to get going and it is a slow burn but it’s well worth sticking with as it really ramps up and becomes compelling. I think the end, though not a happy one, is realistic and fits well with the narrative and kudos to the author for resisting any temptation to make it more rose coloured. Overall this is a well written, interesting, clever and multi layered slow burner and be prepared to be stunned in places. With thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for the arc for an honest review.

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I finished this unique book in stunned silence! I was so gripped by this one day Greek tragedy I almost read it in one sitting. Told over a single day the tension ramps up as the relationships between the three couples are revealed. With every turn of the screw, inexplicable details are revealed, hinting at lost love, lies, abuse, damage, rescue, protection and betrayal. As the pot simmered to a boil I began to think the unthinkable - surely not?

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Ms Zaza has written a taunt, dark thriller that found its way inside my head and seeped deep into my bones. Ovidia is a character who I thought about long after I had finished the book. Ms Zaza your ending is haunting, but absolutely perfect. This is Agatha Zaza’s debut novel, but she certainly knows her craft and I just hope she has a second novel in the pipeline.

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Wasn't sure what to expect from this book. I was pleasantly surprised. The ploy was really good and not what I was expecting. Lots of twists and turns to keep the pages turning.

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I enjoyed this book. The author weaves the characters and their lives together well. The secrets the characters are hiding are revealed gradually through the book, and the impact this has on the others is explored perfectly. A great read

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A very different compelling story of six people including two brothers both attracted to the same woman! Their shared history takes place in Edmund’s house and I was soon deeply involved in the intrigue, the deceit and the psychological complications of the relationships. Once I started I found I needed to keep reading until the end. I was not disappointed.

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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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This is a taut psychological drama about lies, sibling connection and betrayals. Set in one place (Edmund’s soulless mansion) and on one day (unannounced guests arriving to celebrate an engagement) it has the intensity of a well-written play where drop by drop hidden truths are unveiled and the characters’ worlds are irrevocably shaken. The pace of the novel is good, with drama from the offset quickly segueing to the uninvited party, the tensions that follow, and deftly woven in backstories. I found it gripping and enjoyable, but one to avoid if you’re in the mood for some cheering up!

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I love a novel where everyone has secrets and that you know it’s going to end with it all being out there in the open. This is that novel. Well worth a read and as a debut can’t wait to read more.

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This book had me from the first page...and kept me until the end. It is a tragic tail of relationships, deceit, family, abuse, and love. 3 couples spend an unexpected day together as the story twists and turns and unravels. The reader is unable to put the book down trying to solve the tragedy of the character’s lives.

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This book keeps you gripped in from the outset and lots of questions added throughout. I couldn't put this down!

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I enjoyed The Pretenders - a clever story of three couples and their relationships told over one day. When Jasper and Holly go to his brother Edmund's house to announce their engagement they arrive with Jasper's best friend John and his wife Anne in tow. The first surprise that Jasper encounters on their arrival is that Edmund is in a relationship with his ex, Ovidia As the day continues the secrets of the three couples are revealed and the ending is a tear-jerker. Many thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for the opportunity to read and review this unusual book.

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The Pretenders is the debut novel from Agatha Zaza, a simmering dark and shocking domestic dramatic thriller. Three couples, two brothers and two exes come together on a Saturday and by the end of the day all their lives will be changed forever. Jasper and Holly got engaged the previous evening and are going to celebrate by visiting Jasper’s brother Edmund. John is Jasper’s best friend, so together with his partner Anne they go along for the celebration. Edmund and his partner Ovidia are not expecting Jasper and his friends and don't want them to stay, They have an appointment to keep and something is obviously wrong. Over the course of the day secrets are revealed that have catastrophic consequences.  This is a good debut and it’s clear that Agatha Zaza has a lot of talent. She has created a interesting domestic thriller where you don't know what's going to happen next. There are some shocking revelations which will catch you off guard. All the characters have secrets and some of the secrets are HUGE. The characters of Jasper, Edmund and Ovidia are fleshed out but Holly, Anne and John not quite as much. The storyline does take a little while to get going and it is a slow burn but it’s worth staying with it because it really revs up and becomes gripping as the book goes on. I found the book enjoyable and look forward to Agatha Zaza's next novel.

