December 7, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

On June 6th, Siena Sterling’s The Game She Plays Takes Gaslighting To The Next Level

The Game She Plays By Siena Sterling- Summary

Goodreads Summary of The Game She Plays by Siena Sterling (review below): To everyone else, it was “just” a weekend house party—complete with a pheasant shoot, inside jokes, and after-dinner games. But for American Nicola Harris, swept off her feet by aristocratic Englishman James Shuttleworth, the weekend is her first chance to penetrate his close-knit circle of posh friends—people with names like Badger and Trez, people who will soon have the titles of Earl and Countess. Nicola is eager to fit in, but she can’t seem to navigate this insular world, where everyone speaks a private language, and secrets are hinted at behind the jolly jokes and witty barbs.

Just as Nicola begins to feel welcome, Juliet arrives. Mysterious, stunning, charismatic Juliet is also James’ first love—the one who left him heartbroken ten years before. Juliet holds the men in thrall and the women under her spell. And although it seems she can do no wrong, outsider Nicola senses something poisonous in her presence, something that sparks insecurity, jealousy, betrayal, and violence. Because Juliet is a champion game player, able to lure you into her circle by finding your most vulnerable spot….and when the game she plays turns deadly, everyone is a suspect.

The Game She Plays By Siena Sterling-Review

I did a stupid thing. Don’t be me. For some inexplicable reason, I did something I don’t normally do. Before reading The Game She Plays by  Siena Sterling, I looked at the overall Goodreads rating and skimmed the reviews. Why was this a problem? Because I really liked The Game She Plays, but having looked at Goodreads, I felt like I shouldn’t have liked it, which was very conflicting. I absolutely loved Siena Sterling’s The Game She Plays and regret looking at Goodreads.

Siena Sterling executes both the plot and characters tremendously. Her writing truly hands readers a villain you will love to abhor and a plot that tightens your chest with indignation for Nicola (the outsider dating James) throughout. One of the ways Sterling is able to create this breath-stealing atmosphere is by having the characters go away together more than once. This leaves you guessing as to when things will explode.

Additionally, even when the entire group isn’t together, Jules (the villain of villains) is creating chaos. This keeps The Game She Plays from becoming a typical destination murder mystery. It also keeps the water building to a boil, which is when everything comes together. There are more twists in The Game She Plays than a twisted mountain road. Every time I thought I knew what happened, I didn’t, and even after one reveal is made, another takes its spot. Wait. What the fuck was a running narrative in MY head.

The Game She Plays By Siena Sterling-Characters

There is a group of friends, and Nicola, the American, trying to fit in as she and James grow closer. However, I’m going to focus on the protagonist and antagonist. First is the protagonist, Nicola. Siena Sterling writes her inner narrative in a unique way. Nicola was a twin whose brother Daniel, died just after birth. Throughout her life, she has talked to Daniel as if he was alive. These conversations keep Daniel alive in her heart and memories, which creates a more in-depth look into Nicola.

Additionally, Nicola’s character growth and annoyance with herself are authentic and honest. She is constantly frustrated with herself for feeling so insecure around Jules (James’ Ex), and long-time friend of the group. However, throughout the book, this is balanced out by Nicola’s slow recognition of how Jules’ is playing with all of her friends, especially Nicola.


Thank you to William Morrow and Harperaudio for an advanced copy of The Game She Plays by Siena Sterling, which releases on June 6th.

Meanwhile, Jules is brilliantly written. She is just the kind of character to gaslight everyone and frustrate readers and Nicola through systematic actions that are of evil brilliance. There are plenty of questions we have throughout the book about the hows and whys of Jules’ behavior that add to the tension. The suspense doubles down between Jules’ actual behavior and what we don’t know.

Jules is everything everyone wants to be. She is beautiful, intelligent, and captivating. Yet, she also has a mysterious background stemming from her trip to Hong Kong. She has just recently returned when everyone meets Nicola, and although Jules provides an explanation, some pieces just don’t fit.

The Game She Plays By Siena Sterling-Final Thoughts/Audiobook

The Game She Plays is narrated by Caitlin Kelly. The structure of the book could easily turn into a confusing audiobook, but it is produced and narrated very well. Overall, I think The Game She Plays deserves a high spot on your TBR for the summer. It delivers and surpasses expectations for a character-driven thriller.

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