It Happened In Venice – Molly Hopkins

Evie Dexter is on holiday in  a beautiful country with her handsome husband-to-be Rob – what could be better? Well, for Evie, there is one thing that is troubling her – the fact that “Saint” Rob cheated on her with his former flame, Helen, whilst on tour. Since then, he has put all of his efforts into proving Evie that he is the one for her but can Evie ever forgive and forget? Throw into the mix the growing role that multi-millionaire client of Insignia Tours, John, plays in her life and splitting her work life between touring and working at Nikki’s restaurant and it becomes clear that life isn’t as easy as Evie once thought it was…

 

Overall, I thought that this was a good read, and there is more of a story here than It Happened in Paris, which was mainly about Evie and Rob having sex. This allows the reader to see more to her character whilst she navigates through obstacles (some that are very  unexpected) that are thrown in her way in humorous and at time, emotional ways.

 

The ending is no surprise and you can kind of  guess it from reading the first book. However, it makes a happy ending for Evie, who is a great character. 4 stars

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Cafe Tropicana – Belinda Jones

Ana Langston has dreamed of opening her own cafe and finally musters up the courage to bid on what would be her ideal location for her cafe, only to be outbid at the last moment. However, opportunity arrives in the form of her estranged father, who has recently got married without inviting his own daughter to the wedding. He offers her the chance to run her own coffee shop in Costa Rica, the chance of a lifetime, but there is a catch…Soon Ava has to contend with the moody Santiago, one of her father’s employees, and a romantic distraction in the form of extreme sports enthusiast, Ryan. For so long, troubles in life and love have made her focus on what she truly wants out of life – can she find it in Costa Rica?

 

For me, this is one of Jones’ weaker reads. I thought that the attempt to psychoanalyse Ava and Kiki’s lives based on their childhood was a bit odd and not executed properly. The ending still doesn’t resolve all these problems. Some of the business planning was a bit tedious and slowed down the pace of the story. I did like the romance between Santiago (although he still remained a bit of a mystery by the end of the book) and Ava, which played out well. Ollie was a humourous character too, I wish he was in the book more! 3 stars

The California Club – Belinda Jones

It has been some time since they have last seen each other but the Brighton Belles are reuniting! It starts off with Lara, Zoe, Sasha and Elliot (plus one unwanted girlfriend) meeting at the airport as they are about to embark on a trip to the sunny shores of California. Things have changed since they last met: Zoe craves celebrity stardom, Sasha is confused as to whether she is more than a pretty face and struggling to find any meaning to her life, and Lara has been in love with Elliot for 10 years and counting. However, Elliot is getting married to the highly strung Elise…Lara is also contemplating wehther to sell her mother’s cherished B and B, which holds fond memories for her and her friends.

When the four meet fifth member Helen they are amazed at how much she ahs changed from the practical and serious woman to the carefree and content Californian chick that now stands before them, and it is all thanks to the California Club, Helen hints at mysteriously. Soon the four friends and Elise are intrigued and get involved with the California Club, which forces them to face us to their problems, and realise their dreams…

I thought that this was a hilarious and sassy read, and Lara made a fantastic main character, although her B and B story felt a bit misplaced. The bonds between the five friends are so strong and believable that it really adds to the story. I also liked Joel: cocky, arrogant but kind, and I thought he would have made a better fit for Lara rather than Elliot, a guy who has been so blind for the last 10 years (and counting) that his best friend harbours feelings for him. He later confesses that he had feelings for her but his explanation that he wanted to get the “bad relationships” out of the way before he declared his true feelings for her was a bit bizarre. Elliot makes a nice friend but as a romantic hero, he was quite cowardly and irritating.

From the two novels by Jones that I have read, both set in California, the emphasis is on the heroine ending up with the man who she has always loved, rather than any prospective partners that crop up along the way. In California Dreamers, although it was strange, I embraced the reunion of Jonathan and Stella, but here, I was wanting Lara to move on from the man she has wasted 10 years over only to get nothing during that time. However, I am growing to admire Belinda Jones as a writer – her style is great, striking a perfect balance between tenderness, emotion and humour without being too crass. The California Club was another great read of hers although I didn’t like the ending. 4 stars (despite Elliot).

The Beach Cafe – Lucy Diamond

Evie Flynn is a bit of a black sheep in her family – the one who can be counted on to disappoint everyone – never having to manage to hold down a successful career, get married, have children nor own her own hown. Tragedy strikes when her aunt Jo dies in a car accident, and everyone is shocked when Jo leaves her cafe in Cornwall in her will. Everyone expects Evie to sell the cafe but she has fond memories of her aunt, the cafe and the beach but can she prove to her family and to the other villagers, and herself, that she can make the cafe a continued success?