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Three couple get together all with painful secrets and over the course of one day their worlds are shattered. This is a slow burner of a novel that reveals itself page by page. At the start of the novel you will never guess the ending and when you get to the end you want it to continue and know more about the lives of the couples involved. I was invested in the main characters early on in the story and wanted to know what their secrets were. I read late at night and again early in the morning to get to the end of this fascinating tale of love, loss and intrigue. Well worth reading.

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What's supposed to be a celebratory day turns into a disastrous one full of secrets and deceit. The Pretenders had me on the edge of my seat as I sifted through the pages. As I progressed through each chapter, I truly liked that I had no idea what was going on at times. The secrets between the dynamic of these three couples had me wanting more. The storyline continuously kept unraveling and each secret exposed had me mind-blown! It's interesting that each shocking event that occurred, happened all in the same day. Talk about an exhausting day full of unexpected emotion and shock for these characters! I thought this debut from Zaza proved to keep the reader on their toes as the story developed, and kept them wanting to know more about the hidden secrets of these character's prior history with one another. This was a fascinating thriller that was FULL of unexpected, dark bombshells that will leave each reader guessing! Thank you to Netgalley and Agora Books for sending me an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

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The Pretenders follows the story of 3 couples over one day, when one of the couples (Jasper and Holly) with their friends (Anne and John) visit Jasper's brother (Edmund) to celebrate his engagement to Holly without announcing his arrival. That day, Edmund and his partner Ovidia already had other plans, which they don't want to disclose to the other couples. Although the story is told always in the third person, each chapter focuses on one character or couple, and each of them has some secret they're not telling to the others. It's a tense story, in which you're continuously expecting one of the characters to burst in some way. I won't spoil the ending, but I was surprised about the final secret being revealed. The stories are compelling and I could definitely relate to one of the couple's situations, which really brought it home for me. I really enjoyed (if that's the right word) this book and will definitely be recommending it. Many thanks to NetGalley and Agora Books for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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This was a bit of a slow starter for me with some real vagueness about who was where, with whom and why. However, once you get the complexities of the relationships and their interactions straight this was a fascinating book, touching on depression, grief, loss, family tribulations, abuse, misunderstandings and love. In parts it is a difficult read from an emotional standpoint but the tough subjects are sensitively approached and are an integral part of the story so feel appropriate in their inclusion.

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This book follows 3 couples and a multitude of secrets. And in addition to a multitude of secrets, there are even more surprises and twists in the plot! It was brilliantly written, I was hooked on the plot, what was the huge secret Edmund and Ovidia are keeping? You won't see the ending coming! The only thing I will say is that it did end quite abruptly but it was still an immensely enjoyable read.

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I saw this book netgalley and requested to read it immediately and OH MY GOSH. I can't find any words.... The entirety of the book pretty much takes place in one dinner party. There are 3 couples, all hiding some huge secrets. Lots of betrayal, deceit and shock factor! Firstly, i spent most of the book thinking they spelt Olivias name wrong but turns out her name is Ovidia and secondly i JUST WANTED TO KNOW WHAT THE SECRET WAS I'm so not good with suspence. It's such a good book though, i read it in one sitting. The themes explored are SUPER important and frankly written so well! The characters are all interesting in their own rights and overall i just really enjoyed reading this! Highly recommend to pre order or buy /read when it's released!

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Saturdays will never be seen the same way after this experience as the Pretenders debut makes its way into every home across America. I absolutely adored and fell in love with Agatha's new thriller and wish it didn't have to come to an end as we examine the intricacies of deception, lies, and the long term aftermaths that roll across this landscape. The location was carefully chosen as much as the characters with Edmund out in the garden dismantling a playhouse. Ovidia was also a shocker not just because she was inside her home with the door open but because vibes are coming across in a chilling way. Secrets are alive and well and this new work is no different with plenty of significant twist and turns that make readers gasp for more. The stairs have taken center stage and someone knows the truth of the incident in hand. Keep in mind Jasper and Edmund are brothers yet they also seem cold in various ways and it's one situation that will forever change the trajectory of their lives together. It's that ending with Holly, Jasper, Ovidia, Edmund and more that is so powerful and dynamic in which readers are left in awe of Agatha's writing. Thank you to Agatha, the pub, NetGalley, and Amazon Kindle for this ARC in exchange for this honest review.

