What secret is so big Bianca can't even tell her mother?

Christina Clemente is an interior designer and a divorced mother of daughter Bianca. They live in a modest flat and life is relatively peaceful. The only irritation in Christina’s life is her ex-husband’s apparent lack of interest in being with his daughter and his casual efforts to maintain contact. While Christina enjoys her work, she feels the lack of a loving male companion in her life.

One day a charismatic client, Jackson Plummer, enters her orbit and seems to be an ideal candidate as a surrogate father for Bianca and partner for Christina. Despite the fact that Jackson is a married man with two children, this does not deter Christina from becoming involved with him and they begin a passionate affair. Jackson is particularly good with Bianca which also cements in Christine’s mind, that this relationship is just what is needed to make Bianca happy, as she also adores him and looks forward to his visits.

It seems to the reader that this is the usual story of a married man determined to have his cake and eat it too as he frequently assures Christina that he will leave his wife and live with her …  soon. Jackson travels frequently with his work and Christina is happy to await his return while she continues to work and plan for the future.

Upon Jackson’s return from one of his “working trips”, he persuades Christina to move to a run-down property in the mountains which needs her expert design skills to renovate and turn into a suitable home for the three of them. Christina is not at first on board with this move but comes around to the idea when she visits the home and realises its potential.

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Christina puts her flat on the market and moves to the country, keen to commence work on the renovation and settle Bianca into the local school. Bianca, not happy about leaving all her friends behind becomes sullen and withdrawn which Christina feels will pass once she settles into the new environment. Anxious to help Bianca feel more at home, Jackson buys her a pony.

Unfortunately, Bianca is keeping a secret which she feels she cannot share with anyone, least of all her mother who is struggling to connect with her and baffled by her unhappiness. However, Christina’s main focus seems to be the increasingly expensive renovations and her relationship with Jackson which is not going well.

Eventually, Bianca’s secret is exposed and the shock and ramifications on everyone around them is immense.

This novel raises a lot of issues, not the least of which is the moral implications of being part of the breakup of a marriage and trusting a man who is happy to cheat. Christina seems to feel she needs a man in her life, even if he is married, to complete her.

From being an independent woman, Christina then gives up her independence totally to be under the control of a man who is not what he seems. I began to feel impatient with her total compliance with Jackson’s demands and her inability to get to the bottom of her daughter’s problem. This story flows well and is well written.

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The novel is thought-provoking and makes you question just how well you know the people you love and the price of truth when it is finally revealed.

The Making of Christina, by Meredith Jaffe, is available in paperback or digital formats from the publisher Pan MacMillan Australia.