Midwestern girl Maddie knew that when she grew up, she wanted to get away. Encouraged by her grandmother and able to use her writing skills for travel books, she finds herself in the war-ravaged Balkans, falling desperately in love with this corner of the world and its honesty, its hometown bars, and eventually, British mercenary Ian. Despite the danger (or maybe because of it), Maddie feels alive in her beloved Bulgaria, but when it’s time to settle down and start a family, Ian can think of no better place than the boring Kansas hometown where Maddie grew up.
Their life together has its ups and downs. Ian’s lucrative contracts in places like Iraq give them more than enough money to get by comfortably, but the things he’s had to endure have left him scarred. He has trouble sleeping, drinks too much, and starts spending a lot of time in the basement alone.
Maddie is worried for their son Charlie. She’s worried for her neighbors. She’s worried for her best friend. And she’s worried for herself. After the incident at the campsite, Maddie isn’t sure she can trust her own mind to make the best decisions for herself and her son and seeks the help of a therapist. But will that be enough for Maddie to find the peace she wants for her family?
Beautiful Bad is a difficult book to read. It’s a difficult book to talk about. Not just an average domestic thriller, this novel is filled with darkness and heartache of a different kind. It’s well written and with strong and interesting characters, and it’s a powerful story. But it’s so much more. And if you’re not prepared to take on the darkness that can invade a human mind in light of a near-death experience, then this book is not for you.
But if you’re looking for more from your thrillers than just a couple of twists and turns, then Annie Ward’s Beautiful Bad may just be the novel you’ve been looking for!
Galleys for Beautiful Bad were provided by Park Row Books, with many thanks.