The Swap by Fiona Mitchell / Blog Tour

The Swap by Fiona Mitchell

 

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton 45180031._sy475_

Publishing Date: 19th September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 304

Genre: General Fiction (Adult) 

Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

***The second novel from Fiona Mitchell, author of the stunning The Maid’s Room***

Two women. Two children. But whose is whose?

When two strangers, Tess and Annie, undergo IVF at an American clinic, their embryos are mixed up and each woman gives birth to the wrong child.

The women only discover the devastating error three years later. Tess wants to swap the children back; Annie doesn’t. As the pair wrangle, neither of them expect what unfolds.

my-review

 

In America, 3 years ago, Annie and Carl had IVF and became parents to a beautiful girl Willow. In the same place, at the same time, Tess and Matteo, who live in Surrey in England, underwent the same procedure and got Freddie. Freddie, however, doesn’t look like their other sons and has behavioural problems, and moreover, they opted for the gender selective IVF and were promised to have a girl. Tess has never bonded with her youngest, so when after an accident blood tests come back with the information that they couldn’t be Freddie’s biological parents, she’s not surprised. But what has happened? Whose child is Freddie? And can it be that Tess has daughter that she doesn’t know about?

I must admit it, I was waiting holding my breath to see how the story is going to end, what is going to happen. It was an unimaginable situation, I was all the time asking myself what I would do if something like this happened to me and I’ve never found an answer, this is why I was so intrigued to see which way did the author choose. The tension, the uncertainty were absolutely unbearable. That is, until one moment, a moment when something happened and one of the characters changed her mind, and I though, and? Is this it? For me, the story declined in this moment, lost it impact and yes, I felt disappointed. It’s a shame, because I was hoping for something different. I am not saying that I was expecting THE answer, because probably any answer would be the wrong one, I simply was hoping for something different after such thought – provoking, controversial story. I think i was waiting for a catastrophe to happen, for things to explode, for confrontations and decisions, and I think this is it what the story lacked.

 I was generally curious about this book. Being a mum myself I was interested in feelings and emotions of all involved – I wasn’t expecting drama, but real people with real emotions. However, it never moved above a certain level of emotions – and just imagine this whirlwind of feelings you will for sure go through after finding out that your IVF has worked only to discover three years later that you were given the wrong embryo and you’re raising – theoretically – a strange child. Right? Heart – break guaranteed. But the characters, Annie and Tess, weren’t easy to read and honestly they were a bit too emotionless about this whole situation, and it was really difficult to engage with them. They were both very different characters, Annie warm and inviting, Tess cold and unwelcoming but I couldn’t bond with any of them, not sure why.  And at one point I stopped feeling sympathy to these women. 

The writing style was lovingly adjusted to the story’s subject matter. It was delicate, subtle and never judging but clear and compassionate. The contrast and the differences between the families were sharply captured, making you think what would be better for the children. I was also all the time wondering how, actually, could it ever be possible to perhaps give up your child after bonding with them for years, because someone made a mistake? Yes, sometimes the narration felt too overdone, sometimes it was too descriptive or focusing on things that were irrelevant to me and the dialogues felt too artificial.

But it was not only a story about swapping embryos. It touched upon many other, heavy and difficult issues, such as gender selection IVF, child behaviour, grief, and altogether, it was impactful, challenging novel and the way the characters reacted, and how their reactions contrasted, added tons of dimension to it. It was intense and insightful and very well handled,  thought – provoking and not easy but different story that is going to make you think, to make your thoughts go overdrive.

 

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Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran

Christmas Every Day by Beth Moran

 

Publisher: Boldwood Books 47490432

Publishing Date: 17th September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 408

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

Synopsis:

When Jenny inherits her estranged grandmother’s cottage in Sherwood Forest, she has nothing to lose – no money, no job, no friends, no family to speak of, and zero self-respect. Things can only get better…

Her grumpy, but decidedly handsome new neighbour, Mack, has a habit of bestowing unsolicited good deeds on her. And when Jenny is welcomed into a rather unusual book club, life seems to finally be getting more interesting.

Instead of reading, the members pledge to complete individual challenges before Christmas: from finding new love, learning to bake, to completing a daredevil bucket list. Jenny can’t resist joining in, and soon a year of friendship and laughter, tears and regrets unfolds in the most unexpected ways.

Warm, wise, funny and utterly uplifting, what one thing would you change in your life before Christmas comes around?

