I've had several Sarah Waters books on my to-read shelf and ended up choosing this as the first to read after it was recommended by a librarian. I wasn't necessarily disappointed, but The Paying Guests did turn out to be quite different than what I was expecting.
The book starts off well, with great descriptions of the situation Frances and her mother find themselves in. It is shortly after WWI and with her brothers and father gone, Frances and her mother are forced to take lodgers, or paying guests. While neither of them like the arrangement, it is the only way they can manage to keep living the type of life they are used to. I felt like I got a good feel for the society of the time and could really understand how Frances felt. I enjoyed watching the change from the discomfort when Mr. and Mrs. Barber, first move in, with the new noises and awkward encounters on the stairs, to the friendship that starts to grow between Frances and Lillian. After that though, is when I started to like the book, and particularly the characters, less and less.
While there wasn't anything terrible about this book, there were lots of small things that just didn't work for me and these kept adding up. I was all for the romance, but Frances got too pushy for my tastes and the relationship between her and Lillian felt rather forced. Then something awful happens (I don't want to give away too much), and things really take a turn for the worse. Frances and Lillian end up in a bad situation, but they way they handle it is ridiculous. As things progress, I feel like their choices go from questionable to downright terrible.
While I wasn't expecting the second half of the book to become a crime drama, and would have preferred that at least some of the characters be a bit more likable, this was still an enjoyable read.