‘Funny, sharp and deeply poignant, One Night Only explore the pitfalls of fame, friendship and family secrets and gets under the skin of why looking back is not an easy thing to do…
Fame and fortune can’t hide the secrets of her past…
When fading soap star, Helen Redford, goes back to her old home town to make a TV show about her glittering career she catches a glimpse of the might-have-beens that drove her to leave in the first place.
Ex boy friends, old scores to settle, friendships gone sour, chances not taken,and secrets about Helen's family that have haunted her since she was a little girl.
Will Helen be able to put her past to rest?’
Just when the lull in ex-soap star Helen Redford’s work looks like it’s going to become permanent, she’s approached by the producers of ‘Roots’, a television show which delves into celebrities’ pasts, attempting to bring to light any hidden skeletons and produce some shocking revelations. Having been talked into taking the job by her agent, Helen finds herself returning to her home town to film, before performing in the very hall in which she was first discovered. Helen is unaware of quite how many memories will re-emerge, and unwilling to admit her deep desire to know why her mother deserted her when she was growing up. But after so many years, will her question ever be answered?
Flitting between the present and when Helen got her lucky break into show business in her teens, the reader gets a wonderful view of how Helen has changed over the years and what shaped her into the person she is.
The book has a relaxed pace, getting off to a slow start, but I was glad I stuck with it, from the first flashback to Helen’s teenage years I was hooked. I particularly liked her relationship with her singing partner Kate, which was completely typical of teenage girls in general!
This was a light read, but had some backbone and brought up some interesting issues, especially about how far the media should be allowed to interfere in people’s lives - even if some of the individuals involved are celebrities. Welfare is also very blunt about the paths that many take to become famous (she does a fine line in seedy agent!), and doesn’t glamorise show business at all.
‘One Night Only’’s storyline was deliciously unpredictable, but not completely unrealistic, which really kept me turning the pages. I was very pleasantly surprised by how much I liked this novel’s main character; she was very down to Earth and not at all conceited despite her fame, and I appreciated the book’s beautifully satisfying conclusion, which left me feeling I’d been properly looked after by the author.
3 and a half stars.
‘Were you a sherbet lemon or chocolate lime fan? Penny chews or hard boiled sweeties (you do get more for your money that way)? The jangle of your pocket money ...the rustle of the pink and green striped paper bag ...Rosie Hopkins thinks leaving her busy London life, and her boyfriend Gerard, to sort out her elderly Aunt Lilian's sweetshop in a small country village is going to be dull. Boy, is she wrong. Lilian Hopkins has spent her life running Lipton's sweetshop, through wartime and family feuds. As she struggles with the idea that it might finally be time to settle up, she also wrestles with the secret history hidden behind the jars of beautifully coloured sweets. Welcome to Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams - a novel - with recipes.’
Rosie Hopkins is an auxiliary nurse living with her boyfriend Gerard in London. When her mother coerces Rosie into going to help her elderly aunt, Lilian, Rosie moves into her aunt’s cottage in a tiny village deep in the middle of nowhere. Rosie sets about restoring Lilian’s old sweetshop, and soon finds herself becoming attached to its old-fashioned charm. It’s not long before Rosie realises that, even without the requisite wellies and ugly waterproofs, she could possibly be more of a country girl than she first thought.
Although I liked the novel’s storyline, I’m afraid it all felt a little ‘done before’: city girl moves to country, discovers kind rural folk and falls for hunky local man whilst winning over grouchy old person, seemed clichéd. Having said this, Colgan’s writing style was very readable and her lovable, slightly eccentric, characters kept me interested. The setting was gorgeous, and the author described it marvellously, especially when focussing on the changing seasons.
Some of my favourite moments were comic ones involving poor Rosie attempting to integrate herself into village life; I particularly liked her escapades on her aunt’s old bicycle. It’s easy to see why Rosie at first felt completely out of place in the village, but also why she ends up falling in love with it. I thought it a lovely touch that Lilian remembered all the villagers coming into her shop as children and even recalled what they used to buy.