Rating: five-stars

 

Jenny has though she has everything under control: her job, her private life, friends, family… That is, until her scheming twin sister gets engaged to Jenny’s “secret” boyfriend at the firm Christmas party, when it was Jenny who was actually expecting the proposal. Ouch. Jenny takes herself to Sherwood Forest – it is there her estranged grandmother left Jenny’s mother a house, and as she doesn’t need the it anymore, she gives it to Jenny. Full of plans and optimism, she turns out at her new place to find it not only in the middle of nowhere, but overgrown with brambles, hence impossible to enter. While trying to force the doors, she meets her neighbour Mack, reclusive, mysterious and very handsome.

After moving to Sherwood Forest, Jenny meets so many brilliant local people – yes, at the beginning some of them are rather sceptic, but quickly she gets drawn into their worlds and lives and becomes a part of their community. For example, the book club (I loved the meetings of the book club as you couldn’t foresee how they’re going to end every time, it was more like a challenge/unexpected situations club, the members of the club were hilarious and I couldn’t wait who’s going to choose the next book and what’s going to happen then.) Or starting a job as a nanny to 5 children, ha. However, Jenny’s biggest worry is getting the house cleaned and cleared, as she doesn’t want to sleep in the tub in the bathroom anymore, and solving the mystery of what Mack is doing, holed up in his house and always appearing on the scenes when Jenny needs help. I quickly guessed what it actually is that Mack does but it didn’t spoil the reveal of this in any way.

The characters had so much depth to them, they were so richly developed, allowing us the view to their lives. Jenny was brilliant. She was full of flaws, she was not perfect and she always kept losing her glasses – she simply felt real in all she did and said – as well as all the other characters. Sure, there were moments that some of their actions felt a bit caricatural but it worked in this book, this craziness was a part of it, of the characters and their world. Jenny’s strength of character and the way she really tried hard – after so many falls, after being held down by others, after being pushed to her limits once too many – were surprising, but it was a positive surprise. She was driven by kindness and loyalty and with the help of her new friends she was growing in confidence, blooming and opening up and facing all the challenges. I kept everything crossed for Jenny, everything, cheering her on the way to becoming New Jenny, to facing her fears and finding the courage for confrontations.

However, don’t be fooled by the Christmassy cover and title of the book, as Christmas itself doesn’t play a great part in this novel. There was only a small part set around Christmas but I think that the general message of this book is to simply make every single day of your life like Christmas, worthful and appreciated, encircle yourself with people that matter and have the courage for new things.
The story intermingle many humorous events and situations with some more poignant ones, and there was also this little mystery about who’s trying to force Jenny out of her house – there was not a single moments flat and I loved how unpredictable it was. One moment I was laughing out loud at the hilarity of the situation, the next I had a lump in my throat.

It was a deep, heartening and uplifting book with unforgettable characters, full of wisdom and lightness. Sometimes bittersweet, sometimes amusing and warming, altogether it was a book that I loved with all my heart and was incredibly sad to see the end of it. The characters in this novel were ones of the best I’ve ever come across in my books, no matter if as a group or a single person. The author has so brilliantly captured all the flaws and virtues and made each of them feel so unique, with all their ups and downs, problems, troubles and quirks, more or less usual hobbies and passions. I was so full of admiration to the way she has written Jenny, and really, she was so well describes, inside and outside that I was able not only to understand her feelings but could easily imagine every expression that she made, and some of her tips on child – minding will stay with me for ever. Shortly, I absolutely loved this book – the more I read the more invested I was. Jenny and the house both needed a clearance, and to be put together, and Jenny’s journey to discover who she really is, to find out more about her past is unputdownable.

Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet

Villa of Sun and Secrets by Jennifer Bohnet

 

Publisher: Boldwood Books 46667319

Publishing Date: 8th August 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 336

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

Synopsis:

It’s never too late to live the dream…

Carla Sullivan’s 50th birthday is fast approaching when her whole world is turned upside down. Discovering her feckless husband is having yet another affair and following her mother’s death, she is in need of an escape. Finding an envelope addressed to her mother’s estranged sister Josette in the South of France gives Carla the perfect plan.

Seizing the moment, she packs her bags and heads to Antibes to seek out the enigma known as Tante Josette. But as the two women begin to forge a tentative relationship, family secrets start to unravel, forcing Carla to question her life as she has always known it.

A heart-warming tale on the beautiful French Riviera, which will keep you guessing. From the bestselling author of Summer at Coastguard Cottages, The Little Kiosk by the Sea and Rosie’s Little Cafe on the Riviera. Perfect for the fans of Jill Mansell and Fern Britton.

Rating: three-stars

 

Carla Sullivan has just buried her mother and while clearing out her things, she discovers a letter from her Aunt Josette in France, an estranged twin sister of her mother. When she also discovers that her husband David, in spite of all his promises, has been cheating on her again, Carla decides to buy a ticket and travel to the South of France to visit her aunt. Because of the rift between the sisters Carla doesn’t know much about Josette and her life and she’s desperate to find out more about her, and maybe her family. What she doesn’t expect is that she’s going to open a Pandora box full of lies, secrets and heartache.

