The Winter Children is a gripping thriller which follows the lives of husband and wife Olivia and Dan, and Dan's old university friend Cheska. The couple are struggling to conceive, and after several rounds of failed IVF, they decide an egg donor is best option - but Dan isn't comfortable with just anyone providing the genes for his potential child.
Cheska has two children of her own, and so offers to help Dan become a dad by donating her own eggs, a seemingly kind gesture which results in a successful pregnancy with twins. But Olivia still doesn't know where the eggs came from, and Cheska's intentions aren't as innocent as they may seem...
At first, I thought this was going to be a fairly predictable read. Cheska, with her wealth and selfish lifestyle, initially reads like a typical, almost cartoonish-villain. Her first chapter mention sees her smoothing a cream that's worth hundreds of dollars into her face ('Who cares?' she thinks. 'I deserve it all'), and her millionaire American husband and obnoxious children only further the 'rich bitch' stereotype.
However, as the book progresses, it becomes harder to know who you feel most sorry for - Olivia, because of the deception, or Cheska, because of her motivation, as you learn how she's been hurt in the past. The girls' school subplot is also an interesting addition, and whilst it's not the most original of tropes (teen pregnancy, young heartbreak), it does bring a brilliant reveal at the end.
The unraveling of the intertwining stories happens slowly, then all at once, and once you reach the final third of the novel, you won't be able to put it down until the final page.
If you're searching for an exciting winter read with plenty of twists and turns, The Winter Children could be the one to reach for...
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Release date: 10th December 2015