The addition of some anecdotes and sweet recipes, supposedly written by Lilian, at the beginning of the chapters was a nice, original touch. I haven’t seen many novels containing recipes, and it’s something which certainly makes this novel stand out.
I was surprised that I didn’t enjoy flashbacks to Lilian’s life during the Second World War nearly as much as I thought I would. They were much shorter than the modern sections and so felt a little tacked on, almost like they were interrupting the main narrative rather than providing a substantial secondary one. In fact they seemed slightly unnecessary: the information the reader gleans from them, and which is actually relevant to the story, could have been imparted in a more concise manner.
I’m not a big sweet fan, but this book definitely had me craving something sugary and I plan to try out some of the recipes from it. I did feel that the plot was a little clichéd at times, but thought ‘Welcome to Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop of Dreams’ was light and enjoyable, perfect for an afternoon on the sofa, with perhaps a packet of pick and mix by your side.
3 and a half stars
'Heartbreak, headlines and Hermes – welcome to Brooke’s new world… Brooke and Julian live a happy life in New York – she’s the breadwinner working two jobs and he’s the struggling musician husband. Then Julian is discovered by a Sony exec and becomes an overnight success – and their life changes for ever. Soon they are moving in exclusive circles, dining at the glitziest restaurants, attending the most outrageous parties in town and jetting off to the trendiest hotspots in LA. But Julian’s new-found fame means that Brooke must face the savage attentions of the ruthless paparazzi. And when a scandalous picture hits the front pages, Brooke’s world is turned upside down. Can her marriage survive the events of that fateful night at Chateau Marmont? It’s time for Brooke to decide if she’s going to sink or swim…'
‘Last Night at Chateau Marmont” is the story of Brooke, a regular, ordinary New Yorker whose life is turned upside down when Julian, her musician husband, finally gets his big break and quickly becomes very famous. Brooke is a nutritionalist, working two jobs to support Julian whilst he concentrates on his music career. Brooke has faith in her husband and knows that he’s very talented, but not even she believes that he’s really ever going to become a superstar.
Then, almost overnight, it happens: Julian’s suddenly hot property. His single is flying high in the charts and he’s touring America, appearing at major award shows and on national television. Before long Brooke finds herself loathing the gossip columns, columns she used to love poring over with her friend. She’s missing her husband, who always seems to be away; she’s in trouble at work because of all the time she’s had off to support Julian and she can’t go anywhere without being photographed. Worst of all, Julian seems to be changing into someone that Brooke really doesn’t like very much. Will Brooke, Julian and their marriage be able to survive Julian’s sudden rise to fame?
The book is written purely from Brooke’s point of view, which makes for a very personal account; the reader experiences everything with her and so really understands what she’s going through. Her reaction to Julian’s behaviour when he becomes famous is very cleverly written, and the reader understands Brooke’s reaction completely, whilst accepting that Julian could ultimately be forgiven, thanks to their knowledge of Brooke and of her relationship with her husband.
I have to admit that I wasn’t overly taken by the characters in this book; none of them really stood out for me or were very original, the only one who I thought might turn out to be really interesting was Nola, who we don’t get to find out anything about: her role in the book seems to be purely as a sounding board for Brooke. It would have been good to have seen a bit more of her and have her supporting Brooke a little more directly. Perhaps the most disappointing character was Brooke; I did like her, but at times she was so ‘normal’ that she just came across as a little boring. The way she deals with Julian’s fame is a little irritating: she whinges and isn’t very supportive, she never actually sits down with Julian and explains how she’s feeling, never tries to work out how to make it better.
The storyline of this book was original and engaging – yes, the ‘sudden celebrity’ thing has been done before, but I haven’t read anything dealing with how the star’s spouse in particular deals with it. The section concentrating on the time before Julian becomes famous was particularly well done – although not the most exciting section, it’s a very important part of the story, and serves as a wonderful contrast with the crazy life that the two end up with once Julian is well-known. It’s particularly good at showcasing how happy and content Brooke was, and how stable and secure their marriage was then.
I really like Lauren Weisberger’s writing, and this novel certainly kept me gripped until the very last page, but, for me, it wasn’t quite as good as her first novel, “The Devil Wears Prada’; everything else that she has produced since is very good, but just not quite in the same league.