I would have really liked the characters more if they weren’t so overdone – they said and did all the right things in the right moments and solved one problem after another systematically and quickly, without big drama. They were either black or white, and I missed the shades of grey on them. Nevertheless, they were lovely described and there were life in all of them, they were not afraid to leave their comfort zones and adapted quickly to new conditions. Carla and Josette were strong and determined women, having courage for changes in every single moment of their lives.

There were, though, elements that couldn’t agree with me. The story started to feel too over – dramatic, but not in a positive way, it started to feel too far – fetched, it was not like reading a book but watching a soap – opera like “Dynasty”. The characters were so nice and kind and understanding that there came a moment that I thought I couldn’t take any more. I know we always want our characters to finally start to talk, but these here were simply talking too much, over – analyzing and discussing everything with each other, so no wonder that the story felt too repetitive, as we were getting a version of the same situation from almost every single character. There were no secrets, everything was in the open and the author didn’t keep me guessing.

The secrets have been revealed one after another, keeping the pace of the story on the right track and altogether, it was an easy, light and quick read, set in one of the most stunning places ever. I loved the setting of the south France that was so easily brought to life by the author. It was a story about fresh starts, finding your roots, discovering what is really important in your life. It was full of drama, secrets, loss, disappointment and hope.

The Accidental Life Swap by Jennifer Joyce

The Accidental Life Swap by Jennifer Joyce

 

Publisher: HQ Digital 45877609._sy475_

Publishing Date: 1st September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback (out on 31.10.2019)

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Sometimes one moment can change your life forever…
Rebecca Riley has always been a bit of a pushover. When her glamorous boss, Vanessa, asks her to jump, she doesn’t just ask how high… she asks if her boss would like her to grab a coffee on the way back down!

So whilst overseeing the renovation of Vanessa’s beautiful countryside home, the last thing Rebecca ever expected was to be mistaken for her boss – or that she would even consider going along with it! Far away from the bustling city and her boss’s demanding ways, could she pretend to be Vanessa and swap lives, just for a little while?

Rating:  four-stars

 

Rebecca Riley is a PA at a popular events management company. However, she’s never wanted to be a PA, instead she can see herself organizing events – she’s a hard worker, has a right degree, is a team player and thinks that it really is the highest time for her to be promoted to be Events Manager. But when she finally finds the courage to ask her evil, demanding and overly tanned boss Vanessa for a promotion, it turns out that she has other plans for Rebecca, namely she needs somebody to oversee the renovation of her beautiful property in the countryside, hinting that when Rebecca will give a good account of herself, she may get her desired promotion.
But life has its own ideas. Already on the first day the whole village of Little Heaton mistakes Rebecca for Vanessa. She decides to go along with the charade because she’s sure that the works won’t be done with her – Rebecca – at the helm. Channelling her inner Vanessa, Rebecca starts to make sure the renovations get done in time. But can she do it without being found out? Can’t she do it as Rebecca?

So, this with the whole charade was a bit unbelievable, right? I wanted to shake my head and yell at Rebecca for not giving it up sooner but on the other hand I also completely got it and her choices. She was a bit of a pushover, honestly, wasn’t able to stand for herself, believing she’s smart and brave enough but in the last second loosing all her courage and yes, I usually can’t stand such characters, but this time the author has struck the right balance and made her really likeable. She was meek and indulgent but within the scope, still believable and sympathetic.
She belongs to my favourite characters category, characters that progress throughout the story. She began as a person who does so much for other people, is a bit of a doormat actually, not being able to say boo to a goose let’s not mention to her boss, and receives no acknowledgment, no thank you and guys, yes, it annoyed me on her behalf. I liked the way she was changing, growing in confidence, finding her own voice, reinventing herself.

The romance aspect, the way is develops between the characters, is funny and different, as it blossoms over the love of board games, and I really liked the moments when they were playing them. The attraction between them is palpable and even though you could bet anything on what’s going to happen and how, I still enjoyed it.

I loved the setting of this novel, the picturesque countryside and the descriptions of Vanessa’s home made me want to move or at least to re – decorate my own house. The animal sanctuary was for me a real highlight, with all the animals wandering around and bad – tempered chickens.

The end was for me too rushed and too neat, even though I had a feeling that some of the things weren’t wrapped up completely while the other happened so conveniently and some person experienced a whole change of heart. Yes, it is a bit clichéd, it demands a lot of disbelief, it is predictable but you don’t choose such book for its unpredictability. No, you choose it for a feel – good factor and a few relaxing hours, and this is what I was looking for. I laughed, I cringed and I fell for the characters.