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The Pretenders is a dark, atmospheric, perfectly written character study. Tension builds as the unavoidable problems in their lives bubble to the surface over the course of one terrible day. As the drama begins, Edmund, fueled by an early morning whiskey, is ripping apart a pristine child’s playhouse in the backyard of his eclectically decorated Victorian home. His partner Ovidia, planning to leave Edmund later that day, has left for one of her regular long runs. They don’t know that soon they will have a surprise visit. Edmund’s brother Jasper, his new fiancee Holly and friends John and Anne, arrive at Edmund’s for an unexpected visit. Jasper wants to surprise his brother and celebrate his new engagement. Many other surprises follow. Jasper is at first shocked by the usually impeccably dressed Edmund’s appearance in dirty, blood-stained pajamas. If that weren’t unsettling enough, he sees a sweaty Ovidia in running clothes standing in the kitchen. Not everyone in the room knows that she was Jasper’s former girlfriend. John and Anne only know some of the story. They are busy concealing their situation from the others. The Pretenders is a difficult book to read. You know something(s) bad has happened and you turn the pages with apprehension. The ending is far from satisfying but it is understandable. 4 stars. Thank you to NetGalley, Agora Books and Agatha Zaza for this ARC.

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Wow!! It's not often I give a 5* review but this book deserves it. Massive thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for the opportunity to read this one. The book begins with Edmund and Ovidia in their luxury house seemingly living the dream. They are shortly joined by the newly engaged Jasper and Holly and their friends John and Anne. Gradually as the book progresses we learn more about the 6 and the secrets that they are keeping. I can say no more on this because the discovery is part of the beauty of this book. Zaza's dark writing style puts the reader on edge right from the beginning. We know something has happened and that that something is bad but it's not until the very end that everything is revealed. The reader is given just enough at just the right moments to keep the momentum up. A truly fabulous read.

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This is a masterfully written story about three couples and the secrets that they hold and how on one fateful afternoon, each couple's carefully constructed set of lies is blasted to smithereens. The reader can't anticipate any of it, but is compelled to turn pages, digging deeper behind the false face each person has presented to the world. This novel takes the reader on a page turning ride of unexpected twists and turns. #netgalley

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Three couples are celebrating an engagement. As time travels on, secrets are revealed. Jasper has just got engaged to Holly. Anne and John also turn up at Edmunds House. But when they arrive at Edmonds, they are surprised to see that Edmund is in a relationship with Jasper's ex, Olivia. This is the story of three couples who's deceptions and indiscretions reach a climax one night over a period of around twelve hours. The pace is steady as more and more secrets are revealed. The story touches on: love, misunderstandings, depression and abuse. There are some parts that some readers might find difficult. It's hard to believe this is a debut novel. It's well written with lots of twists. I would like to thank #NetGalley, #AgoraBooks and the author #AgathaZaza for my ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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Jasper and Holly arrive at his brother’s house to announce their engagement, along with another couple of friends. What ensues is a complex web of overlapping relationships, secrets and lies. This novel reminded me of Sally Rooney’s Conversations with Friends. The characters aren’t always likeable or endearing, but it’s well-written and intriguing, if a tiny bit cold.. Zaza has quite a matter of fact writing style -this felt more plot than character-driven - but I enjoyed the story slowly developing and touching on some unexpected and challenging themes. In summary, I’m sure this will be a bestseller. It’s topical and interesting although a little bit of a slow burn.

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To celebrate his engagement to Holly, Jasper arrives unannounced at his brother Edmunds house, together with friends Anne and John. As the reader is introduced to the couples in a fly on the wall exposé, we learn the secrets they have been keeping from one another which force them to examine their futures. This book easily draws you into the action, which takes place over one day with occasional flashbacks. The couples lives are cleverly interwoven into strange patterns which I found uncomfortable with at times. and as the story unfurled became even darker. This is a book I will remember.

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Such a good read. A violent start with Edmund smashing to pieces the playhouse in the garden, moving to his to his grief and sadness at something we the reader are not made aware of . His partner is also incredibly sad and accepting that this is a relationship that will be over at the end of the day. However, we are party to the love they share, so something doesnt make sense. This mystery and tension prevail throughout the book as we wait patiently for the denouement. The sadness is interrupted by the arrival of his brother Jasper, and his fiance Holly, together with another couple. The book explores each individuals story, whilst building further on the initial tension. A well written book that could easily transition to stage or screen. Contains some very original concepts

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I really enjoyed this one in the long run more than I did to start. This book goes into some deeper issues than I was expecting. And the twist that we learn were really well done. I enjoyed this book.