‘Alice Woodstock has been running away.
Well, not literally. She spends most of her time glued to her desk, writing about grommets and model aeroplanes. No, Alice is avoiding the real world because there’s something—someone—in her past that she’s desperate to forget. So when she’s commissioned to write about life in stately home Eversley Hall, she jumps at the chance to escape into Regency England, even if it does mean swapping her comfy T-shirt for an itchy corset. Perhaps she’ll meet her own Mr Darcy…
But when her past resurfaces in the shape of Leo Allingham, Alice is brought down to earth with a bump. Reckless, unpredictable Leo reminds Alice of the painful price of following her heart. And the new Alice doesn’t live dangerously.
Or does she?’
At first sight Alice Woodstock seems perfectly happy, but scratch the surface and old wounds immediately reappear. Cutting herself off as best she can from her ex-husband Leo, Alice keeps a past tragedy well under lock and key. But when Leo reappears and moves in with her, it looks like Alice is going to have to face up to and re-confront her past, until that is she’s offered a weekend job as a historical re-enactor at Eversley Hall, a local stately home. Immersing herself in 1814, Alice discovers the charms of James Fitzwilliam, the present dashing lord of the manor, and the joy of being someone without her own cares and previous heartache.
I thoroughly enjoyed Julie Cohen’s last book ‘Getting Away With It’, and love anything to do with the Regency period, so I was very excited when this came through my letter box and settled down to enjoy it almost immediately. I adored Cohen’s depictions of Regency England: her research paid off, and the sections where Alice was in nineteenth century character were very entertaining and informative about the age, and in particular about the fashions and etiquette of the time.
Although I understood that Alice’s new job formed a type of escapism for her as she was better able to deal with the problems of life is 1814 than those of the modern day, it was a bit bizarre how carried away she became with her weekend ‘Regency life’. In all other ways she seemed pretty sane, but at one point she took her love for, and immersion in, her work too far, which let the story down a little for me.
The characters making up the historical cast at Eversley Hall were a varied and entertaining bunch. I liked seeing them interacting together both in their work and outside of it, especially when one of the younger, less experienced, re-enactors would make a tiny mistake, and be pounced upon by the more professional members of the group!
Leo’s character was likeable, but I did get a little cross with him when he made a mess in the living room! I wanted to know more about what he’d actually been up to during his time apart from Alice; I need all the details before I can forgive a character any transgressions! His supportive and trustworthy side was highlighted by his behaviour towards Alice’s younger sister when she turns to him for help, and even Alice is forced to admit that she may have misjudged some of his previous actions.
I confess I was a little shocked when Alice’s secret was finally revealed: it really was very tragic, and I was expecting a cheerier read. However, Cohen knitted the plot together very well, mixing the heart-rending with some light relief, and the end result worked for me. I certainly became very absorbed in Alice’s life, and found I finished the book very swiftly! ‘The Summer of Living Dangerously’ certainly lived up to my high expectations.
‘Lou Clark knows lots of things. She knows how many footsteps there are between the bus stop and home. She knows she likes working in The Buttered Bun tea shop and she knows she might not love her boyfriend Patrick. What Lou doesn't know is she's about to lose her job or that knowing what's coming is what keeps her sane. Will Traynor knows his motorcycle accident took away his desire to live. He knows everything feels very small and rather joyless now and he knows exactly how he's going to put a stop to that. What Will doesn't know is that Lou is about to burst into his world in a riot of colour. And neither of them knows they're going to change the other for all time.’
When Lou Clark loses the waitressing job she loves, she’s got no time to wallow: financial problems at home mean she needs to find employment fast, so she becomes a companion/carer to a paraplegic named Will Traynor. Before his accident, Will lived a full, adventurous and exhilarating life, but is now unable to do any of the things he loves and is in a lot of pain. Lou accepts the job, hoping she’ll be able to cope with Will’s dark moods and general awkwardness. Then just when Lou is getting closer to Will, she discovers his plan to go to Dignitas and end his life. Lou’s immediate response is to attempt to change Will’s mind by showing him everything he still has to live for, but will she be able to change Will’s mind in time?
