The Scream Behind Her Smile

Romance - Suspense
284 Pages
Reviewed on 03/29/2019
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Amanda Rofe for Readers' Favorite

The Scream Behind Her Smile by Athena Daniels is a romantic thriller. After reluctantly agreeing to accommodate her husband's old school friend until she finds a job and place to stay, Claire finds herself increasingly sidelined in her own home. While Claire is a successful designer, she previously suffered a breakdown after the couple lost their four-year-old child. Derek uses his wife's mental health issues as leverage to manipulate her, increasingly calling into question her state of mind. Claire's friends side with her husband and, when she attempts to leave and cut all ties with him, she finds herself completely isolated with no money and no access to her business. However, there is a glimmer of light on the horizon. She attracts an unlikely proponent in the form of Zach Argos, a brooding local artist, famous for his art and rather shady lifestyle.

Athena Daniels has created a gripping novel full of heart-stopping drama and suspense. She has a natural ability to portray myriad emotions including grief, fear and passion. The way Claire is manipulated by her husband is well depicted and I felt a great sense of injustice on her behalf. Claire is incredibly likable and I immediately felt a fondness for her character. Derek, the villain of the piece, is played to perfection. He gives a chilling performance of an intense and controlling husband. The powerful hero of the hour is portrayed as a bad boy, brim full of raw sexuality, but this is tempered with a strong sense of honor. The Scream Behind Her Smile is a great contemporary psychological thriller with a solid plot line which had me reading late into the night. I thoroughly enjoyed every word.

Ankita Shukla

Wow! What a journey Athena Daniels has taken her readers on! The Scream Behind Her Smile by Athena Daniels is nothing less than a rollercoaster of intense emotions. Claire and Derek have been together for ten years. However, three years back, the loss of their five-year-old daughter has put them in a very tragic and weird place. While fighting the pain of this tremendous loss, Claire had to seek professional help, and Derek drowned himself in alcohol. Their marriage is at a standstill where they are together, yet very far apart. In this already confusing situation, Jasmine -- a friend of Derek's -- moves into their apartment for a few days. Claire had no knowledge of this arrangement and was caught off guard. When Derek and Jasmine's closeness began bothering Claire, she talked to him about it, but he brushed it off as the side-effect of Claire not taking her medication. Things became even more complicated when she found herself attracted to a man named Zach, whom she met at a wedding. This attraction was so intense that she found she lost all her senses at the mere sight of this man.

While most of us consider violence to be physical, emotional abuse also exists. The problem with emotional abuse is that you cannot show the signs of violence to your friends; as a result, you find yourself alone and confused. Leaving a marriage is a difficult decision, but justifying the decision to end a marriage is even more difficult when you are not sure whether there actually is a problem. This issue reflects deeply in Claire's situation. She knows there is nothing left in her marriage to save, yet she doesn't wish to overreact. She reminisces on the good times and struggles to make a decision. If your partner is feeling insecure, should you stand by their side or demean their feelings? Apart from the emotional struggles, Zach's mysterious appearance intrigued me a lot. I, as a reader, found myself interested in getting to know all about his past that he hid with so much passion. Raising this kind of curiosity in readers is definitely the author's biggest victory. The chain of reactions that followed Claire's decision is explosive and fascinating. I would recommend this book to readers who enjoy drama, romance, and suspense.

Louanne Piccolo

The Scream Behind Her Smile by Athena Daniels is a psychological novel challenging the notions of trust and deception in close relationships. Claire and Daniel have suffered the unthinkable – they’ve buried a child. Both struggling to move on, Claire turns to professional help and pills while Derek seeks solace in the bottle. Once Claire regains control of her life, she emerges into a reality very different from that she left behind. Her husband has invited a strange woman into their home; a woman Claire feels is threatening her security. How can she convince those around her that she is not a fragile and emotionally broken woman, but a person whose life is in danger? She meets Zach, who believes her, but is he as trustworthy as he seems or is he also mixed up in the web of lies her life has become?