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Six friends, a lifetime of lies and a day of reckoning. The plot is complicated and it subtly moves between the present and the past. I found it hard to follow all the different characters and situations but was so intrigued that I needed to keep going to find answers. Addictive.

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I really enjoyed The Pretenders by Agatha Zaza. It is a dark thriller with many twists and turns which had me hooked right up to the end. The story involves 3 couples and the secrets they keep. I enjoyed all the characters and their complicated relationships. I definitely look forward to reading more by Agatha Zaza in the future. Thank you to NetGalley and Agora Books for my ARC.

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Read in a daybswept right into the story from opening pages.Three couples separate points of views secrets revealed.So many surprises twists and turns loved the writing,#netgalley#agorabooks

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I really enjoyed this fly on the wall style look at a very VERY awkward surprise gathering. What am I going to find out about how they are linked, why are they acting so strangely? Is someone not telling us something? (most definitely). Thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it over a few days! Don't want to give anything away but for those that like to read about family drama, conflicting interests and what goes on behind closed doors will love this book.

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A very confident debut novel by the author. The Pretenders is a great balance of domestic drama and being quite dark, where each character is interesting in their own right and has their own secrets - I found myself flying through the book to get to the end - desperate for every secret to be spilled - and the end is so much worth the wait. A terrific book.

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I can’t believe I almost gave up on this book after only a little way in. I decided to check out some reviews to see if I felt encouraged to read on, I was and I am so glad I did. Beautifully written with the biggest shocks seeming to simply pop out at you from a one line comment. So sad but such a clever telling of a sad tale. The characters all with secrets kept from each other were engrossing to get to know. I can’t say much more without spoilers so I will just leave it as a book I thoroughly recommend.

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I read this title without reading the synopsis, so the story was quite a surprise to me as it unfolded. This is a fascinating debut, so well written. A surprise visit to Jasper's brother's house with his friends to celebrate his engagement sparks off a day that none of them envisaged. Three couples with their own mysteries and flashbacks to what brought them to this day is very cleverly laid out. It is a compulsive read filled with mystery. Can't wait to read more by this author. Many thanks to Netgalley/Agatha Zaza/Agora Books for a digital copy of this title. All opinions expressed are my own.

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The Pretenders is a dark, atmospheric, perfectly written character study. Tension builds as the unavoidable problems in their lives bubble to the surface over the course of one terrible day. This story has such depth and soul as 6 people meet in one house where they then proceed to untangle how their lives have interconnected. It takes a day like this, where Edmund and Odivia are exposed as having had a relationship for years, a relationship which has lasted for years yet been kept from all their families. But why? A day when Jasper, Edmund's brother, and Holly are announcing their engagement. So why isn't everyone over the moon for them? Jasper's best friend John and wife Anne are having a rare night off from their children and their work, so why can't they fully throw themselves into being happy? Flitting back and forth in time between both the past and present, the narrative slowly unfolds revealing truths and shocks. This clever narrative structure jumps without warning to past events to provide background. It feels quite jarring at times, with one paragraph in the present giving way to a paragraph set a number of years earlier and it knocked me off-kilter a little. I think that we’re supposed to be feel disorientated and have far more questions than answers. To say anything more detailed would ruin the reading experience. Please just go in blind. This was a welcomed surprise and I really enjoyed it!

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Although this story is set over the course of a single day the depth of the back stories of the six characters is revealed slowly over the course of the book. I really like this onion peeling way of storytelling which gives an exquisite tension and mystery to the book. All the characters are revealed by the end and the book’s title makes more sense. The writing is very good and the story is original.

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This is so good. It almost reads like a play - the action is centred around 1 house, with 6 people who are connected to each other in different ways, all with secrets, all tied to this room unable to leave, descriptions are so full and vivid. The opening scene where Edmund destroys a play house and he and Ovidia sit slumped and separate in this magnificent house is intriguing but nuggets of information is fed into the story, sometimes in flashbacks, sometimes in conversation and gradually everything is turned on its head. Shocking, explosive, gripping - I couldn't stop reading it . A totally absorbing and satisfying read that will make you think long after you finish it.

