Inspired by single-family homes with well-manicured lawns and the occasional stroller, a beautiful stranger approaches a young woman on her porch with her baby, inquiring if she would recommend the area for raising children. Hannah Bright responds affirmatively, encouraging the potential buyer.
Nearby, Stephanie, another young mother, is experiencing the debilitating sleep deprivation of newborn twin girls who awake every night with a chorus of screams from colic. And each time, Stephanie and her husband, Patrick, spend hours walking the babies, facing each day with insufficient rest. Stephanie feels it only fair to allow Patrick a few extra hours near dawn to be able function at work. She can catch some sleep when the babies nap in the afternoon. Patrick has just formed a partnership with Niall Foote, their architectural firm building a nice clientele.
With guilt and relief, Patrick leaves for the office each day, a brief respite from the torture their nights have become. When a stunningly attractive young woman drops by the firm requesting an interview for employment, a shocked Patrick pretends he has never met the applicant, Erica Voss, when in fact she is a ghost from the past, an unwelcome reminder of the dark history he left behind a decade ago. Content in his new marriage to Stephanie and a proud father, Patrick has kept the tragic circumstances of his first marriage from Stephanie, thinking to confide in his wife when their lives are less hectic and the twins are thriving. Erica's appearance at his place of business throws him into confusion, paranoia seeping into the already jumbled mind of a body sapped of reason. Erica's arrival is ominous, threatening the delicate balance the couple have managed to survive the nightly ordeal with the twins. He has yet to learn that Erica has preemptively visited his neighborhood.
Erica inserts herself into the lives - and thoughts - of the exhausted couple, Patrick forced to confess his long-kept secrets. Stephanie is bombarded with her husband's revelations, her idyllic life taking on another dimension. She wants to be supportive, even as he reveals more details, an endless recitation of errors.
Stephanie's debilitating exhaustion and confusion dominate the narrative, her commitment to motherhood unflagging as Patrick's nightmarish past infects the present. Erica's menace hovers over every day, draining Stephanie's energy, intruding on Patrick's work performance. Niall grows concerned about his partner's absences, his delinquencies affecting the firm's reputation. Meanwhile, the relentless Erica menaces the couple's marriage, pursuing other opportunities that arise, unable to resist her impulses to menace other vulnerable victims while she is in town.
The homes in the neighborhood reflect the happy chaos of young couples with expanding families, the sound of children's laughter breaking the soothing silence of a quiet afternoon, the faint music of an ice cream truck nearby, the daily rituals of parenthood. Stephanie finds comfort in her visits to Hannah, the cluttered domesticity and easy friendship, just two mothers and their babies, drinking tea and sharing stories and walks to the park.
The twins still gobbling up their parents precious sleep, Patrick regrets not confiding in his wife, grateful for her emotional support throughout their yet unresolved ordeal. With a new day, the sun shines brightly on the neighborhood. But Stephanie's house is dark, its inhabitants trapped in a sticky web of betrayal and deception, avarice and infidelity, anchored only by two precious little girls. Stephanie will do anything for them. Anything.
A growing favorite author for her domestic thrillers, Lapena's plots grow more sophisticated with each new story, the layering of subplots creating a reconfiguring of conflicts, mixing characters and conflicts, clever plot twists that upend expectations and fashioning a shocking collision of lies and truth.