I liked the fact that the story was more than a bit of fluff and mishaps and embarrassing shenanigans – there were moments with much more depth to it than I have expected, touching upon some more serious issues, such as self – confidence, friendship and betrayal, standing up for yourself, giving the book so much needed substance. The writing style is warm and welcoming, chatty and the banter between the characters flows easily and naturally. It was a funny, light – hearted romantic comedy and if you’re looking for an easy, not too demanding read, then grab this book.

Living My Best Li(f)e by Claire Frost

Living My Best Li(f)e by Claire Frost

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 45718284._sy475_

Publishing Date: 5th September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 368

Genre: Women’s Fiction

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

~*~ This heart-warming and funny novel is the perfect balm for the Insta-weary mind ~*~
Bell
had it all, the perfect job, the perfect partner, and on their 10th anniversary she thought she would get the ring… But two weeks later, Bell wakes up to find herself still clutching a wine bottle and the memories of Collin saying those dreaded words: ‘We need to talk…’

Determined to get on with her life before she hits 40, Bell starts following ‘inspirational’ people on Instagram. Her favourite lifestyle guru is @mi_bestlife, whose life seems Insta-perfect but if you were to zoom out of the heavily filtered picture, you’d see reality strike.
Millie is a single mother, with a cute son called Wolfie, whose father is absolutely useless and not much on the scene. Instagram and the profile she has built up online is more ‘best lie’ than ‘best life’. It isn’t until Millie and Bell’s paths finally cross that the two women begin to understand what is real and what it is that they really want.

Rating: three-stars

 

“Living My Best Li(f)e” follows the nearly 40 years – old Bell and a little younger Millie. Bell’s relationship of ten years has just fallen apart and she’s in a slump, and seeing the glamorous and wonderful lives of other people in social media obviously doesn’t help. That is, until she meets Millie, who is social media influencer. Her Instagram feed, with photos of her gorgeous son and brilliant clothes, provided with “hashtag blessed”, is unceasingly popular. The two women instantly click and they form a strong friendship.

I’ve been waiting impatiently to read this book and was over the moon the receive my review copy few months ago and started to read it immediately. However, sadly, it turned out that it wasn’t for me. I had a feeling that it simply is a book out of thousands of others, with nothing really special to make it unique. I really liked the concept – we all know we shouldn’t believe in everything we see online but still, we so easily like to get sucked into the glamour of social media – the idea and potential were there but it lacked in development and execution. There were also too many subplots for my liking and none of it was treated with enough depth.

I didn’t warm to the characters, to be honest, not sure why, they just simply didn’t work for me and I didn’t find them too believable. Bell is about to turn 40 and thinks her life is running smoothly, until the moment her boyfriend decides to leave her after many years of being together. Millie is in her mid – thirties and is a single mother, after falling in love with a football star Louis and then realizing that he’s the most unreliable father in the world (but who names their child Wolf?) Millie is also the so – called influencer, showing her followers world full of expensive dresses that she has to return to the shop because she can’t afford them, and lovely photos of Wolf before he throws a tantrum, but nobody must know this, right? There were also background characters, but they were too absent from the story for me to remember them. The friendship between Bell and Millie happened so quickly that I had a feeling that I’ve missed something.

All the sub plots were so easy resolved and things happened very conveniently, and also very unexpectedly, like the problem with the community centre that appeared just like that, out of the blue. The storyline was a rather predictable one however I liked the writing style and the message hidden between the lines.

Nevertheless, it was a heart – warming, uplifting and easily written story with many important topics running through it, touching upon love and hope, heartbreak, bullying, loneliness. However, even with those heavier topics, it still stays a feel good story with a friendship in the background and a feeling of belonging and togetherness. There is also the message in regards to social media, and it’s really nice that the author has picked it as a guiding theme of her debut novel.

The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory / Blog Tour

The Rabbit Girls by Anna Ellory

 

Publisher: Lake Union Publishing 42931500

Publishing Date: 1st September 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 396

Genre: Historical Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book:  Kindle | Hardcover | Paperback

 

 

 

Synopsis:

Berlin, 1989. As the wall between East and West falls, Miriam Winter cares for her dying father, Henryk. When he cries out for someone named Frieda – and Miriam discovers an Auschwitz tattoo hidden under his watch strap – Henryk’s secret history begins to unravel.

Searching for more clues of her father’s past, Miriam finds an inmate uniform from the Ravensbrück women’s camp concealed among her mother’s things. Within its seams are dozens of letters to Henryk written by Frieda. The letters reveal the disturbing truth about the ‘Rabbit Girls’, young women experimented on at the camp. And amid their tales of sacrifice and endurance, Miriam pieces together a love story that has been hidden away in Henryk’s heart for almost fifty years.