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I have never read a book like this before - I was hooked from start to finish. There were some incredibly thought-provoking themes such as abuse, depression, family secrets, and deceit. I could easily imagine this book being turned into a TV series.

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The Pretenders  There are three couples, two exes, two brothers, just 6 people meeting to have a celebration on Saturday morning. We will read about that day, we will read flashbacks, we will go through that day discovering how they are all connected, discovering their secrets, witnessing different subjects that are really hard to get in touch with.  I have to say I just finished the book, I'm heartbroken, I feel hurt and I've been crying since the half of the story. This is a sign of how well written it is, at the beginning  it was a little bit slow, the first pages were hard for me to connect with the book, but then it was difficult to stop reading it, it took me just one day and half.  This looks like a gossip story, like it is about to discovering entertaining secrets of a group of people, but this book is deep, we are falling into complex topics while we're progressing with the reading. We read about domestic violence, bulimic, depression, love, infidelity, children, illness, family and friendship. This books show us how hard life can be sometimes, how strange and painful it is to be ourselves sometimes, this book is beautiful for the way it is written, exquisite narrative, but is emotionally awful. It made me think and to have several reflections, something that I found awesome about this story, even when it is painful, it talks about subjects that are not usually  spoken about in real life or literature. Violence against men, how they are treated when they are the victim, also how heavy it should be to become conscious that you are/were an abusive person, that you physically and emotionally hurt somebody, that you were a monster and live with the guilt. I have never stopped to think that an abusive person also hurts themselves in the process. The ending of this book left me hanging, left me going back to the situations to the characters. For my own sake I would highlight one point, family and friends are truly important, even when they are not perfect they can be life savers.

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Let's be frank: the book market is awash with domestic noir. It's there at every turn: on the tables at Waterstones, on the shelves at the supermarket, and on online homepages. Why? Because the genre is a phenomenon, and no wonder when titles like The Pretenders keep upping the game. The cover - a set of hands clinking wine glasses. The blurb: 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. So far, so expected, right? I began The Pretenders expecting the expected: a decent weekend read. Who doesn't want to have a bit of scandal, guilt, and more to lose themselves in? And it didn't let me down. This is bolder than many of the other domestic noirs I've read, and more hard-edged too. Set cleverly over the course of one day, the author has packed a heck of a lot of action in, and the denouement... well... I didn't see it coming. If an intense, dark read is your thing, this is for you. Bravo, Agatha Zaza!

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I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed The Pretenders. Zaza cleverly weaves the storylines of six different adults (three couples), drifting in to past stories of how they came to know each other before returning to the present day. That the story is based on one single surprise encounter demonstrates Zaza's skill as an author. Where I had inklings about what may have happened in the past or be about to happen (your fed snippets to keep you guessing) I did not anticipate the ending, and actually had a jaw-drop moment (which I don't believe I've ever had whilst reading a book!). The ending isn't what you hope and expect, and for that I loved it more. I did feel it ended a little abruptly, but nonetheless I quite enjoyed this read.

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I will start by saying i loved this book. The story revolves around 6 people whose lives are all connected from the past to the present. Some of the stories are tough to read but it is very well written. I can really recommend this book and I will look out for other books by Agatha Zara.

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Absolutely brilliant from beginning to end. I just wanted more of the book cos I enjoyed it so much.

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Thank you to Agora Books and NetGalley for the Reader's Copy! Now available. Part dramatic comedy, part romantic tragedy, part family drama, "The Pretenders" has a bit of everything for everyone. When Jasper surprises his reclusive brother Edmund with the news of his engagement, he ends up uncovering a lot more than he expected. Along for the ride are his fiance Holly, his best friend John and his uptight wife Anne. What starts as a group of acquaintances quickly evolves into a tangled web of deception, romance and deeply held secrets. One of the things that amazed me is the timespan Zaza covers in this book. All the central action occurs in a single evening but the book itself spans over ten years. An ultimate indictment of our "polite" society, Zaza mimes what happens when the gloves come off. If you enjoyed the Netflix show Lovesick, then this is the right book for you.

