After five years in prison, devoted mother Patty Watts is free – and still proclaiming her innocence.

Waiting to pick her up is her daughter, Rose Gold – the daughter Patty was arrested for spending 18 years harming. Triumphant, Patty crows:

‘Riddle me this: if I spent almost two decades abusing my daughter, why did she offer to pick me up today?’

This is a fascinating question and forms the crux of a disturbing story of two mistreated women. Could Patty be innocent? Has Rose Gold forgiven her? Can they really reconcile?

What’s it about?

Rose Gold believed she was sick for eighteen years.

Then she realised her mother was the sick one – and a very convincing liar.

So why – when Rose Gold’s testimony sent her mother to prison – are Patty and her daughter planning a reconciliation? Or are they?

Master manipulator though she may be, Patty Watts isn’t ready for the devastation her daughter, now caring for her own child, is ready to wreak. Turns out, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree…

What’s it like?

Chilling. Fascinating. Dark.

Written in alternating chapters, both from a first person perspective, Wrobel gradually builds a picture of what Rose Gold has been doing during Patty’s five years in prison. The big question is, what is she doing now? Old patterns seem to be emerging, but who is in control this time?

Deeply damaged by their respective childhoods, both characters are so cold towards each other that it chills your heart. Upon learning of her mother’s troubled childhood, Rose Gold muses coolly on her mother’s coping strategies:

‘How, I wondered, had my mother hidden from his wrath? Had she gone for the obvious spots at first: her bedroom closet, under the bed, behind the shower curtain? And then as she got older, had she become craftier? Hidden in the car inside the garage, up a tree, in the giant freezer in the basement?’

Brrr. So, empathy is non-existent. But then, empathy has to be taught, and none of the adults in Rose Gold’s life have shown any to her – or her mother.

Patty’s character is even less sympathetic. Her response to her daughter’s apparent eating disorder is typical of her attitude towards Rose Gold:

‘Well, what do you know? My daughter is hiding something from me…All these years I’ve been telling people she was sick. Look who was right after all.’

Given these insights into their true natures, it’s clear that Rose Gold and Patty aren’t truly moving on from their dreadful history, but it’s still a challenge for the reader to work out exactly who has the upper hand in their twisted relationship.

Final thoughts

The premise is intriguing, the story is a slow-burn and the denouement is shocking. A great read for psychological thriller fans.


Like mother, like daughter? Themes of twisted family relationships reminded me of the wonderful ‘Good Me, Bad Me‘ by Ali Land, another superbly dark tale of the impact of child abuse.

‘The Recovery of Rose Gold’,
Stephanie Wrobel,
2021, Penguin Fiction, paperback