You and Me, Always
by Jill Mansell
Publisher: Headline Review
Publishing Date: 28th January 2016
Source: Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 368
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
On the morning of Lily’s twenty-fifth birthday, it’s time to open the very last letter written to her by her beloved mother, who died when she was eight.
Learning more about the first and only real love of her mum’s life is a revelation. On the same day, Lily also meets Eddie Tessler, a man fleeing fame who just might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways. But her childhood friend Dan has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie’s attentions.
Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily’s friends and family become involved. In the beautiful Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, nothing will ever be the same again…
I have always loved books and reading, but it is essentially thanks to few authors, such as Marian Keyes, Jane Costello and Jill Mansell, that my love to women’s literature exploded so much and blossomed through the years. I am proud to say that I have read all of Jill’s books, I have all of them on my bookshelf, and not one of them had disappointed me – when picking Ms Mansell’s book I know that I am for a treat and for a few hours of utter delight. And it was the same with „You and Me, Always”. And let’s be honest – there is no January without new Jill Mansell’s release for me anymore.
The author effortlessly throws her readers to the heart of the story, deep into the characters’ lives – I have truly had a feeling I know them for ever! I felt on the right place in their company, and I laughed and cried with them all together. Jill Mansell, as always, describes the characters so well that we really understand each of them – their motives and their reactions. There are truly so many characters in this novel but I didn’t have a problem to know who is who and how they are connected. I loved how their stories linked together, how they were connected with each other and how effortlessly they were intertwined and how perfectly the story flows, in just the right pace.
Our main character, Lily, is twenty – five years old and each year she gets a letter from her mum for her birthday – mum that has sadly already passed away. I loved this idea, I simply loved it, it was so touching and so thoughtful. A pity that we could read only one of the letters but well, a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush… In the last letter Lily’s mum is talking about her first love ever, and this piqued Lily’s interest… She doesn’t know it yet, but it is going to change her life – and not only hers, but also the lives of her friends Patsy and Coral.
As usual in Jill Mansell’s books, also in „You and Me, Always” there is great bunch of incredibly warm and colourful characters, that more than often put themselves into some awkward situations, that more than often made me smile/snort with laughter, such as Patsy’s dating disasters for example. Lily is the main one. I loved her from the very beginning, really. I was thinking, well, after her mum’s death she could grow up wallowing in grief, full of anger and bad feelings but on the contrary, thanks to the help of Coral and Patsy, she became a wonderful, lovely, funny young woman.
Patsy was a source of many funny situations, what with her online dating and the guys she went on dates with. But her story was also a very touching one, as we soon realise what her biggest dream is and that it’s more and more difficult for it to become true – will she get her happy end? I really liked her storyline and I kept my fingers crossed for her so much, and she was such a brilliant support to Lily.
Jill Mansell can create not only the loveliest, most realistic female characters but she is also a champion of writing the male ones. In this book we have Dan, Declan and Eddie, but firstly let’s stop and admire Dan for a while. The ultimate chick – lit hero. A pilot. Dan is incredibly handsome and he realises it, and yes, he uses it, but he’s neither bumptious nor does he treats women in an awful way. OH NO. Full of warmth and with a great sense of humour, just my kind of hero, mmmm. And – you may not believe it but he is unhappily in love with a girl that doesn’t know it. For years!
Sure, these three are only the tip of an iceberg, but believe me, all the other characters have their own cosy place in this story and the book wouldn’t be the same without them. They are so beautifully rounded and so well drawn and they welcome you to their world, and a lot happens to them all. A lot, and you have a feeling you know them for years.
Keeping in mind the title of the book, and also the fact that the letters Lily was getting from her mum were stressed as a very significant things to the story, I had a feeling that the novel is about everything but Lily and her mum. I’m not sure why but I was convinced that it’s going to be a story about these two women and I had a feeling that it strays away from it. Instead, there is a lot of things going on in this book, and truly, there is not a single flat moment there, especially as all the characters want to tell their own stories as well, and in the end I found myself enjoying the book, even though it took a little different angle to what I was expecting.
The setting of the story is also so beautiful – a small village in the English countryside, Stanton Langley, and the author brilliantly captured atmosphere of the place and its residents, and I really didn’t have a problem to feel a part of their world. The falling – for – Hollywood – star subplot reminds me so much of Karen Swan’s last novel, „Christmas at Primrose Hill”, but as I loved this book, I also totally enjoyed it in Ms Mansell’s novel. Well, I think all of the girls dream of meeting a big star one day, and even better when the star falls for them, no? It was a great part in the story and I absolutely adored Lily and the way she was around Eric – not star – struck, oh no, she was sharp – tongued and cynical and a real tough cookie for Eric.
Jill’s books are always like a comforting blanket, like a glass of latte with the most exquisite chocolate – to devour. „You and Me, Always” is such a feel – good story, with brilliantly written characters, lovely plot, some twists and turns, and what is so great in this story is that Jill doesn’t add any unnecessary drama to the plot, she keeps it down to earth and yet makes it colourful, fantastic read. It was an easy, light read with a touch of sadness and nostalgia to it and I enjoyed it immensely. „You and Me, Always” was a lovely book. It was bitter – sweet, with the right doses of fun and sadness, and it is only Jill Mansell who can take a great bunch of people and give them their own lives and personalities, create wonderful and unique stories for them and make the reader feel a part of the characters’ lives. This story has it all in fact. Characters, setting, twists and turns and some lovely romances, so very tastefully intertwined into the plot. It is an adorable book about unconditional friendship and love, with a beautiful ending, with everything perfectly wrapped up. I can be sure that when I have a worse day, when I’m feeling law, Jill Mansell’s book is going to get me out of this slump – her stories make me believe in happy – ever – after.