What I found particularly intriguing about this book was that the central question wasn’t whether Will’s quality of life was poor enough to warrant his ending it, but rather whether he should be able to end a life he’s not happy in. Not only Will’s feelings, but also those of his family, and of course, Lou are examined, and it really made me think about how such a decision can affect so many people, and provoke many different reactions.
Moyes did a good job of establishing a very strong social difference between Will and Lou: despite the fact that they lived quite close to one another, their families and homes are vastly different; this was perhaps the first obstacle that Lou in particular had to overcome before she and Will could become true friends. The relationship which eventually developed between the two was completely compelling and engaging, and didn’t feel at all forced or unrealistic.
I found Lou’s character interesting: she was far too comfortable being stuck in a rut, but for Lou to be truly happy and live the life she deserves, she needed to challenge herself and push her self-imposed boundaries. It’s Will who sees this, and he does all he can to help her.
I’m afraid I loathed the heroine’s sister with a vengeance: she was just so horrible, selfish and self-righteous. She thought about nobody other than herself and seemed to believe she was somehow better than Lou - who, if nothing else, was a much nicer person that her sibling. However, my hatred actually worked to the story’s advantage as it made me even more concerned that Lou should make something of herself.
I’m sure Jojo Moyes is getting absolutely sick of reading Tweets describing where her readers were whilst they cried pitifully at the climax of her book, but really, she’s brought it on herself – it’s such a sad story, I knew pretty early on that I’d be blubbing like the rest well before the end.
Moyes deals with an extremely sensitive and emotional subject very well, and has succeeded in bringing a complex, thought-provoking and heart-breaking issue into popular fiction. She’s done an incredible job with this brilliant book and deserves all the success it’s bringing her.
4 and a half stars
'Four women, one wedding and a day to remember – or rather forget …Anna’s world is rocked when she receives an invitation to her ex Toby’s nuptials – Toby was The One, The Love of Her Life, The One That Got Away. Will attending his Big Day finally give her the sense of closure she so desperately craves? Or will it only re-open old wounds? Clare is Anna’s best friend, the person who was there for her when she and Toby split all those years ago. But little does Clare know that Toby’s wedding day will also change her own life for ever. Ella is a classic femme fatale. She loves men and leaves them without a backward glance. But the one person who’s never fallen for her charms is Toby. As he prepares to get hitched, is it too late for a last-ditch attempt to win his heart? Finally, Rachel is the blushing bride-to-be. This should be the happiest day of her life. So how come she feels nothing but a terrible sense of foreboding?'
‘RSVP’ is the debut novel of Helen Warner, the Head of Daytime TV at Channel 4, and it’s a real corker.
Anna, our heroine, never got over her first love, Toby, whom she dated whilst at university and still considers her soul mate. She and Toby seemed perfect together but broke up just before they graduated – mainly due to a rather nasty piece of work called Ella, who’d been desperate to get her clutches on Toby for ages. Ella seized her opportunity at a party one night, and when Anna refused to listen to Toby’s explanations, the couple split up.
Ten years later and Anna is a teacher living with her career-driven best friend Clare. One night Anna goes to a university reunion and bumps into Toby, who invites her to his wedding to his fiancée Rachel. Anna’s convinced that going to Toby’s wedding will give her the closure she needs to get over him and move on with the rest of her life; she resolves to attend, however much it will hurt to see the love of her life marry someone else.
Will Toby marry Rachel or realise that Anna is the right woman for him? How will Anna feel coming face to face with Ella and her devious nature again? And will Clare find someone who can compete with her beloved career?
The lives of the characters overlap throughout the book and Warner is very good at building the dramatic tension, choosing the exact moment that the reader can’t bear to change character… and then promptly changing it – a great way to ensure that a novel isn’t put down until the end! The first half of the book contains a lot of time-jumping which I enjoyed – it’s always better to ‘be there’ with the protagonists at the time rather than just hearing about their reactions to something many years later.
I liked all the main personalities, although I found Clare’s behaviour a little bizarre during the second half of the book. Ella was probably my least favourite character, but then if you like Anna then it’s inevitable that you have to dislike Ella, at least a little bit! I did, however, appreciate the way that she developed throughout the novel.