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Did not realize this was the author's first book until after I read it. She writes like a pro. Story line was engaging. I thought it was going to be a thriller, but the story line was more thought provoking as we learned more and more about each character, their secrets and how they were intertwined with each other.

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Ovidia and Edmund have made arrangements for their Saturday in Spring but their plans are to be thwarted when Edmund's brother, Jasper and new fiancée, Holly decide to pay Edmund an impromptu visit to celebrate their recent engagement, inviting friends Anne and John along, too. The Pretenders follows the six friends over the course of one day, with flashbacks over several years, as long-held secrets are uncovered. Little by little revelations are made, concealments surface and lies are exposed. The tension gradually builds and I soon found myself rapidly flipping the pages in my desperation to find out what was happening and what had occurred. Agatha Zaza's fresh, sharp writing style worked for me and the story included some convincing shocks along the way. A dark and compelling family-drama-style thriller that I highly recommend and a really great début to boot! I received a complimentary copy of this novel at my request from Agora Books via NetGalley. This review is my own unbiased opinion.

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This book had me engaged almost from the start. All of the characters have secrets that are slowly revealed as the book evolves. Some are small and some are big but all have interesting impacts on the other characters. Highly recommended.

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The Pretenders, is about three couples. We have Edmund who is outside destroying a playhouse whilst his wife Olivia looks on. Meanwhile Edmund’s brother Jasper is on his way with his new fiancé Holly to celebrate their engagement and friends Anne and John. Jasper is in for a shock as he didn’t know his brother was in a relationship and to top it all off, it’s his abusive ex!! If that wasn’t uncomfortable enough, they can see that they have interrupted Edmund and Olivia and the atmosphere in the house is a tad chilly!! I love how we get to know each individual character as we discover what secrets they are hiding. The flashbacks are a great way of learning the characters backgrounds I thought this was a brilliant debut. It’s very well written and has lifelike characters. There are some gasp out loud moments which I adore. Thank you to Netgalley for my copy in exchange for a review.

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A brilliant book full of lots of drama! Full of very interesting characters and a very crazy ending which I didn't see coming at all! Will definitely be recommending this book!

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The Pretenders is angst ridden look at relationships between couples and how they differ. It's plot is cleverly weaved by Agatha Zaza and each character has their own distinct personality that jumps from the page. A great read.

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I really enjoyed this book. It is heavily character led and I enjoyed finding out about their motivations and backstory. Each voce in the book felt fresh and different and I liked that contrast. This book has some tough themes: domestic abuse against men, the death of a child, but the writer does a really good job of writing about these in a sensitive, educated way. I was very impressed with that. Overall, this was a brilliant page turner, which kept me intrigued until the very last page! Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley for the arc. I would highly recommend.

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I really enjoyed this book! It was gripping from the start and kept me glued to it until the very end. Would definitely recommend!

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I received an ARC of this novel from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This novel and the storyline within it are stunning. The loyalty amidst betrayal I'd both admirable and insane simultaneously. This would make a fantastic book club pick due to the complexity of the characters and their relationships

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Fantastic read to start the year! 3 couples meet on a Saturday, two of the six are related, two have a past and all of them have secrets about to be revealed over the course of the day. A great read, which really ramps up in the second half of the book and many revelations I really wasn’t expecting. This book is really well written, I loved characters and the way the story tackles aspects of relationships that are not often talked about. It had me gripped until the very last page.

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This was my first book by Agatha Zaza and most definitely won't be my last. Tremendously written and paced with a great use of timeline to tell the storyline of these lives and all their secrets. Five stars, easy!

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This is a story of family and relationships with plenty of secrets where trust is hard to come. Three couples gather on a Saturday and all of their hidden away secrets become exposed. It is a very well written debut, that sheds light on the consequences of actions and secrets. It keeps the reader interested throughout with this page-turning story full of unexpected twists and turns. Thank you, NetGalley, for this e-ARC.

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The Pretenders is a psychological thriller that tells the story of three couples and their experiences as they gather to celebrate an engagement. It took awhile to get to the characters' various revelations. Their interconnections are often surprising, and you are eventually pulled into the story more and more because you want to learn more about how the story will pan out. It is a book of secrets and lies, and the toll that can take on relationships!

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Loved this one! So easy to read and lots of twists and turns along the way. Definitely a quick read and one I recommend.

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