The Scream Behind Her Smile is possibly one of the most thrilling novels I’ve read this year. There’s nothing as deliciously frustrating as the reader psychically willing a main character not to make the choices it is obvious she will make, and then see her make them. What is a reader to do other than frantically turn the pages to see how it will play out? Athena Daniels has spun a spell-binding story that is sure to seduce fans of suspense and give them a jolly good time. Her compelling writing style coupled with elements of high drama and disturbing characters makes for an emotionally intense read. Athena Daniels has a new fan in me!

Grant Leishman

The Scream Behind Her Smile by Athena Daniels is a love story that brings a lot more to the party than your traditional romance novel. Claire is a successful designer to the stars and the elite in Western Australia, but her clothing design has served a greater purpose than just fame. It was what saved her from the morass of grief over the death from brain cancer of her little baby girl. After three years of hell, during which time she struggled to even get out of bed following the death of her beloved Katie, the designing has given her some sense of worth again. To the casual outsider, it appears her husband Derek has been the ultimate rock and support for her during these trying times, but appearances can be deceiving. When Derek suddenly turns up with an “old school friend,” Jasmine (Jazzy), and offers her the chance to stay with them until she sorts herself out, Claire feels something is wrong but seems unable to act on her suspicions. It’s only when Claire meets the enigmatic, yet successful artist Zach that the reality staring her in the face seems to take hold. The chemistry between Claire and Zach is obvious and intense, yet Claire still needs to deal with her troubled past before she can move on.

Author Athena Daniels has created an extremely readable and relatable tale in The Scream Behind Her Smile. As a lead character Claire was real, believable and someone the reader clearly wanted to root for while at the same time feeling this intense desire to shake her out of her complacency and her naivety. What I particularly liked about this story was the author’s obvious desire not to minimize the incredible effect losing a child has on the parents. No amount of advice “to move on” or “to let it go” is ever going to make any difference. No parent dreams of this ultimate tragedy and when it happens, it is totally devastating to the parents. This whole premise was beautifully and sensitively portrayed by the author. Until you forgive yourself for what happened, you can never make peace with the present or the future.

The relationship between Zach and Claire was moving, powerful and incredibly sexy. I did love that Zach not only had a past but that he was actively dealing with reconciling with that past. Both Claire and Zach felt they had huge impediments in their lives to them ever being happy again but Daniels skilfully showed us that there is a way to let go without forgetting. I can highly recommend this book, especially if you love romance with some real meat on its bones. This is what this book has.

Deborah Lloyd

Three years later, Derek and Claire Hardt have not been able to rekindle the romance in their marriage after the tragic death of their daughter. Both worked hard at their careers. Derek’s goal was to become a partner in his accounting firm, and Claire created custom gowns and other exquisite clothing for elite clientele. When Derek invites an old friend of his, Jasmine, to stay at their home after her impending divorce, his relationship with Claire becomes more strained. Zach Argos, a handsome, sexy artist who has a gallery close to Claire’s dress shop, adds another mysterious element to the story. The romantic thriller, The Scream Behind Her Smile by Athena Daniels, is brimming with dynamic, conflict-filled scenes.

Set in a small Australian beach town, the wild waves perfect for surfing mirror the emotional turmoil within Claire and other characters in the story. Likewise, the description of Derek and Claire’s home environment mirrors the state of their marriage. Although there are many characters, the author has skillfully crafted each one. Many have hidden secrets, keeping the reader fully engaged, trying to determine which characters have good intentions and which ones are corrupt and dangerous. Another unexpected aspect of this romantic thriller is the authentic depiction of the grieving parents. Author Athena Daniels has written a gripping, enthralling story in The Scream Behind Her Smile. It is hard to put down once started. There are many unforeseen moments, adding to the compelling nature of the book. An exciting read, from the first page to the last.