Another character which was dealt with very well was Toby: Warner does a very good job of making sure that he always comes across as a ‘good guy’ in his dealings with both Rachel and Anna – it would’ve really turned the reader off Toby if he’d treated either of them badly and yet he does have to choose between them and as they both love him, one of them is going to get very hurt.
The flashbacks of Anna and Toby during their student days were very sweet; they really were the idyllic university couple, though so much so I was almost pleased that Warner had Anna and Toby argue a little when they meet up again: they were so adorable as the student couple but it was good to see that in the ‘real’ world they’d developed something of a more regular relationship, especially with Anna’s insecurity regarding Toby’s relationship with Rachel.
‘RSVP’ contains some lovely characters and an interesting plot with lots of twists, turns and flashbacks, making for a very enjoyable read. I shall definitely be on the look out for future books by Helen Warner; she’s going to be an author to watch.
‘Jane Urquhart's stunning new novel weaves elements from the nineteenth century in Ireland and Ontario into a contemporary story of events in the lives of one family. Recently returned to Lake Erie to study the migratory patterns of the monarch butterfly, entomologist Liz Crane moves into her family's now-deserted farmhouse. Casting a shadow over her life is the recent death of her cousin, Amanda Butler, a gifted military strategist killed in Afghanistan, and the disappearance many years earlier of her irrepressible, charismatic uncle. Liz explores the many-layered history of the eccentric Butler family, ancestral lighthouse-keepers, agriculturalists and dreamers and re-evaluates the lives of the seasonal workers imported each summer from Mexico to harvest the fruit on the farm, with them Teo, a young boy alone in his apartness. Surrounded by memories, Liz herself is haunted by a deeply buried family secret, by four different, unexpected love affairs, and by the tragic events that ultimately altered all their futures. In this eloquent and powerful narrative, Jane Urquhart brings to vivid life those fragile patterns of the past that shape who we are, and shows the extent to which we can be influenced by absences on the difficult path to understanding and forgiveness’.
Entomologist Liz Crane is studying the migratory patterns of Monarch butterflies at Lake Erie, Ontario. Her research centre lies near to her aunt and uncle’s recently deserted farmhouse, which Liz now moves into. The house contains many memories of summers past when Liz and her mother would spend the holidays with their extended family. Liz reminisces, recalling stories her uncle, who mysteriously left when she was a teenager, and of her ancestors who hailed from Ireland and North America, whilst trying to come to terms with the untimely death of her cousin Amanda.
The tale was exquisitely told: Urquhart’s prose is almost poetic at times, with a soft, gentle pace, which made the book very easy to escape into. Her descriptions of Lake Erie and the Canadian landscape were particularly lovely.
An important aspect of the novel was that Liz’s adult self was able to decipher more of what really went on between the grown-ups of her family during those long ago holidays, and the house itself holds some answers she’s been longing to discover.
I have to admit that I struggled with the heroine of the story: Liz just didn’t seem to have many likeable qualities. She wasn’t overly kind, didn’t offer help to her Mexican friend, Teo, when he needed it, and generally failed to capture my imagination. She was such a solitary character; it was hard to imagine her spending such sociable summers with her cousins. I also felt she was far too passive, spending her days revisiting the past instead of making the most of the present.
By contrast, Amanda’s clandestine love, which she confesses a little to Liz about, really interested me. I wish it had been dealt with in greater depth, perhaps by Liz meeting Amanda’s lover early in the novel and developing her own relationship with him.
‘Sanctuary Line’ was my first experience of Jane Urquhart’s writing, and I adored her style and the gorgeous depictions of the amazing landscapes into which her story is set. I also enjoyed the tales of Liz’s ancestors and was intrigued by Amanda’s mystery lover. However, Urquhart’s heroine didn’t inspire me as I so hoped she would. The book had a very intimate feel to it, mainly due to Urquhart’s the use of the first person, but embellished by Liz spending the majority of her time alone reminiscing ; I felt I was being confided to, which was a very clever way for Urquhart to have her readership connect with her very beautifully written novel.
