The Devil’s Playground by Eliza Freed
(The Faraway Series, #1)
Publication date: November 10th 2015
Genres: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Former U.S. Attorney, Meredith Walsh, took some time off to raise her children. But the time took away everything she once trusted about herself. She’s lost within the mundane confines of her children’s schedules of lacrosse, soccer, Cub Scouts, and math facts. Desperate for a sliver of her former passion, and isolated in the small town her corporate husband relocated her to, she counsels herself on risking her family for the rush of a fling.
But Vincent Pratt, the local chief of police, weakens Meredith’s abhorrence of affairs and her dedication to her family. With him, she finds a new version of herself, one capable of contributing in her new world, and thriving in her lonely home. In spite of the fact, she’s not the kind of woman who has an affair.
To say that I loved every moment of The Devil’s Playground would be an understatement. Eliza Freed’s writing is so descriptive, eloquent and absolutely hysterical, and every scene is magnificently written. It’s one of those books you’ll want to read in one sitting, and if you are unable to, then it will remain on your mind until the next moment that you are able to pick it up again.
I finished the book a couple of weeks ago, and since then not a day has passed where a scene hasn’t replayed in my mind. I will see or hear something that instantly takes me back to a moment in the book. The story and the characters within it are extremely thought provoking. For example, the symbolism of the plant, struggling to come back to life was beautifully intertwined throughout the story. Freed has a way of describing scenes with so much detail that you feel as though you are there with the characters. I found myself often rereading pages because of the beauty in which they were written. I even began highlighting quotes, because there were moments in this story that I feel the need to quickly revisit again and again.
I have to admit that after initially reading the description, I was hesitant and didn’t really think that I would enjoy the story. Being in a committed marriage, this book went against everything that I believe in. So cliché, but I most definitely judged the book by it’s cover. However, within the first few pages, my judgement quickly changed. I instantly felt a connection with the main character, Merideth. Like I had been for so many years, she is a stay-at-home Mom. Although I hadn’t given up a career like she had, I think every Mom can relate to that feeling of losing a part of yourself in raising your children. That combined with the disconnect that she felt with her husband- growing more distant from each other daily, she had a hole that needed to be filled. Then, in walks Vince, the gorgeous police colonel in the town they live in. The attraction between them was instant. Their relationship blossomed gradually, but from that first moment, he remained on her mind. The internal struggle within Merideth was constant, feeling that magnetic pull to him, yet thoughts of jeopardizing her family terrified her.
The dynamics between Merideth and her best friend, Jenna, were hysterical. Understanding each other and loving unconditionally as only true friends do. Then… there are the “other” Moms. You know the type, the ones that just drive you insane with the judgmental comments and seemingly perfect lives. The kind that have all the time in the world to not only “pin” things on Pinterest, but actually complete all of the projects too. That is where the hilarious term “unicorn” comes in. I smile just thinking of the word, which has since become a regular term in my vocabulary.
I just can’t say enough about this book. If you are unsure about reading it, like I was, let me tell you that you won’t regret it. I could go on and on about all of the parts that I loved throughout this story. I think in the end reflecting back, what touched me the most was the unexpected love shared between Merideth and Vince, that although forbidden, was extremely genuine.
I give this book 5 gigantic buckles and until the sequel is released, I will be left with thoughts of unicorns, cabins in the woods and lucky pennies.
Oh! My! God! The Devil’s Playground is a book that stuck with me for days after I read the last page. Days. And I read a ton of books—good books, too. But something about this story got under my skin.
Meredith Walsh is an ex-attorney turned stay-at-home mom. Her exciting life of depositions and trials turned into changing diapers, taking her two children to swim practice and figuring out where—if at all—she fits in with the rest of the mothers in her small town. Meredith wasn’t a woman that resented motherhood. She loved her children and graciously made her life all about them—though it did require her to give up a certain part of herself. Doesn’t motherhood do that to us all??? I never once thought she regretted her decision to become a mom or stay home with her children. She was a great mother to her children.
I did, however, get the very distinct and real impression that her husband Brad was more than happy that she released her career—not because he so wanted her to care for their children—but because he was jealous of her. Brad didn’t seem to be the type of guy who could handle his wife having a more successful, more liberating, more demanding or more powerful career than he did. He was selfish and thought his only duty as a husband and father rested in his “bringing home the bacon.” Sadly, I do think Brad is real in some relationships, which is why I felt so much for Meredith—despite what she did.
Being a small town girl, I know it’s hard to fit in. As an outsider, most of the women in Meredith’s town didn’t know what to think of her. She was smart, attractive and not your typical gossip girl. She was intimidating to the women but intriguing to the men—just another strike against her. Meredith could be your neighbor or the mom you wave to when you drop your kids off at school—Meredith could be you.
But Vincent Pratt—chief of police—sees something in Meredith that he just can’t seem to shake. Vince is not a home wrecker—he has a home of his own. He’s an attractive man with a heart and soul and good intentions. But even good intentions can go astray. Even good intended and good hearted people can do not so good things. And so begins the flirting, the emails, the texts… the affair. Is cheating ever right?! No!
I’ve been married to my husband for eleven years and together with him for seventeen. We have had our ups and downs. Our peaks and valleys. Our laughter and tears. Marriage is hard work. Hard. Flipping. Work. And that’s for the marriages that are good to begin with. But people don’t always end up in good marriages or the right marriage. No—it’s not an excuse for cheating. I’m not saying I condone the sneaking around, the lying, the affair.
Cheating breaks people and Vince’s wife seems like a nice lady. Even he wants to walk away from his marriage because he feels his wife deserves someone who wants her the way he wants Meredith. He’s not a bad guy. I will not be convinced of it. He’s made some errors in judgment—some mistakes—but he’s not devoid of feelings for his wife or his family. He wants to do the right thing. But what is that?
Eliza Freed weaves an incredible story here. The characters are real—as the reader, you can feel the emotions, understand their actions and thoughts and relate to the good and the bad. Ms. Freed even stirs in a good deal of humor. There were moments of tension, moments of heartbreak and moments of bursts of laughter. Read The Devil’s Playground with an open mind—I know the topic is not necessarily easy, but the story is beautifully told. The ending had me gasping and eagerly awaiting the sequel. I will certainly be checking out more books by Eliza Freed.
Five Amazing Silver Buckles
**This book was graciously provided by the author for an honest review.
Eliza Freed graduated from Rutgers University and returned to her hometown in rural South Jersey. Her mother encouraged her to take some time and find herself. After three months of searching, she began to bounce checks and her neighbors began to talk; her mother told her to find a job.
She settled into Corporate America, learning systems and practices and the bureaucracy that slows them. Eliza quickly discovered her creativity and gift for story telling as a corporate trainer and spent years perfecting her presentation skills and studying diversity. It’s during this time she became an avid observer of the characters we meet and the heartaches we endure. Her years of study have taught her laughter is the key to survival, even when it’s completely inappropriate.
She currently lives in New Jersey with her family and a misbehaving beagle named Odin. An avid swimmer, if Eliza is not with her family and friends, she’d rather be underwater. While she enjoys many genres, she has always been a sucker for a love story…the more screwed up the better.