Cross Her Heart book cover
Published: September 4, 2018.
Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job, and her best friend Marilyn, but when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it's time to let her terrifying secret past go. Then her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see. Lisa's world explodes,…


Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough, for me, was a good and easy read. Before expressing my thoughts and opinions on this novel, the brilliance behind its plot, pacing and characters. First and foremost, I have to say it promised more than it delivered. I couldn’t engage deeply with this thriller the way I wanted to. Albeit gripping, with a touch of intrigue. I would not necessarily term this an unputdownable novel. A most likely reason is, I believe the author was not able to deliver the constant impression she gave about ‘believable characters being caught up in extreme circumstances’ to the best of her ability. Don’t get me wrong, well-written but nothing to write home about.

“…A kind of empathy for someone’s fragility. For everything people hold inside.”

~Excerpt from Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough; Plot and Pacing.

Firstly. The story alternates between several narratives and different time periods. The alternating first-person, present-tense narration were woven together seamlessly creating the perfect balance between differing character perspectives. The narrative flows at a good enough pacing with short chapters that build up just enough angst to keep you intrigued to read more. Also, there were a lot of plot twists, some predictable, some not. Which brings me to the selling point of the novel; SECRETS, this brings about the mystery and complexity of the novel as a whole. What I love about the novel is how, right from where the narrative begins to unravel, it revises the questions of whether you really know those close to you and whether your whole perception of them would change if they had done something horrible in their past. Now this is where at some point I felt the author fell short. To clarify, I started the novel dying to uncover every secret, however, as the secrets slowly revealed themselves I found myself losing the excitement to reach a conclusion. That is to say, I ended up not highly interested in the answers or the path taken to get them.

“In any gaggle of women. There’s always one you have to watch.”

~Excerpt from Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough.

Secondly, I must say, the love and support the women have for one another in this novel is admirable. The prominence on female solidarity and empowerment depicted in the novel is a factor worth crediting the author. The women were the center of the plot right from the start till the end. I admire the author’s resolve to stick to that in spite of the inclusion of a male character that gave the impression of being a hero of some sort.

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough; Characters.

“The floating branch I cling to in the energetic torrent of my daughter’s life.”

~Lisa, Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough.

The female characters were well-characterized and complemented each other well. The three main characters each tell their story. Getting to know the characters first was absorbing and enjoying. Though I got little detail for some and nothing for others. Firstly, starting with Lisa who is one of my top two favorite characters. A very layered and complex character; a human potrait of paranoia, reserved, wary and overprotective of her daughter Ava. Lisa’s past centered on poverty, neglect and abuse. It was overall appalling and brutal. The character I felt attached to the most. Pinborough did a great job making Lisa a credible character plagued by her past, it was obvious from the start that Lisa is a survivor of some variety of trauma which she let define her present.

Secondly, Ava, my least favorite out of the three main characters and the most unlikable. Ava is an open book, quite the opposite of her mom. A typical rebellious teenager, which truth be told, she couldn’t really be blamed for. She seemed like an overall good kid, her rebellious nature seemed as a result of her mother’s overprotectiveness. Nevertheless, I strongly disliked how she treated her mother Lisa. Lastly, Marilyn. I love that I got to read from her perspective. My favorite character. Her friendship with Lisa is very admirable. Such a likable character, Marilyn sometimes seemed too in control to be real at the start. But eventually proved to be a realistic character.


As the story progressed, I honestly found myself losing interest. At some point, it became somewhat improbable to be convincing. An enjoying read no doubt, that started better than it finished. As much as I like how it ended. The ending for me was not so climactic, it was rather satisfying and somewhat predictable. Nonetheless I honestly enjoyed it, albeit some aspects didn’t really hold up but that is rather subjective.

3.5Overall Score

Cross Her Heart

Cross Her Heart is a twisty and unrelentingly grim mystery thriller about three women, their secrets and the power of female relationships.

  • Plot
  • Characters
  • Pacing
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3 thoughts on “Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough”

  1. Mubarak Bello

    Sarah Pinborough definitely could pick up some sentences from this review because the blurb she wrote seems lazily written like a Disney channel show story line, especially the second half of it. I wouldn’t look at this book twice after reading her blurb but your review redeemed and recovered it, revealing its richness in content, twists and very interesting characters with strong bonds. You single handedly saved this book with your honestly, skill and eloquence! For that, I’m definitely giving this review 5 stars

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