Don’t Let Her Stay Summary, Characters and Themes

“Don’t Let Her Stay” is a psychological thriller novel by Nicola Sanders. The story revolves around Joanne, a new mother married to Richard, who lives in a beautiful country house with their baby daughter, Evie. 

Richard’s 20-year-old daughter, Chloe, from a previous marriage, unexpectedly moves in, wanting to reconnect with her father and help with the baby. However, Joanne starts experiencing unsettling events that make her question Chloe’s true intentions and sanity.


Joanne, a new mother, feels isolated and overwhelmed while her husband, Richard, works long hours. Richard’s estranged daughter, Chloe, unexpectedly moves in, offering to help with their infant daughter, Evie. 

Despite initial excitement, Joanne becomes increasingly uneasy with Chloe’s cold demeanor and suspicious behavior. Chloe manipulates situations, gaslighting Joanne and casting doubt on her sanity.

Joanne finds evidence of Chloe’s disturbing intentions, including tampering with Evie’s medicine and a blackmail photo. She tries to convince Richard of the danger, but he dismisses her concerns, attributing them to post-partum psychosis. 

Joanne investigates Chloe’s past and learns about her mother’s suspicious death and the death of her younger sister, Sophie.

Richard reveals that Chloe was institutionalized after her mother’s death but insists it’s not relevant. He becomes increasingly hostile towards Joanne’s suspicions and urges her to seek medical help. 

Joanne reaches out to a journalist who covered Diane’s death, and he reveals that Chloe was a suspect and that Richard may be afraid of her.

Joanne confronts Richard about Chloe’s hospitalization and the deaths of Diane and Sophie, but he dismisses her concerns. She installs security cameras and decides to quit her job to avoid leaving Evie alone with Chloe. 

Richard, feeling betrayed, accuses Joanne of being mentally unstable. He leaves for a business trip, leaving Joanne alone with Chloe.

Chloe holds Evie hostage, revealing that Richard plans to kill Joanne and Evie to collect life insurance money, just like he allegedly did with Diane and Sophie. Joanne smells gasoline and realizes Chloe’s intentions. 

Richard returns unexpectedly, and Joanne locks him in the nursery after realizing Chloe might be telling the truth.

Joanne and Chloe escape with Evie, but Joanne returns to save Chloe. In the ensuing chaos, Richard is shot dead by Chloe, who claims it was in self-defense. 

Months later, Joanne and Evie live with Chloe, but during a visit to Chloe’s grandmother, Joanne is warned about Chloe’s manipulative and dangerous nature, leaving her future uncertain.

Don't Let Her Stay Summary


Joanne Atkinson

Joanne is the protagonist and the narrator of the story. As a new mother, she is adjusting to the demands of motherhood while dealing with isolation and loneliness. Joanne is portrayed as a caring and protective mother who deeply loves her daughter, Evie. 

She is also shown to be a loving and trusting wife, initially believing the best in her husband, Richard. However, as the story progresses, Joanne’s character evolves. She becomes more assertive, suspicious, and determined to protect herself and her child from Chloe’s manipulative and dangerous behavior. 

Her transformation showcases her resilience and strength in the face of adversity.

Chloe Atkinson

Chloe is Richard’s 20-year-old daughter from a previous marriage and the primary antagonist of the novel. 

She is portrayed as a troubled and enigmatic character with a history of mental health issues stemming from her mother’s death. Chloe’s behavior is unpredictable, ranging from childish and sweet in front of Richard to cold, manipulative, and even threatening towards Joanne when alone. 

Her actions raise questions about her true intentions and sanity, driving the suspense and intrigue of the story.

Richard Atkinson

Richard is Joanne’s husband and Chloe’s father. He is depicted as a successful businessman who is often preoccupied with work, leaving Joanne feeling neglected and alone. 

Richard is initially portrayed as a loving husband and father, but his blind trust in Chloe and his dismissal of Joanne’s concerns raise questions about his judgment and priorities. 

His denial of Chloe’s troubling behavior and his insistence on Joanne’s supposed mental instability create conflict and tension in the story.

Diane Atkinson

Diane is Richard’s deceased first wife and Chloe’s mother. 

Although she is not a living character in the story, her presence is felt throughout the narrative through the memories and conversations of other characters. 

Diane’s death, ruled a suicide, is shrouded in mystery and raises questions about the circumstances surrounding it. 

Her troubled relationship with Chloe and her alleged mental health struggles are hinted at, adding another layer of complexity to the story.


Helen is Chloe’s maternal grandmother and Diane’s mother. 

She appears towards the end of the novel, revealing crucial information about Chloe’s manipulative nature and expressing her concerns about Joanne’s safety. 

Helen’s warning to Joanne not to let Chloe stay serves as a chilling reminder of the potential danger Chloe poses and foreshadows the possibility of further conflict and tragedy.


Gaslighting and Manipulation

Gaslighting and manipulation are central themes in “Don’t Let Her Stay.” 

Chloe, the troubled stepdaughter, expertly employs these tactics to undermine Joanne’s sanity and isolate her from her husband, Richard. 

Chloe consistently contradicts Joanne’s memories, questions her perception of events, and subtly plants seeds of doubt in Richard’s mind about Joanne’s mental stability. 

This psychological manipulation is insidious and effective, leaving Joanne questioning her own judgment and increasingly dependent on Richard’s validation. 

Chloe’s actions create a toxic atmosphere of mistrust and confusion, where Joanne’s grasp on reality becomes increasingly tenuous.

Denial and the Consequences of Ignoring Red Flags

The novel also delves into the theme of denial and the devastating consequences of ignoring warning signs. 

Richard’s unwavering belief in Chloe’s innocence, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, blinds him to the danger she poses to his family.

His refusal to acknowledge Chloe’s manipulative behavior and potential for violence stems from his guilt over his first wife’s death and his desire to protect his daughter. 

However, this denial ultimately proves fatal, as Richard’s inability to confront the truth about Chloe leads to his tragic demise. 

The novel serves as a cautionary tale about the importance of recognizing and addressing red flags before it’s too late.

Isolation and Vulnerability

Joanne’s isolation, both physical and emotional, plays a significant role in the novel. Living in a secluded countryside house with limited social interaction, she becomes increasingly vulnerable to Chloe’s manipulation. 

Her husband’s long work hours and her own struggles with motherhood leave her feeling alone and unsure of herself. This isolation intensifies her doubts and fears, making it easier for Chloe to gaslight and control her. 

Joanne’s sense of isolation is further exacerbated by Richard’s dismissal of her concerns and his unwavering trust in Chloe, leaving her feeling trapped and powerless in her own home.

Motherhood and the Fear of Losing a Child

The novel also explores the intense fear and protectiveness that come with motherhood. Joanne’s fierce love for her daughter, Evie, drives her actions throughout the story. 

The threat that Chloe poses to Evie’s safety becomes Joanne’s primary motivation for uncovering the truth and fighting back against Chloe’s manipulation. 

This primal fear of losing a child fuels Joanne’s determination and resourcefulness, even as she battles self-doubt and the insidious effects of gaslighting. The novel ultimately highlights the lengths a mother will go to protect her child from harm.