Inspired by these extraordinary women, Miriam strives to break through the walls she has built around herself. Because even in the darkest of times, hope can survive.

Rating:  four-stars

 

“The Rabbit Girls” introduces us to Henryk, on his deathbed, calling out an unknown name of a woman – Frieda. His daughter Miriam is intrigued, also finding an Auschwitz tattoo on her father’s wrist, and sets on finding the woman before Henryk dies. Enlisting the help of Eva, Miriam gets her to translate letters she finds in the dress hidden in her mother’s wardrobe, letters written in French and German. In the meantime, learning about the woman her father used to love once, Miriam is also trying to escape her abusive marriage to Axel, a controlling and violent man. Will Miriam be able to learn courage? 

I personally thought there is going to be more about the “Rabbit Girls” themselves, women that were experimented upon by doctors in the camps, although, on the other hand, perhaps it’s better that the story focused more on other things, as I rather wasn’t in a mood of such a sad, dramatic story. Actually, there was enough drama, tragedy and heart – breaking moments in this book to already make it poignant enough. Nevertheless, after reading the synopsis, you’re justified to expect more about this topic, and it’s only a tiny aspect of it.

 It was a very slow burner and it took me long to eventually settle into the book, and I personally think that what was holding it back was Miriam’s story. In my opinion, Frieda’s tale was the one that made the book and it’s sad that it was so much overshadowed by Miriam and her narratives. Miriam’s chapters focus mostly on her repetitive inquiry into the letters or her personal life, with all the problems, while Henryk’s are set in the past, telling us about his marital problems. It is a tale that feels like three different stories throughout three different time periods wrapped in one, but it’s not a bad thing. The chapters alternate between Miriam’s present life and her background, and Henryk’s past and here I found the changes in the narration and in the person (third and first) a bit confusing, but as I kept going it became easier and not so jarring. However, it eventually starts going, and then it’s simply impossible to put down. 

There are some of the things that doesn’t really ring true, and some of them happen very conveniently, but really, let’s just simply put our disbelief and scepticism away and enjoy the story with all its progressing mystery and dramaturgy. The end has tied everything neatly together and I liked the way it was done. 

“The Rabbit Girls” was a  story about love and about finding strength to fight for yourself. I only thing that perhaps the author should choose less things to write about, as then the story would be clearer and the characters stronger, but altogether, it was a heart – breaking, poignant novel about the abuse in the death camps at the end of the Second World War, a topic that I’ve often read about, also in memories, but each time it leaves me in pieces, and it was the same here. But it also deals with other topics, in the modern times, in Miriam’s marriage for example, and we can observe the menace of those different forms of abuse. Touching upon the caring for a dying father, the horrific tale of the camps and finally, Miriam’s abusive marriage, this beautiful story about hope that can change everything and redemption is truly worth recommending!

 

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If You Were Here by Alice Peterson / Blog Tour + Extract

Alice Peterson has let us wait two years for her new book but guys, the waiting was so worth it! She’s back with another cracker, heart – wrenching but also uplifting story that I loved from the beginning to the end. Thank you so much Alice for having me on the blog tour, it’s always such an honour! Today, next to my (a bit gushing, even if I say so myself) review, I also have an extract from the book – enjoy!

 

If You Were Here by Alice Peterson

 

Publisher: Simon & Schuster 44589427

Publishing Date: 22nd August 2019

Source:  Received from the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 464

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback

 

 

 

 

Synopsis:

‘I can toast to my future, but the thundercloud over my head, the threat of a storm, will follow me like a shadow wherever I go. The truth is, I have a potential bomb in my bag, and who knows when or where it will go off’

When her daughter Beth dies suddenly, Peggy Andrews is left to pick up the pieces and take care of her granddaughter Flo. But sorting through Beth’s things reveals a secret never told: Beth was sick, with the same genetic condition that claimed her father’s life, and now Peggy must decide whether to keep the secret or risk destroying her granddaughter’s world.

Five years later, Flo is engaged and ready to pack up her life and move to New York with her high-flying fiancé. Peggy never told Flo what she discovered, but with Flo looking towards her future, Peggy realises it’s time to come clean and reveal that her granddaughter’s life might also be at risk.

As Flo struggles to decide her own path, she is faced with the same life-altering questions her mother asked herself years before: If a test could decide your future, would you take it?