3 and a half stars
‘Ellie Somerset is a great advertising copywriter going nowhere fast - a boyfriend who is always at work, a tendency to dress like a short-sighted bag lady and a Creative Director who rejects her fresh ideas - they all conspire to keep her just treading water. Even her Great Aunt Edith, a demon at filthy scrabble, has a better social life than she does. All that changes when Jack Wolfe becomes her boss. Whilst everyone else at the agency thinks he's Heathcliff in jeans, Ellie just sees a stalking, scowling Alpha male with a nasty redundancy plan up his sleeve. As Jack makes it his mission to smarten up Ellie's attitude and her appearance, it's time for her to prove herself. But that means getting closer to this very sexy, very wicked man, and as she does Ellie discovers that this particular Heathcliff has an awful lot to hide.’
Advertising copywriter Ellie Somerset is pretty happy in her job until Jack Wolfe joins her agency as her new boss. Although every other woman in the building is swooning over handsome Jack, Ellie feels unfairly picked on by him when he comments unfavourably on her appearance and interferes in her projects. However, as she gets to know Jack better and delves into his past, Ellie discovers the real reason behind his cantankerous demeanour.
“Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?” is Hazel Osmond’s first novel and I was impressed. She confidently told a well-written and frequently amusing tale, which flowed wonderfully, and definitely kept my interest. My one real criticism was the setting: I really didn’t find the advertising world a very exciting or vibrant background to the story.
Ellie’s aunt Edith was a brilliantly colourful character: there’s a lovely little scene where Jack beats her soundly at a game of naughty words Scrabble that really made me giggle. The bond between Ellie and Edith was heartwarming, and helped to highlight Ellie’s loyalty and kindness, the very qualities which enable her to break down some of Jack’s barriers after many others have failed.
I like a bit of alpha grumpy male as much as the next girl, but I did lose a little respect for Ellie when Jack treated her very badly and she continued going back for more - I expect my heroines to have more gumption than that! Of course Jack has a secret past that makes him generally guarded and irritable; Osmond does such a fine job of keeping the cat in the bag for just long enough that I was desperate to find out if my suspicions were correct. The chemistry between the leads was really well done, I adored the witty banter between the pair and longed for them to sort their differences out and realise their feelings for one another.
A book should make me react: that’s how I know I’m fully involved with the characters and plot, and ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’ certainly achieved this: it was a feel-good read, that made me laugh, but was also sad and though-provoking in places. I was definitely gripped and was very reluctant to put it down. Although obviously much longer than a traditional romance read, there were certainly elements of Mills and Boon in this novel; in particular the story contains few characters and the male is very strong, wealthy and powerful. It was also very easy to read, with good pace throughout.
‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’ was romantic and extremely entertaining, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. I had a really heavy cold when I read this and was very grateful to the author for taking my mind off my sore throat and pounding head for a while. Osmond’s second novel, ‘The Genuine Article’ is out in a few months, I’m already looking forward to it.
'Thirty-nine-year-old Kate had almost given up on love when she met her fiancé. Now she’s planning for the wedding she never dreamed she’d have. But things seem to be slipping out of her control. Diana, born on the day of the 1981 Royal Wedding, never doubted that one day she would find her prince. Newly engaged, and with daddy’s credit card in her grasp, she’s in full Bridezilla mode.
Against the backdrop of the other couple getting married in April 2011, both women prepare for the most important day of their lives. But will each bride get her perfect day? Or will it all become a right royal fiasco?'
Kate Williamson is getting married. At 39 our Kate was beginning to think that her ‘prince’ had forgotten to turn up for their ‘happy ever after’, but then she meets loyal, dependable Ian, who proposes to her at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Kate is thrilled, though pretty soon she’s finding that her family are organising a far bigger wedding than she had planned, and Ian isn’t exactly being the supportive fiancé that she’d imagined. Ian’s seeming indifference to anything to do with the wedding, combined with Kate changing job and her mum’s illness, mean that Kate begins to wonder whether getting married is really worth all the hassle.