This reminds me of Meet Me At Cupcake Cafe by Jenny Colgan: unfavoured child in stale relationship and career decides to be adventurous by running her own cafe, despite never having run a business before, and making new friends, overcoming big obstacles and forging new relationships in the process. However, I think that The Beach Cafe is a far better read: it is well written, emotional, romantic and funny. Evie is a likeable character and her attempts to carry on her aunt’s legacy, thus changing everyone’s opinion of her, are inspiring to read.Her burgeoning relationship with Ed was sparky and lovely to read (he hides a secret but his situation seemed to be resolved rather quickly, but it paved the way for Ed and Evie to reunite). Phoebe’s story and the way she connected with Evie was good, and Evie’s encounter with her first love Ryan is memorable – thyey say you never forget your first love but this is one she should definitely move on from!

The story is consistently engaging and the descriptions make the village an ideal place to live. A great read! 4.5 stars

 

The Perfect Audition – Kate Forster

This is a short story that serves as a sequel to The Perfect Location in which director TG is auditioning actresses for the main roles in his new movie, and we meet the three women who will play a big part in the movie and in the The Perfect Location: Rose (who similar to her role also has romantic troubles of her own), Sapphira (who longs to prove that she can be a serious actress after being stereotyped as an action star) and Calypso (who has the potential to be a fantastic actress but is stifled by the influence of her pushy mother, Leeza). There isn’t much to this apart from introducing the main characters and hence, there isn’t much to this short “story”, but it presents an adequate intro for the full novel. 2 stars.

With Or Without You – Carole Matthews

Lyssa and Jake have been together for 4 years and are trying for a baby, something that Lyssa desperately craves. However, countless unsuccessful IVF attempts and big lifestyle changes put pressure on their relationship. One morning, Jake drops a bombshell on Lyssa – he is unhappy with their relationship and he is leaving her. Lyssa is devastated and even more so when she discovers the secret that Jake has been hiding. Lyssa attempts to rediscover herself by going to Nepal, and soon realises what is truly important in life.

This is a great story, some of the IVF and trying-to-conceive description is a bit graphic, but it is inspiring to read about Lyssa and her journey, and her acceptance with not being able to conceive. Jake seems like a cruel character although a little down that line, you feel some sympathy for him too. The expedition to Nepal was fascination – reading the descriptions and about the culture was great. The comparisons that Lyssa makes between Nepal and England are interesting although she does overdwell on the consumerism culture of our nation a little too much for my liking.

Pip’s role is a bit unknown – what purpose is he meant to serve, but you feel sorry for him as the one who has fallen in love with doesn’t reciprocate his feelings. In addition, the abortion that Lyssa had is depicted as something that will become a major bombshell to be revealed later on, but is quickly forgotten in the narrative. That being said, overall, this is a great read. 4 stars!


RSVP – Helen Warner ***Magic 100***

It’s Toby and Rachel’s wedding day on 17th July 2010 and you are cordially invited to celebrate their special day with them.

Clare, Anna and Ella are surprised to receive their invitation. For Anna, Toby was the love of her life, but something awful happened in the past that drove the pair apart. Clare is Anna’s best friend and encourages her to attend the wedding to get over Toby. Clare doesn’t subscribe to Anna’s belief of “The One” but it made to rethink this later on…Ella is a maneater, but the one man she wanted didn’t want her – Toby. The story is told through the viewpoints of Clare, Anna, Ella and Rachel, who is having doubts about her upcoming nuptials. Will any of these women find the happiness that they are seeking, and will the wedding go ahead without any hitches?

The wedding day itself actually takes place mid-way through the story, which was a surprise as I was expecting it to provide a climax to the story. However, it leaves a lot of room for the characters’ development although the pace of the story drops off slightly. Warner’s way of writing takes some getting used to – she writes as an outside observer commenting on the characters’ actions and thoughts, which feels a little detached. For the characters, you don’t really engage with them, which can be possibly attributed to Warner’s style. Yet, the choppy way in which she retells the story (using flashbacks and constant switching between the characters’ viewpoints and their stories) is something that keeps the reader captivated and longing to read how the rest of the story unfolds.

Characters
ANNA: at first, I sympathised with the character who has to deal with her feelings for Toby and the way Ella destroyed her relationship and happiness in her life. At the wedding, she finally gets her happy ending, and it feels like her story has been resolved far too early. Yet later on, it appears that things haven’t been fully resolved between Toby and Anna in terms of the past. Anna has trust issues in terms of Rachel and her “realisation” at the end when Toby fails to show up at the church on time. This isn’t addressed properly which gives the impression that their marriage isn’t going to be easy. From feeling sympathy for Anna and liking her, she ends up annoying.

RACHEL – her story was a little dull but you do feel sorry for the way Toby treats her, and yet she behaves with dignity and grace, which is admirable. It is also good that she finds love at the end.

CLARE – a great friend to Anna, you feel for her when she has her own troubles in life and love. Straight-talking but a compassionate character, she seems to be the best character out of the four.

ELLA – totally unlikeable as she is a bitch to start off with, and this continues later on in the book. It is only after her husband dies that she changes character (whether this is Warner’s attempt to redeem Ella and make more likeable remains to be seen) and she goes through tragic events, but her story ends on an optimistic note.

A riveting story, although there are a few issues with some of the events, the characters aren’t particularly likeable and the pace drops off towards the end, but worth the read. 3.5 stars