An emotional, inspiring and uplifting novel about living life to the fullest, IF YOU WERE HERE will break your heart and put it back together. The brand new novel from the acclaimed author of A Song for Tomorrow, perfect for fans of Hannah Beckerman, Dani Atkins and Jill Mansell

Rating: five-stars

 

“If You Were Here”, another life – affirming story by Alice Peterson, introduces us to three generations of women. Peggy lost her husband to Huntington’s Disease, after years of caring for him and watching him deteriorate, both mentally and physically. Her daughter Beth, who we hear from through her diary entries after learning that she’s dead, following a road accident 5 years ago, was aware that her chances of inheriting the disease was fifty – fifty and who has done the test but kept it in secret, and who has been left in turmoil, not being able to decide if/when to tell about it her own daughter. And Flo, twenty seven years old, loving her life, setting to move to America following her new fiancé there. However, her life is shattered after discovering that her granddad and mother had Huntington’s Disease, and what consequences could this information have for her: she could also be a carrier and must decide whether to take the test telling her her fate. Flo is about to learn, not only about her family, but who her real friends are and, most importantly, about herself and her limits. 

Let me tell you right at the beginning – it was a beautiful, realistic story that had me hooked from the first page – I couldn’t put it down, to be honest, and was cursing life getting in the way, as I didn’t want to leave the characters’ world for a single second, and you’ll also not want to put the book away. 

The story is told from three perspectives, from Flo, her grandmother Peggy and through Beth’s diary entries, and I loved each of the voices, so strong and so distinctive. Alice Peterson’s heroines are always inspiring, and Flo is not an exception. It was heart – breaking to see the battle the two women, Peggy and Beth, had to endure, wanting to protect their beloved Flo, never finding the right time to tell her the truth, filled with mixed feelings and emotions. They were all so brave and strong, had their ups and downs, made wrong decisions and they simply felt so down to earth realistic, as well as the background characters. Each of them experiences the disease in another way but all of them are affected, and the author gives us a wide and deep glimpse into it. The feelings and emotions jump out of the pages, you laugh with the characters and you cry with them, I’ve kept everything crossed for them all and simply lived their lives together with them. Great part of this book focuses on heartbreak and guilt of not telling the truth, but you never judge the characters for it, you simply start to understand them and their choices, as the author gives them their own point of view. I loved how much the characters in this book supported each other – boy, you need such a group of friends and family in your life even when life doesn’t challenge you!

 It was again a book that made me think, and there were many moments when I found myself wondering, but especially one scene made me so pensive, when the first research study led to the possibility of real HD treatments in December 2017. Flo and Beth, sobbing on the phone with joy, their friends sharing the news – it actually gave me  goose bumps. For me it was such a normal day, I’ve probably haven’t even apprehended the news, and for people like our characters, and for real people all over the world, it is life changing information, giving hope. Here I am, sitting and enjoying my good health with exception of few bumps perhaps, not appreciating it enough, and here they are, crying from joy. I’ve been constantly asking myself what would I do if I were in the characters’ shoes, what decisions would I made, and I still am not sure. I was always thinking that I would like to know what future is going to bring me but now, after reading the book, I am really not certain. Actually, I am torn. Would I change the way I am if I knew I have some genetic disorder? Or would it make me back away from life? It really isn’t an easy decision to make!  

I totally loved the way the author has chosen to tell about all the pros and cons of being tested to find out if you have Huntington’s. She isn’t judging but she allows us a deep glance into all the possibilities, describing how many feelings and emotions are involved in it, how, in fact, hard and difficult decision it is. It so much depends on the person itself, while many live their lives without the need to know, there are others who simply must find out what fate has in store for them. Also, how much this decisions affects family and friends – written with so much understanding, gentleness and heart. 

The writing is, as always, beautiful but not too sentimental, and I loved it. It is also full of humour and the way the author balances it with the more poignant moments is absolutely perfect. It’s written with compassion and sensitivity, right from the heart and the amount of research that went into this book is clear, and I love the fact that Alice Peterson has again found a case to raise awareness of. She writes with such warmth and love, care and empathy and the novel, even though touching about serious issues, feels chatty and uplifting, even when she tells things how they really are, not sparing us any details about the facts and reality of HD.

“If You Were Here” was full of hope. It’s this kind of novel that make you look at the world differently again, start to appreciate all the little things again. The telling is so rich and vivid, oozing in feelings and emotions of courage, faith and strength, also showing the great importance of having the right network of people around you to help you get through the most difficult times. I loved every single moment of it and will be highly recommending right and left!

 

EXTRACT:

Prologue

Peggy

 

July 2012

 

I clutch the letter, my hand shaking.

Deep down I always knew. I was just waiting for Beth to tell me, gearing myself up to be strong for us both all over again.

There were times when I sensed she was distant and anxious. Often I wondered why my daughter hadn’t married since any man would have been lucky to have her by his side. Yet I allowed myself to believe her excuse that she simply hadn’t met the right person, that she wanted to focus on her art, her teaching career and being a mother to Flo.