Buying her dress from the same bridal shop as Kate is Diana, who, we learn, was born during the 1981 Royal Wedding. Diana is proposed to after she issues her boyfriend Ben with an ultimatum – we get married or we’re over. She’s determined that everything should be princess perfect on her big day, but will Diana’s quest for wedding flawlessness push Ben away for good? Just how many Titantic themed photos will he pose for before he begins to seriously reconsider his relationship?
An interesting sub-plot is provided by the story of Melanie, who got married on the same day as Prince Charles and Diana and who runs the bridal shop which Kate and Diana both buy their gowns from.
The 2011 Royal marriage served as a brilliant and original backdrop, and didn’t overpower the story at all. I thought it was a very clever idea to tie such an iconic, contemporary event into the book and thought that it worked well, especially in the case of Diana’s story, as the Royal Wedding means so much to her and is the benchmark against which she measures her own nuptials.
The contrasts between the two brides were wonderful: Kate just wants a simple wedding, surrounded by her closest family and friends, whilst Diana has to be one of the finest ‘Bridezilla’ characters ever created: poor Ben is well and truly henpecked and Diana’s plans make those for Kate and Will’s wedding look positively understated. I particularly liked the scenes where they were having their engagement photographs taken
The only complaint that I could possibly have about this book would be that I wasn’t overly enamoured with either of the romantic leads: Ben was too much of a wimp for my liking and Ian was a bit useless when Kate’s mum is ill. However, this didn’t affect my enjoyment of the novel in the slightest as the female characters were so fantastic.
‘Kate’s Wedding’ is great, frivolous fun complete with tiaras, tantrums and runaway unicorns rampaging through a town centre. Chrissie Manby at her finest.
'They drive each other crazy. And they both have something to hide. But we all have our secrets. It’s just some are bigger than others! Joe has a beautiful house, a great job, no commitments — and he likes it like that. All he needs is a quiet house-sitter for his rambling old place by the sea. When Tess turns up on his doorstep, he’s not sure she’s right for the job. Where has she come from in such a hurry? Her past is a blank and she’s something of an enigma. But there’s something about her — even though sparks fly every time they meet. And it looks as though she’s here to stay!'
Joe has a job that he loves, and a woman waiting for him in every country his work takes him to. He’s very set in his ways and a confirmed bachelor. So when he advertises for a housesitter to look after his house and dog whilst he travels, he doesn’t expect to find himself hiring Tess – a woman running away from her problems in London with a baby in tow and seemingly determined to lock heads with him at every opportunity.
He suddenly finds his life, and his house, being turned upside down by Tess and baby Emmy’s arrival. And what’s worse, he rapidly becomes intrigued by Tess and what exactly she’s running away from. Will Tess be able to keep her ‘secrets’ to herself whilst living with Joe? And is it possible that Joe could have some secrets of his very own?
Joe was a fantastic male lead: very sexy and brooding. His job, building bridges, made his character interesting and led to some brilliantly original scenes and a very perfect ending to the book. Unfortunately however, the man just doesn’t seem to know what’s good for him: I found myself almost shouting out loud with frustration at how he treated Tess, he was so infuriating! I just couldn’t put the book down until he sorted himself out and did what I wanted him to do, which took a while! Thank goodness he got there in the end.
Tess came across as a little weak at the beginning of the novel but then really came into her own. There’s one particular scene where she thinks that Joe is going to leave after an argument and she completely turns the tables on him – he will forever after have a fondness for Iggle Piggle.
The way the relationship develops between Tess and Jo is beautifully written, and I love that Freya North isn’t afraid to have the main characters come together in the middle of a novel so that the reader can watch their new relationship grow.
The setting of Saltburn-by-the-Sea was another great aspect of the novel. The descriptions of the region were captivating and it’s easy to see that it’s somewhere thought of with great fondness by the novelist. It’s not an area that I had heard of before, but I would now love to visit if I ever get the opportunity.
This is the first book I’ve read by Freya North; I’ve been meaning to try her writing for a while but just hadn’t got round to it until now. I found ‘Secrets’ a lovely, very romantic novel, with an incredibly sexy lead man and a cute dog and toddler chucked in – what more could you ask for? I’ll definitely be on the look out for more of Freya’s work.
4 and a half stars