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 Blog Tour, Book Review, Books I have read, Five Star Reads

The Last Day – Claire Dyer #BookTour #GuestPost #BookReview

I was delighted to be invited to take part in this blog tour especially as the author generously offered to write an exclusive post.

Read what Claire Dyer has to say about polyamorous relationships!

The love triangle bug

Like many authors, I’ve caught the love triangle bug.

It all started when I took part in one of those ‘sum up your book in three words’ things on Twitter. I’d just begun the novel that was to become The Last Day and replied, ‘Crazy Love Triangle’ but I didn’t really know at that stage how this particular love triangle would play out.

I’d also been aware of features in the press about polyamorous relationships which seem, on the face of it, supremely glamorous but, being a monogamous type, I do struggle to understand how these might actually work out.

But, in the spirit of tapping into the zeitgeist, I wanted to blend the two and so in the novel I have my three main characters living in the same house as one another and all loving each other in slightly different ways, the result of which is that decisions get made and choices are taken that change their lives forever.

And, what I also decided to do in The Last Day was to alter the standard dynamics of the love triangle and make my two heroines like each other. As Vita says about her husband’s new lover, ‘… it would have been easier if I’d hated her’ but she doesn’t. What I wanted to do in this book was to talk above love in its many colours and so in my love triangle, there are no clear lines. In fact, it’s less of a triangle and more of a Venn diagram with a number of interlocking sections.

However, let’s just think about some other love triangles. There’s Scarlett, Ashley and Rhett in Gone With the Wind; Ilsa, Rick and Victor in Casablanca; Bella, Edward and Jacob in The Twilight Saga; Bridget, Mark and Daniel in Bridget Jones’s Diary and the huge array of triangles in Jane Austen’s novels, including: Elizabeth, Darcy & Wickham; Marianne, Brandon and Willoughby; Elinor, Edward and Lucy, and let’s not even get started on Shakespeare! The list, it seems, is quite endless.

What is it that makes love triangles so beguiling? Personally, I love writing them because they’re a challenge: can I write from three different points of view and make each one so that the reader believes in them and wants what they want, so that if there is a ‘happy ever after’, even if someone has to lose out in the end, the reader is on the side of all three?

The plot possibilities of love triangles are infinite and that’s what makes writing them such a wonderful thing to do.

 

My Review

Contemporary Fiction
5*s

The Last Day is a poignant and beautifully written novel and although it is quite different to my normal choice of reading matter, I loved it.

The synopsis had me wondering what I’d let myself in for. We have Boyd in his forties moving in with his wife along with his twenty-seven year old new girlfriend. The cynic in me doubted whether this was really a likely scenario but what Claire Dyer excels at is characterisation, and boy did these characters get under my skin.

Boyd and Vita have been separated for six years and the reader has to wait quite a while to find out what their last day consisted of before the decision was made to go their separate ways. Honey the young girlfriend works with Boyd at his Estate agency along with the steadfast Trixie. Honey is far more likeable than I’d imagined she would be but like all of the protagonists in the book has secrets. As the book progresses I wondered which one of these was going to blow the roof off the set-up. Boyd, Vita and Honey are people with faults and pasts, but they are also incredibly real and ultimately ‘nice’ people. If you are looking for a tale of discord, this isn’t the book for you.

The story is told from different viewpoints with each chapter devoted to one or other of the characters. This is done so very well as we slowly get to know all the different aspects to each one. I’ll admit I was drawn in by the excellent writing; this was one of those books that I started and knew that I would enjoy whichever direction the book followed. This isn’t a typical tale of dysfunction, it is actually a sympathetic portrayal of marriage, love the way life changes and grief. Now I usually steer well clear of books concerning grief because this is a topic I don’t like to dwell on but perhaps because the grief in this novel is not raw and the characters concerned have an understanding of the journey they’ve been through, I found it in accordance with my own experiences in some of the smaller details. I certainly think it helped that the author somehow manages to acknowledge that everyone grieves differently.

This is a reflective book which if I were reading those words in another person’s review I’d take to mean slow, but this book isn’t. Instead it is one of those rare novels book that allows you to think about what you’ve read, sometimes by reading between the words, a difficult skill to pull off but so very effective when it is done as well as it is in The Last Day. I doubt whether there will be many readers that don’t happen upon a situation or characteristic that they recognise either in themselves or someone close to them.

As I said earlier the characters make this book, there is a certain amount of looking back which I think is common once we get to a certain age, but plenty to keep the reader entertained with the emotions that lie behind the characters actions. There is a mystery, a secret – or two or three – and a bit of danger to spice things up so there is no time to get bored. I was very sad to say goodbye to all the characters but particularly Vita and her pet portraits as she entertained me with her no-nonsense attitude, one that hides a multitude of complexities.

I’d like to say a big thank you to The Dome Press who provided me with an advance copy of The Last Day. This unbiased review is my thank you to them. Even better I realised that I have one of this author’s previous books The Perfect Affair on my kindle and it now won’t be long before I read that one too.

First Published UK: 15 February 2018
Publisher:The Dome Press
No of Pages: 256
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Amazon UK
Amazon US

Posted in Weekly Posts

Friday Finds (April 4)

Friday Finds Hosted by Should be Reading

FRIDAY FINDS showcases the books you ‘found’ and added to your To Be Read (TBR) list… whether you found them online, or in a bookstore, or in the library — wherever! (they aren’t necessarily books you purchased).