I have skated around the subject for years, too much of a coward to ask the question I dreaded the answer to. I locked my fears in a box and threw away the key, instead forcing myself to believe she’d escape the odds.

Looking back over the pas few years, I was beginning to notice signs, small things, like Beth forgetting our regular weekly call. Once, she locked herself out of the house and had to drive over to get my spare set of keys. I was determined to put it down to her being scatterbrained. Yet there was this persistent voice inside my head.

She could have it.

A voice I chose to ignore.

I look down at the letter once more.

It would kill me.

I wish now with all my heart that I could take back those selfish words. All I wanted was to protect Beth – and myself – from further pain.

I wipe the tears from my eyes.

Right now, I’d give anything to be able to hold my daughter one last time and tell her how sorry I am for letting her down. And what I wouldn’t give to be able to ask her the questions I need answering now like never before.

Did she ever intend for her daughter Flo to see this letter? Maybe, in the end, Beth agreed that none of us should know our future, that we’re better off letting fate take its course.

I can’t tell my granddaughter.

She is far too fragile, not only to discover that this has been kept a secret from her, but to understand the impact it could have on her own life. She is grieving for her mother and it’s taking every ounce of her strength just to get through each day. Showing her this letter would only rake up the past and make Flo fear her future. Yet the decision to keep on hiding the truth doesn’t rest easy either.

I tear a small corner of the letter, tempted to rip it into shreds and pretend I’d never seen it.

I wish in so many ways I hadn’t.

If I show Flo the letter it could break her heart. But if I don’t . . .

What a fool I have been to think that the past never catches up with you.

1

Flo

 

Five years later

 

As I walk down Fifth Avenue, to the mystery place where I’m meeting Theo tonight, I think back on the past week, wishing  Ididn’t have to pack my bags and return to London tomorrow, back to my job and familiar oldroutine.

My boyfriend Theo has been based in New York  for  sixmonths.

‘Long distance relationships can work, Flo, if we see it as an opportunity,’ he’d said, when he broke the news that he was needed over here for a year, possibly more.

And he was right. There is something magnetic about this city. It buzzes with energy, like a party that never stops.The first time I flew over to see Theo, we visited all the major sights and did all the things you’re supposed to, like taking a trip to the top of the empire State Building and hopping on a ferry over to Staten Island. Now I’m happy to do my own thing, whiling away the hours with my sketch- pad in Central Park, or finding hidden gems off the beaten track, like the original piece of the Berlin Wall I discovered in a small plaza at MadisonAvenue.

Each time I visit – mainly for long weekends – Theo takes me to a new exhibition or restaurant that has justopened.

Nothing stays the same here. Nothing stands still.

And everything is so tall. Theo works in just one of the thousand dazzling skyscrapers that grace the Manhattan skyline.

I dodge out of the way of a group of tourists taking pic- tures of the empire State Building. Another thing I love about this place is it keeps me fit. There’s no point hailing a cab and spending a fortune sitting in traffic. Everyone here walks for miles.

As I continue down one of the most famous and elegant streets in the world, I think of Granny, hoping she’s all right.  It’s the anniversary of Mum’s death today and it’s the first time we’ve spent it apart. When I called her earlier this evening, she told me she was fine and that she’d laid some flowers on Mum and Granddad’s gravestone and would later light a candle.

I promised to light one too.

In many ways Mum’s death feels a lifetime ago, but in others as if it were only yesterday. What tormented me most is the fact I didn’t have the chance to say goodbye. My last conversation with her was over the phone, while I was at the airport in Venice about to board a plane. I was blissfully happy in a steady relationship and I’d just been offered a job designing sets for a small theatre company in Copenhagen. The only problem was my scatty old mum.

‘What now?’ I’d snapped, annoyed at having to repeat the conversation we’d literally just had about what time my plane landed and whether I’d be home in time for supper.

I never saw her again.

I didn’t even tell her I loved her.

That’s what I miss most: picking up the phone to talk to her; hearing her voice.

Her death had seemed so avoidable.One moment she was alive, but the next . ..

‘It was an accident,’ Granny had stressed. ‘A tragic accident that makes no sense.’

Losing Mum will be the hardest thing I’ll ever go through. At one point I didn’t even want to live, oblivion seemed preferable. Idon’t know what I’d have done without Granny picking me up and piecing me back together again, especially when her grief must have been just asraw.

I can’t tell you when I began to feel less broken. I don’t recall a turning point. All I know is that food began to taste of something again. Slowly I noticed the sunlight streaming through my bedroom window. I heard the birds sing. My steps began to feel lighter.

And then along came Theo.

We met eighteen months ago in the business lounge at Gatwick airport, when I was heading out on a work trip to southern Spain. I was busy stocking up on all the food and glossy magazines the business lounge had to offer, when I sensed someone watching me. Discreetly, I turned to see an older, fair-haired man drinking a cup of coffee, a flicker of amusement in his eyes. Everything about him spelt success, from his designer suit to his leather briefcase and expensive watch. I returned to my seat, thinking he must have been looking at someone else, or recalling a funny joke he’d just been told.

But then he approached my table.

‘Theodore Holmes,’ he said, sitting down opposite me,as if it were the most natural thing in the world to introduce oneself to a stranger. Before I could say a word, he continued, ‘I don’t know your name yet, but what I do know is I’m going to spend the rest of my life withyou.’

It’s not often I’m lost for words. I felt out of my depth, and as if he could read my mind he leaned closer towards me and said quietly ,‘Listen,I’m sorry to come on so strong. You don’t have to agree to spend the rest of your life with me just yet, but how aboutdinner?’

He handed me his business card. We parted with a hand- shake, almost as if we were in a boardroom.

‘Deal,’ I was tempted to say.

For the next few days, I imagined our perfect first date with flowers and champagne, the conversation flowing freely, the evening ending with a romantic goodnight kiss. When I returned home, however, I began to lose my nerve, that little voice of doubt creeping in.

After Mum died, I broke up with my long-term boyfriend and I hadn’t been in a serious relationship since. Ifelt out of practice.

As if he’s really going to be interested in you, Flo. It meant nothing. He probably says the same thing t oevery woman he meets and he won’t even remember you.

But despite that voice in my head, I couldn’t throw away his business card.

James – my flat-mate and best friend’s brother – looked him up online with me one evening afterwork.

‘Good-looking,’ he said when we saw a picture of Theo smiling broadly into the camera, ‘but knows it.  Mind you, I’d be smiling like that too if I had his teeth and his bankaccount.’

James is a vet, which, according to him is ‘not a job you do for the money’.

He urged me to give Theo a call. ‘What’s the worst that can happen? It’s one night, and if he’s a knob, move on.’

I smiled. James always had a way with words. Anyway, I took his advice and called.

Theo picked up instantly, and when I said my name, asking nervously if it was a good time for him to talk, he replied, ‘I’ve been waiting for days. ever since I first set eyes on you.’

I was still hesitant to go on a date. I wasn’t sure I trusted his smooth talk, but I listened to James again, who told meI hadnothing to lose except one evening of takeaway, Netflix, and James’s charming company.

On our first date, Theo booked a table at a restaurant on the 32nd floor of the Shard, and over dinner I discovered he left school without any qualifications, but through hard work and self-belief he was now CeO of a company called ASPIre, one of the biggest global marketing agencies in the world.I tried to ignore that little voice again that wondered why he’d want to go out with someone like me, a mere travel agent, when surely he could have the pick of anyone in thisrestaurant.

When Theo asked me for a second and a third date, that voice stillwouldn’t go away. I kept expecting something to go wrong; I was waiting for the fall. Yet my fear has been pointless, and after eighteen months together that little voice has almost disappeared.

Almost.

I rummage in my handbag to retrieve the note Theo left on my pillow this morning, with the exact address of where I’m supposed to meet him.

‘It’sasurprise,’he’dinsisted.He’sawareit’sMum’sanniversary today and wanted to do something to honour it, so I suggested we do something fun: drink cocktails, go to a nightclub and dance until the early hours of themorning.

‘Mum loved dancing,’ I said. ‘She used to dance in the kitchen and sing in the shower.’

I told  him I wanted to remember all the happy times we’d shared and celebrate her life tonight, because for the first time in five years I haven’t only been thinking about Mum today. This morning, when I woke up in Theo’s apartment and read his note, I realized that time does slowly heal, and that right now, despite everything, I am truly happy.

As I arrive I see no sign of a restaurant or bar. I glance at my watch. It’s past seven o’clock.

Theo’s late. He’s never late.

For a split second I feel uneasy. I wish I knew why he was being so secretive. He knows how much I hate surprises. But my worries vanish the moment I see him across the street, and soon I’m in his arms, welcoming his kiss.

‘Are you ready?’ he asks.

‘Ready for what? Where are we —’

‘Trust me,’ he says, a smile spreading across his face as he holds his hand out towards mine. I know more than most how happiness can be taken away from us as quickly as it was found. But I know,too,that it’s time for me to let go of my past and trust in my future once and for all. It’s what Mum would have wanted.

I take his hand.

Maybe I’m allowed to be this happy without a catch afterall.

 

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