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A powerful, richly layered investigative story for our times, drawing on the personal stories of the author and other women who have been drawn into relationships based on duplicity and false hope.

Women the world over are brought up to hope, even expect, to find the man of their dreams and live happily ever after. When Stephanie Wood meets a former architect turned farmer she embarks on an exhilarating romance with him. He seems compassionate, loving, truthful. They talk about the future. She falls in love. She also becomes increasingly beset by anxiety at his frequent cancellations, no-shows and bizarre excuses. She starts to wonder, who is this man?
When she ends the relationship Stephanie reboots her journalism skills and embarks on a romantic investigation. She discovers a story of mind-boggling duplicity and manipulation. She learns that the man she thought she was in love with doesn’t exist. She also finds she is not alone; that the world is full of smart people who have suffered at the hands of liars, cheats, narcissists, fantasists and phonies, people enormously skilled in the art of deception.
In this brilliantly acute and broad-ranging book, Wood, an award-winning writer and journalist, has written a riveting, important account of contemporary love, and the resilience of those who have witnessed its darkest sides.


A meticulously researched blend of memoir and investigative journalism that reads like a gripping thriller. Her exploration of the complexities of emotional abuse is at once harrowing and revealing, especially when she draws on psychological theory to wade into the murky waters of narcissistic personality disorder. Wood’s prose is languid yet vivid and she establishes trust with the reader as she divulges her own moments of vulnerability and shame. Wood has woven together a deeply immersive, incredibly human narrative that reveals truths both personal and universal.

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Australian Bookseller + Publisher

Fake is a breathtakingly honest and beautifully written account of the emotional wreckage caused by fraudsters of the heart. I found myself cheering for Stephanie as she majestically wields her literary scalpel to dissect and expose a manipulative, narcissistic conman. This is an exquisitely written piece of work in which the author bravely bares her soul.

Kate McClymont

This book absolutely deserves a place along side Johan Hari's Chasing the Scream, Chloe Hooper's Arsonist, Jon Ronson's Psychopath Test and Sarah Krasnostien's Trauma Cleaner. It's one of THOSE books and I'll be pushing into every hot little hand I can when it arrives in my shop.

Neal Drinnan, Cow Lick Bookshop, Colac

An absorbing and deeply personal story which I think will resonate with many readers. Wood was in a relationship with a man who was largely not the man he purported to be, but there was enough truth to his stories that, on the whole, he checked out. She doubted herself. She spiralled into anxiety and depression. And then she slowly, painfully, discovered the truth behind the façade. Here she shares her story, as well as the stories of other women and men who have been similarly duped, because this shit happens. And it happens more than we may think. I particularly enjoyed the sections where Wood interviewed experts – anthropologists, psychotherapists – seeking information about why some people behave in this way and how people become victim to it. I’m still mulling over the description of how one can be addicted to hope, and the implications this can have on someone’s decisions.

Better Read Than Dead

As soon as I heard about this book, I was intensely curious about it. It’s based on an article that went viral in 2017 about Stephanie Wood’s experience being catfished by a manipulative narcissist. The lies he told to keep her on the hook were bizarre and, in some cases, totally unnecessary. But they kept coming until she was able to figure out what the real story was. The man she thought was a multi-millionaire with a harbourside apartment was more than likely of no fixed address. This book extends the original story with some in-depth reporting about the lengths this man goes to keep women (and there were multiple women!) going for years. It’s also much bigger than that, as it explores the world of online romance, how romance makes us crazy, and how predators use online dating as a way to manipulate and control people. It’s a fascinating story, and well worth a read.

Joel Naoum, Booktopia

Read this through in two gulps - has the forward momentum of a thriller, but beautifully-written and so insightful.Read this through in two gulps - has the forward momentum of a thriller, but beautifully-written and so insightful.

Margot Saville

This is a cautionary tale, but it’s also the story of a woman who came out stronger – and wiser – in the end. If you’re single, read it. And if you’re in a relationship, you’d better read it too (because as Stephanie Wood found out, being coupled up is not necessarily insurance against lying cheats).

Gabrielle Williams, Readings

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    July 2, 2019

    Vintage Australia

    352 pages

    RRP $34.99

    Online retailers

    • Amazon
    • Angus & Robertson Bookworld
    • Booktopia
    • Dymocks
    • Abbey's Bookshop
    • Boomerang Books
    • Collins Booksellers
    • Books Kinokuniya
    • QBD
    • Readings
    • Robinsons Bookshop
    • The Nile

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    July 2, 2019

    Random House Australia

    352 pages

    Online retailers

    • Amazon Kindle AU
    • iBooks
    • Google Play EBook AU
    • Kobo Ebook
    • Booktopia
    • eBooks
  • Audio Download


    July 2, 2019

    Penguin Random House Australia Audio

    RRP $27.99

    Online retailers

    • iBooks
    • Audible AU
    • Google Play Audio AU
    • Kobo Audiobook




I’m on the highway a few miles out of town when the noise starts: a scraping, grinding din that jackhammers my heart into my stomach. Behind me, semi-trailers menace and the road shoulder is narrow, but I brake, pull over, and when there’s a pause in the traffic, scramble from the driver’s seat to investigate what I’m sure must be a mechanical catastrophe. I crouch in the dust beside the front of the car and peer underneath. The damage is obvious. Some form of panel has dropped from the undercarriage and is dragging on the asphalt. The semi-trailers roar past and I decide my only option is to get back on the road and into town.

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Book Clubs
Fake Book Club Notes

Pick a fascinating non-fiction book for book club this month. Fake is a startling true story of love in a world of liars, cheats, narcissists, fantasists and phonies.


Stephanie Wood explores the pitfalls of love in an age of fakery.

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