Posted in Book Review, Books I have read, Mount TBR 2018

The Perfect Affair – Claire Dyer

Contemporary Fiction
4*s

I actually purchased this book way back in March 2014 but like so many other great books, it sat unread until I read The Last Day earlier this year which urged me to find out more about this author.

We meet the elderly Rose serving tea to Eve in a flat, renovated from the home that she’d shared with her parents. Her father’s coat still hangs on the back door. As Rose leaves to retire upstairs, she knows what is going to happen, it has been foreshadowed for a year when Eve and the man who rents part of her home, Myles first met. Rose knows that look…

This is a beautifully written novel, full of emotion but also accurately capturing the essence of an affair, or two.

The two stories, that of Rose and Henry in the past, and the one that is being conducted in the here and now between Eve and author Myles are both engaging. In case you are mislead neither affair is full of heaving bodies, the beauty is in their snatched moments of forbidden love of (for the most part) more cerebral kind.

In the 60s Rose shared a flat with Eve’s Grandmother Verity and relishing her single life meets Henry at work. The description of dresses, that Rose keeps into her old age along with a box full of memories are for the future, now life is for living but will her love of Henry win the day?

In the present Eve’s marriage to Andrew has become distant and to make matters worse she is facing their daughter leaving home to start her life as an independent adult. In short, in common with many women of her age, life is changing and Eve begins to examine what she has. When she meets crime writer Myles on a visit to see her old friend Rose, a spark is lit. But, the same question is raised, will the pair end up together, or apart? What was particularly enjoyable about this story is that the past was seamlessly woven with the present as Rose looked back on her life while watching over Eve in the present. This avoided the sometimes jarring quality of switching between time periods that can occur in the hands of a lesser writer.

The scenes where Myles struggles with his detective series lifted the book. It’s just how I imagine it – shall we have a dog walker finding the body? What will forensics turn up? All interspersed with Myles, not thinking fondly about his controlled wife Celeste, or his two sons but about the woman who he is falling in love with. As is inevitable if the reader is going to fully engage with the affairs, their marriages are not painted in a particularly flattering light, but nor are they painted so blackly that the reader is left thinking that no one would have remained in such a marriage.

The writing is brilliant and almost lyrical without being too ‘poncy.’ With a realistic look at two very different affairs, separated by years and circumstances, this book had me entranced. So even though romantic novels are far from my usual kind of reading fare, there was more than enough depth to this one to entirely hold my attention. I have to admit in many ways I found Rose’s story the more poignant of the two because there is the realisation of what discovery would mean for a young woman in that era and what it could mean for her future. As for Eve I will just say that my views were in accordance with Rose’s.

This is the 19th book I’ve read and reviewed as part of my Mount TBR Challenge for 2018. I am aiming to read 36 books across the year from those purchased before 1 January 2018. The Perfect Affair was purchased on 29 March 2014 and so fully qualifies.

First Published UK: 28 February 2014
Publisher: Quercus
No of Pages: 400
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

My Sweet Revenge – Jane Fallon

Contemporary Fiction 4*s
Contemporary Fiction
4*s

This is a light read which was much appreciated and what more appealing subject than laughing at a hapless, and dare I say it, self-opinionated man, whose wife has become invisible to him after twenty odd years of marriage?

I loved Paula, a slightly overweight woman, who had aspirations to be an actress when she first met Robert but those dreams were put on hold whilst he pursued his acting ambitions and she stayed at home and looked after the baby. She’d been fooled by the ‘I’ll concentrate on my career first and then it will be your turn’ line and of course, it had never been her turn.

Paula’s baby is now about to leave for university and Paula has a part-time job in a coffee shop when she unwittingly spies a text on Robert’s phone that has only one conclusion. Robert is having an affair with one of his fellow cast members on the popular TV drama Farmer Giles.

I can safely confirm that Jane Fallon is back on form with this funny novel detailing how Paula is going to take her revenge. There are laughs to be had at everyday life that we all share – how is it that a novice running for a bus means you’re not stared at (or laughed at) while donning fitness gear and attempting to do it properly means that all heads swivel towards you? Robert’s role on a long running drama – think of a racier version of The Archers on TV, also has plenty to quip about as does the other woman’s penchant for hot yoga! Paula’s method for revenge is inspired although somewhat ambitious and also leads to some somewhat awkward situations.

All of this might give the impression that what happens is predictable, but it isn’t, the author has managed to create some creative twists in the tale which added a great deal of pleasure and apprehension to the plot. Despite no lives being at risk, just hearts, there were some truly cringe worthy moments for me to chuckle at.

The storyline flows and Paula had my sympathy because she wasn’t too whiny about finding out the truth – I know that in ‘real life’ this isn’t particularly likely but it was refreshing to read a book where she missed the self-pitying stage almost instantly and moved straight on with a plan! How refreshing to read a book that isn’t full of the misery of human nature but one which allowed me to laugh at the absurd way we humans often behave whilst sharing some of the less than charitable thoughts that I have about some types of character, their pastimes and ambitions from time to time! She may have been cheated on but it would take far more than that to beat Paula.
My Sweet Revenge moves at quite a pace with never a dull moment with even the seemingly benign domestic scenes taking in the truths of life which made them easy to recreate in the mind’s eye.

The perfect book to relax with, a good holiday read, or honestly a book to pick up and read wherever you fancy – in my case on a plane, in a car, on a train and of course my favourite place, tucked up in bed.

I’d like to say a huge thank you to the publishers Penguin UK who gave me a copy of My Sweet Revenge. My unbiased review is my thanks to them and the hugely entertaining Jane Fallon.

First Published UK: 12 January 2017
Publisher: Penguin
No of Pages:  416
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Book Review, Books I have read

The Darker Side of Love – Jessica Ruston

Women's Fiction 4*'s
Women’s Fiction
4*’s

Having enjoyed The Lies You Told Me so much I decided to read a previous book by author Jessica Ruston which was available through Amazon Vine. Although not quite matching the excellence of this later offering it was still a really enjoyable read

The Darker Side of Love spans the years from late 2007 to 2010 telling the tale of a group of middle-classed friends dealing with life. As the title suggests this isn’t a cosy story of how love can conquer all but rather how love can be dangerous when offered to the wrong person. A number of serious issues are covered in the book including, domestic abuse, grief, substance abuse and adultery to name a few.

As the book starts all the couples; Izzy and James, Harriet and Wills and Stella and Jonny are all settled in life. Caroline, James’ sister is single and feels on the edge of the group due to her status. The story unfolds and we see that none of the couples are quite as secure as first impressions suggested and secrets and lies test their relationships. Told in chapters covering the key times when the group are bought together such as New Year’s Eve the reader is left with gaps, this device moves the story along nicely without becoming bogged down with the minutiae of daily life.

This is the perfect book to get lost in, well written with a good mixture of characters and with a bit of a twist in the tail. Jessica Ruston’s next book The Lies You Told Me is even better, clearly an author to watch.