It is 1922, and times are tough for the residents of this formerly well-off village of Camberwell, in England. A Champion Hill estate was once a place to celebrate, with hired help taken for granted.
But now, Frances Wray and her aging mother Emily are struggling, and despite the embarrassment, they decide to take in boarders.
I could feel the squeamishness of Frances as she and her mother greet Len and Lilian Barber, from the “clerk” class, and in the subsequent days, I could relate to her irritation with their behaviors (Len is loud, with a tendency toward suggestive innuendo), and Lilian seems spoiled (taking long baths in the middle of the day).
Slowly The Paying Guests unfolds, and we gradually come to see a slight shift. When did it happen? When was Frances first drawn to Lilian? And how did she succumb to long-forgotten passions?
Secrets, lies, and horrifying danger cloud the pages and reveal much. Everything speeds up quickly after something terrible happens, and we are left wondering if the dangerous secrets that Frances and Lilian share will cause their lives to unravel. Did Lilian have a hidden motive all along? Was Frances her prey? Or is there more to the story?
The ending brought about few surprises, and left things up in the air for some of the characters. I loved how the writer captured my interest and kept me turning those pages. Recommended for all who enjoy stories about secrets, lies, and betrayal. 5.0 stars.