One Scheme of Happiness by Ali Thurm

My thanks to the publisher Retreat West for sending a review copy of One Scheme of Happiness. The decision to read was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.


It’s funny what you remember about childhood games.

Helen was always the wallflower at school, while Vicky and Sam were the golden couple. But as time passes, and the teenage sweethearts’ relationship begins to falter, Helen faces a choice – will she help her friends rekindle their marriage, or will she help herself to the man she has always loved?

A compelling tale of lust and obsession, One Scheme of Happiness tells the story of a love triangle that goes very, very wrong.

You know what they say…it’s always the quiet ones you have to watch.


With both the author, and the publisher being new to me – I was apprehensive about starting One Scheme of Happiness. My book blog is a place of positivity and recommendations, and it’s always awkward when I don’t enjoy a book, DNF and decline to review.

There was no chance of this happening with this book, however. I started it one evening, feeling very tired and desperately ready for bed, but determined to at least make a start. I decided to read a chapter. Before I knew it I was 30% in and today had somehow turned into tomorrow. It’s a very special book which can rouse me from tiredness, but the writing in One Scheme of Happiness is just sublime and had me enthralled from the first page.

The protagonist, Helen, is a fascinating character. The novel is told in the first person and is therefore entirely from her point of view. She presents herself as a quiet, mousey sort of a woman, one who has sacrificed her youth in caring for her sick mother. Following her mothers death comes Helen’s opportunity to live her life, for herself, for the first time.

This freedom is closely followed by the return of Helen’s estranged friend Vicky and her husband Sam, along with their two children. The two women reconnect and Helen quickly finds herself drawing close to the Taylor family, and in a position to either save or destroy their marriage.

I loved that this novel kept me guessing. I found Helen to be a complex character, with honesty in short supply – most especially with herself. Her narrative delivers a version of events acceptable to the person she wishes to be and it’s an interesting take on how we all view and cast ourselves in roles during key events in our lives.

I don’t think there is a single character who I could truly call likeable, there is no hero to root for, no victim to feel sorry for; but instead I was completely fascinated by the murky undertow of lust and obsession which swept through and powered the plot, sending it in unpredictable directions.

I’ve seen the ending described as being ‘satisfying’, however I’m a bit on the fence. When I initially read it I did indeed feel satisfied by the events. But, now as several days have now passed and it has played over in my mind; I feel conflicted. I wanted more. I felt as if Helen were holding something vital back about herself and her true intentions the entire novel, and this felt unresolved. However, I don’t know if a) this was intentional on the part of the author, as a final parting shot of unpredictability and complexity to cement Helen’s continuing state of mind or b) I’ve just got a plot thread stuck in my head that doesn’t really exist! Either way, just the fact that this novel has stayed with me in such a way that I’m still mulling events over days later, proves the power of the writing.

Manipulation seeps from every pore of this novel, its domestic, small Northern town backdrop featuring the ever-present lighthouse, a veneer of normality against a complicated woman and her scheme to recapture the happiness she feels she is owed. An exceptionally beautifully written book – One Scheme of Happiness is without doubt an early contender for my Top Reads of 2020.

To be in with a chance to WIN a paperback copy of One Scheme of Happiness (UK only, I’m afraid) check out my Twitter feed (@rowsonemma1)

One Scheme of Happiness by Ali Thurm will be published on 27th February 2020 by Retreat West, and will be available in both paperback and ebook formats.

4 thoughts on “One Scheme of Happiness by Ali Thurm

    1. Agreed – although it has to fit the book, which it did perfectly with this one as there’s so much unsaid and hidden beneath the narrative. It’s such a brilliant read! X


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