‘Beautiful, haunting erotic love and an absolutely terrifying ghost story.’

The New York Times Book Review.

A Book-of-the-Month Club Main Selection.

At the time of writing this book review, I haven’t actually seen the 1988 film that was made from the book, but reading the film’s entry on Wikipedia certainly helped to clarify a few things that were left unexplained in the book, lol.

Not that I didn’t enjoy reading the book. Quite the contrary. I loved reading it. It gave me something to look forward to on those cold dark January nights just gone. It was a fantastic read right up until the last thirty-five pages or so, after which things became positively baffling and I admit I was disappointed by the ending, because I felt that the mystery surrounding Käthe, the joint lead character, hadn’t been resolved at all.

The book is an erotic mystery/suspense novel, written by the guy who wrote WATERSHIP DOWN. You know, the anthropomorphic rabbits? ‘Bright eyes, burning like fire…?’ Song made everybody cry? Ah, you know it. Well, this sexy, bordering-on-pornographic oeuvre was a bit of a change of pace from the poor wee bunnies. It’d really make you wonder how you’d go on to write one after the other…!

Anyway, the book is the story of Alan Desland, a quiet young intellectual Englishman who has made himself an expert in pottery and ceramics after the death of his father, whose ceramics shop he’s inherited.

The cultured Alan lives quietly with his widowed mother, in the very house where he and his sister Flick, now married with a child of her own, grew up. They live in a lovely quiet country town and it sounds idyllic, except for the fact that Alan hasn’t met the right woman yet and he’s starting to wonder if he ever will…

He stops wondering when he meets Käthe, a beautiful, mysterious young German secretary, on a ceramics-related trip to Copenhagen. Without knowing the first thing about the girl (indeed, he never really does), he falls head-over-heels in love with her and proposes marriage to her.

They get married and honeymoon in Florida, on the suggestion and offer of free accommodation from a business acquaintance of Alan’s. Then they come home to England, and straightaway Käthe is a huge success with Alan’s friends and family and even the women who work in his pottery shop.

Käthe really is the perfect wife. She’s a superb cook, she knows how to save Alan a few pennies here and there on the housekeeping, she becomes knowledgeable about ceramics and even acquires for a gobsmacked Alan the pottery find of a century (The Girl In A Swing), although to call it the find of several centuries might be nearer to the mark.

And the sex! My God, the sex. Alan goes from being impotent with her to becoming almost like one of his creator’s anthropomorphic bunny rabbits, rutting with his lovely young wife all the livelong day and night. They even have sex on the kitchen table once, while a whole roomful of acquaintances and friends wait for them just next door in the sitting-room. The dirty beasts!

Alan comes home from somewhere once to find Käthe naked as a jaybird and ready for loving on the swing in the back garden. Naturally he obliges her, and, when she wants them to have sex on the public beach as well one day, he obliges her in that too, the lovesick fool. (Their simple garden swing becomes the ‘sex swing’ of Joey Tribiani’s dreams in sitcom FRIENDS, lol!)

You know the word, uxorious, right? As in having or showing an excessive fondness for one’s wife? Well, that’s Alan Desland for you. As Käthe is unlike anyone he’s ever known before, and possesses a deeply ingrained sexuality that entraps, enslaves and enchants him, she quickly becomes the thing he cares about most in the world, maybe even more than his precious ceramic figurines.

But some things are happening around the young couple which give Alan no slight cause for concern, and which seem to be connected with Käthe in some way. There’s the sound of rushing water in the night, with no visible source for the noise. There’s the sighting of a corpse on a Florida river-bed, and the morphing of a seemingly harmless green cushion into a stuffed green tortoise toy for some reason…

Then there’s the sound of a child crying in the garden, but, if she’s only in the garden, why can’t Alan find her? Whose is the big black dog on the heath, and why is he hostile to Alan but not to Käthe? What’s Mrs. Taswell got to do with the price of fish? And why does she put me in mind of Billie Whitelaw as Mrs. Baylock in DAMIEN: THE OMEN (1975)?

Then there are all the dreams of drownings and drowned people, and then comes a night of such horror in Alan’s childhood home that he doesn’t demur when his distraught missus begs him to take her away from their house and bring her to… the sea, of all places. But, what with all the water-based ill omens that have been plaguing Alan so far, what on earth makes him think that the sea is a safe place to which to bring Käthe…?

