Audiobook Review: The Next Wife by Kaira Rouda
I received a review copy from the publisher. This does not affect the contents of my review and all opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Genre: Suspense, Thriller
Series: Stand Alone
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (May 1, 2021)
Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
Narrator: Megan Tusing, Teri Clark Linden, Stephen Graybill, Rachel L. Jacobs
Kaira Rouda returns once more with another highly entertaining domestic suspense about one family’s secrets, scandals, and disastrous journey to self-implosion. What’s not to like? I mean, other than the characters who are all generally very crappy people—by design, of course. After all, you’ve not read a true Rouda novel unless you have had the privilege of being inside the minds of her narcissistic and delusional protagonists, an experience this one certainly provides.
In The Next Wife, readers are introduced to the Nelsons. Once upon a time, John and Kate were deeply in love and built a family as well as a business together. Fast forward to about twenty years later, however, their once modest startup has grown so large and successful that the company is about to go public, but they’re no longer a happy couple. John had left Kate a few years ago to marry his executive assistant named Tish, and boy, what a piece of work she is! Young, beautiful, sexy, and completely devious, Tish had taken advantage of the rift between John and Kate by seducing him, even going as far as to use the couple’s teenage daughter Ashlyn as a way to drive a larger wedge between them.
And in the end, her ploy had worked. As the new Mrs. Nelson, she now owns a part of the company that John and Kate had built, becoming very rich—and with the launch of the new IPO, they’re about to become even richer. But Tish isn’t happy. She thought she had everything under control, monitoring her husband’s phone and other communications, forbidding him to contact his ex-wife or daughter without her say so. After all, John needs no other person in his life but her, she’s made sure of it. So why is he suddenly getting all chummy with Kate at work, when the old hag should have resigned gracefully and gotten the hell out of their lives ages ago? And why can’t their spoiled little brat Ashlyn, who has an internship at her parents’ company, just mind her own damn business? Things are now getting super awkward with all four of them at the office, but Tish has cooked up an idea to get John all to herself. Immediately following their big IPO announcement, before anyone can stop her, she whisks him off for a romantic getaway, where she can have his undivided attention. With this move, Tish believes she has won…until something unexpected and horrifying happens, which throws all her best-laid plans out the window.
The Next Wife is the kind of book that makes you glad this is fiction, because sometimes the characters can get so over-the-top, you think to yourself that people this terrible can’t possibly exist. Tish needs no further explanation, but just when you’re starting to feel bad for Kate, you find out she’s not so innocent and pure either. You also can’t feel too sorry for John, what with his infidelity and letting himself be shamelessly manipulated by Tish. All in all, the only likeable character was probably Ashlyn. Hard not to sympathize with her, especially when she was still in high school when Tish started making the moves on her father, and at the time was too young to understand how she was being used. Now she just feels angry and betrayed by everyone in her life, including her own parents.
Anyway, this book had its ups and downs. When it first started, I thought the tone of it very similar to the author’s previous novel, The Favorite Daughter, because once more we were seeing the story through the eyes of someone who is completely self-absorbed and batshit insane, not to mention highly unreliable. Still, it gets easier once you come to accept the protagonist’s kookiness, and it even becomes kind of fun to see how much more extreme Tish can get. That said, I was pleasantly surprised when we got not one but several POV changes, alternating between John, Kate, and Ashlyn. The multiple narrators made the plot more interesting, not to mention I was truly knocked for a loop when the first big twist happened right at the beginning. I can’t say I expected things to take that turn, and actually thought it might have been a trick!
Beyond that, it’s difficult to say much more about the plot because that would be treading a spoiler minefield, and I’m not about to give anything away. Overall, the story was fairly basic, but decent. Sure, maybe the conclusion could have used a bit more bite, but I was greatly entertained regardless, and I’ll keep reading Kaira Rouda because she is fantastic at writing reprehensible characters. At the end of the day, I can’t really fault The Next Wife for being your standard thriller because it’s the perfect example of a popcorn read—light, fluffy, and low on substance but still oh so delicious and you just can’t help wanting more.
Audiobook Comments: Top-notch performance from all the narrators, but especially for Tish’s chapters because the reader nailed her wily southern girl persona, as well as for Ashlyn, whose youthful frustration and anguish over her broken family could be felt in her voice.