So, come on — share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

Well my addiction to NetGalley has returned with a vengeance and I am grateful to have received some great finds this week.

Starting with A Dark and Twisted Tide by Sharon Bolton which is due to be published on 8 May 2014 by Random House UK, I am delighted to have book four in the Lacey Flint series and it sounds so good! The OH saw my face when I read the acceptance email and said ‘Is that another book? It is, isn’t it, I know that smile!’

A Dark and Twisted Tide NG

Blurb

Former detective Lacey Flint quit the force for a safer, quieter life. Or that’s what she thought.
Now living alone on her houseboat, she is trying to get over the man she loves, undercover detective Mark Joesbury. But Mark is missing in action and impossible to forget. And danger won’t leave Lacey alone.
When she finds a body floating in the river near her home, wrapped in burial cloths, she can’t resist asking questions. Who is this woman, and why was she hidden in the fast-flowing depths? And who has been delivering unwanted gifts to Lacey?
Someone is watching Lacey Flint closely.
Someone who knows exactly what makes her tick . NetGalley

After reading an excellent review written by The Writes of Women of The Last Boat Home by Dea Brovig which was published on 13 March 2014 by Random House UK (they are very good to me!)

The Last Boat Home
Blurb

On the wind-swept southern coast of Norway, sixteen-year-old Else is out on the icy sea, dragging her oars through the waves while, above her, storm clouds are gathering. Surrounded by mountains, snow and white-capped water, she looks across the fjord and dreams of another life, of escape and faraway lands.Back on shore, her father sits alone in his boathouse with a jar of homebrew. In the Best Room, her mother covers her bruises and seeks solace in prayer. Each tries to hide the truth from this isolated, God-fearing community they call home.Until one night changes everything.More than thirty years later, the return of an old friend forces Else to relive the events that marked the end of her childhood. NetGalley

So if NetGalley finds weren’t enough this review on I Read Novels of The Perfect Affair by Claire Dyer .  Those of you who visit regularly will know I am fascinated by affairs so I simply had to get a copy, fortunately it was an absolute bargain on kindle so I now own this one too!

The Perfect Affair

Blurb

What happens if you fall in love with the wrong person?
Rose knows only too well the exhilaration and devastation of loving a married man. So she watches with a keen eye as Eve – her closest companion, the granddaughter she never had – meets Myles, the new tenant in her downstairs flat.
Quietly and softly and against the backdrop of their own unsatisfactory marriages, Myles and Eve fall in love and, as they try to have the perfect affair like Rose did before them, they come to learn about the pain of lost opportunities, to decide whether it is ever better to follow your head or your heart, to know what it is to be torn between love and duty. Amazon

From Amazon Vine I have a copy of The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle by Kirsty Wark
which was published on 13 March 2014 by Two Roads. The blurb had me intrigued so on the TBR mountain it went!

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle

Blurb

Born just before the First World War, Elizabeth Pringle has been a familiar yet solitary figure on the Scottish island of Arran. A dutiful daughter, an inspirational teacher, a gardener. But did anyone really know her? When Elizabeth dies, her will contains a surprise. She has left her home and her belongings to someone who is all but a stranger, a young mother she watched pushing a pram down the road more than thirty years ago.
Now it falls to Martha, the baby in that pram, to find out how her mother inherited the house in such strange circumstances, and in doing so, perhaps leave her own past behind. But first she has to find the answer to the question: who was Elizabeth Pringle?
A captivating and haunting story of the richness beneath so-called ordinary lives and the secrets and threads that hold women together.
~ ~ ~
Dear Mrs Morrison,

A long time ago, almost thirty-four years past, you wrote to me requesting that I contact you should I ever wish to leave my home. I knew then that I would never live anywhere else, and so there was no point in my replying to you.
I saw you almost every day, pushing your pram along Shore Road. You looked very young. I remember that on one occasion you waved to me, and I think I tilted my head towards you. Perhaps you did not see. There have been times when that scene has come to me vividly, and I have wondered what has become of you both.
I am instructing my solicitor to write to you at the address on your letter. Holmlea is yours if you still wish it.

Elizabeth Pringle Amazon

Finally I have discovered that another favourite author of mine, Heather Gudenkauf fourth book, Little Mercies is out on 4 July 2014.

Little Mercies

Blurb

As a veteran social worker, Ellen Moore has seen it all – the vilest acts one person can commit against another. The only thing that gets her through the workday is knowing her job helps children. That, and her family: her husband, Adam, and three beautiful kids, twins Leah and Lucas, and eleven-month-old Avery. But with a blink of an eye – with one small mistake – Ellen is suddenly at the mercy of the system she works for. Avery is ripped from her clutches, and her whole world begins crashing down around her.
Meanwhile, ten-year-old Jenny Briard has been living with her well-meaning but good-for-nothing father since her mother left them. When her father decides to pack their belongings and move to a new state, Jenny thinks she might be on the road to a better life. But soon she finds herself on her own, forced to survive with nothing but a few dollars and her street smarts. Evading police and the social system, Jenny finds refuge with a kind-hearted waitress. The last thing she needs is a social worker, but when Ellen and Jenny’s lives collide unexpectedly, little do they know just how much they can help one another. Amazon

So a little bit of a mixture this week… what have you found?