The book falls apart at this point. Nothing makes sense any more. There’s a REBECCA-style inquest and a shame-faced confession of nudie seaside lovemaking but nothing that explains the dog, Mrs. Taswell or the dreadful night of terror in the house.

As I said, I probably learned more from reading the film’s Wikipedia entry than I did by reading the end of the book. I’d read 325 pages looking for a pay-off that never really came, which was immensely disappointing.

One minute, I’m reading what I feel might be a genuinely spooky piece of folk horror set in a breath-taking countryside location (the countryside is a surprisingly fabulous setting for a good horror story!), and the next, kablam-o…!

Still, the first 325 pages were spellbinding and breath-taking, and you should still read the book if ever you come across it. So long as you know that the end is confusing and doesn’t really explain much.

And that The Girl In A Swing is a real group of porcelain figurines, which lends a good deal of authenticity to the plot of the book. Unfortunately, it’s not authenticity it needs, but some clarity as to what really happens in the end. Oh well. Win some, lose some. It’s all grist for the mill at the end of the day. Happy Swinging…!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.




This lady has a few domestic thrillers to her name by now (THE GIFT, THE SISTER, THE DATE, THE SURROGATE), and all with the most gorgeous, eye-catching covers you’ve ever seen.

THE SURROGATE, as you can probably guess, involves a woman having a baby for another woman, one who can’t have her own for whatever reason. Katherine White, known as Kat, seems to have it all, but only on the surface.

Sure, she’s got her handsome hubby Nick, her lovely house and her fulfilling job at her husband’s best friend’s charity, but her hubby is being distant towards her and Kat suspects he may be having an affair, may even have fathered another woman’s child, and she’s convinced that someone is watching her lovely house, might even have broken into it at one point, but for what reason?

Kat is a woman with a lot of secrets from her past life. Tied up inextricably with this past life is her best friend from her childhood and teenage years, Lisa. Lisa has turned up again in Kat’s life, just when Kat is trying to cope with the crushing disappointment of her and Nick’s second attempted foreign adoption having fallen through.

‘Why don’t I have a baby for you and Nick?’ Lisa eagerly offers. Kat is shocked. After everything she and Lisa have been through together in their past, stuff which we as readers are not yet privy to, why would Lisa offer to do such a monumental, selfless thing for her? But Kat’s longing to one day hold her own baby in her arms over-rides her doubts and she finds herself agreeing to Lisa’s bizarre proposal.

Lisa gets pregnant with Nick’s sperm (enter Mr. Turkey Baster!) almost immediately. Kat is in the seventh heaven of delight. But little things keep niggling at her. For example, who is the man with the salt-and-pepper beard who is watching their house from the road and, sometimes, from even closer than that?

Why has Nick left his blue scarf in Clare’s house, and why does Clare’s daughter Ada look so much like Nick? Who is the man from Kat’s past whom she loved, and maybe still loves, even more than she loves Nick, and what does he have to do with Lisa?

And, speaking of Lisa, why does she seem reluctant to let Kat accompany her to her baby scan? After all, Kat and Nick have shelled out thousands of pounds to Lisa so far, for agreeing to have their child for them. They’re out of pocket because of it at this stage. Is there a chance that Lisa could be scamming them, perhaps with the help of another man from Lisa and Kat’s joint past…?

The twists come thick and fast in this one. In fact, it’s so twisty-turny that I had trouble keeping up with it, and I found one or two of the twists a trifle hard to believe as well.

Still, fair play to Louise Jensen; she’s worked out a good, complicated little plot that gradually (or for the most part, anyway) knits together and presents the reader with a neat little parcel tied up in a bow.

There was one red herring, as it turns out to be, that I thought could have been gifted to the reader as yet another startling plot twist but, alas, it wasn’t to be. The writer also has an obsession with her characters’ physical skin, I mean their actual epidermis, that I found made me feel a bit squeamish, especially when she was putting it on nearly every page: ‘My skin prickles; my skin is tingling; my skin is slick with sweat.’ Hmmm. Methinks someone has an itty-bitty little fetish…!


Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline.You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

You can contact Sandra at: