An Unsuitable Marriage by Colette Dartford

An Unsuitable Marriage by Colette Dartford


Publisher: Zaffre34035837

Publishing Date: 9th March 2017

Source:  Received from the publisher in return for an honest review!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Women’s Fiction,  General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback



When the worst happens, could your marriage survive? A sharp and emotional novel of a family under pressure, perfect for fans of Joanna Trollope and Hilary Boyd.

Olivia always thought she had the perfect family life. A loving husband in Geoffrey, a thoughtful and intelligent son in Edward and a beautiful home in the Somerset countryside.

But all that changed when Geoffrey’s business went under. Now penniless and homeless, Geoffrey is living with his recently widowed mother, whilst Olivia has been forced to take a job as housemistress at her son’s elite boarding school.

Soon the cracks in the relationship start to show. And, increasingly desperate, Geoffrey makes a mistake. One that could have consequences for the whole family . . .

Rating: 3/5

I’ve read Colette Dartford’s debut novel “Learning to Speak American” some time ago and it was a steady, nice read so I really wanted to see how she managed with the dreaded second book. The synopsis to “An Unsuitable Marriage” is great, it sounds so chilling and I was sure it’s going to be a great read. However, this time, and I am sorry to say this, the story itself don’t do the synopsis justice. It’s not a bad read, not at all, and it has its moments, but it promises something that we, in fact, don’t get.

Olivia had everything – a doting husband, intelligent and talented son, Manor Farm house, money and no problems. But then her husband George goes bankrupt and everything in Olivia’s life changes – they find themselves homeless and with money troubles. So Olivia jumps at the chance of taking a place as a house parent at her son’s boarding school. Well, she doesn’t have a lot of choice, to be honest – either the job or living with George at his mother’s, and the two women never took to each other, and George has never stood up for his wife. As it usually happen, one trouble results in the next and there are really many problems on the horizon for Olivia and her family.

The characters were not the easiest to warm to – at least for me. However, while George seems to be stuck in the rut of living at home and finding new “hobbies”, at least Olivia is doing better, or she’s at least trying, she’s doing something. They are full of flaws, but that’s the thing that made them feel very realistic, however I had a feeling that there are too many flaws, especially in George. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure if those two were anytime good for each other. I’m not sure if they loved each other, and they got married because of Olivia getting pregnant and George’s parents being so conventional and traditional. So there was really not much keeping them together when the things turned out the difficult way, or was there? They also felt too wooden and I’d love to get more into their emotions. Yes, they were convincing in the way they were and acted but they lacked the depth that makes the characters more realistic and more possible for me to relate to and to understand them better.

I think that what mostly disappointed me is what the author has done to one of the most significant characters. It was so sudden and unexpected and for me it looked as if Ms Dartford perhaps didn’t know what to do with her or how to finish this subplot. I mean, I didn’t like her, this character, I despised her to be honest but doing this what the author’s done just clipped my wings. I was hoping for more complexion, and it just seemed that the author has made her life easier, too the easy way out instead of trying to complicate the story and finish it in a different way. It was just as if she wanted to got rid of the problem, to remove her out of the way.

This book lacked in something for me, and I can’t put my fingers on what it was exactly, there just wasn’t any spark that makes the reading exceptional. It was not a bad book, oh my word, of course not, but it was also not the one that wow – ed me. It shows the real world, how real marriages work but it just didn’t capture my attention. I also all the time had a feeling that the book is set in the United States, even though it was set in England, but I just had the feeling that the setting, the descriptions of the places, the boarding school is too American. It also seemed to me that the author wanted to touch upon too many issues in her story. They were very important issues, such as betrayals, marriages falling apart, bullying and sexual abuse and while some of them were relatively well developed, most of them was rather brushed over. What was brilliantly written and captured in the best possible way was the boarding school and the dynamics between parents and students. The bullying doesn’t start at school, it starts at home and the author has really smartly smuggled those information on to her pages. It is rather sad that it works that way but it is the way that it really is, and, ultimately, children suffer while parents play their own games.

So “An Unsuitable Marriage” is a story about new beginnings and finding courage. While it was not my favourite read, please do try it for yourself because what doesn’t work for me may work for you! I am also already waiting for Ms Dartford’s next book, as I am really intrigued what she has in store for us next.

Learning to Speak American by Colette Dartford

Today I am kicking off Colette Dartford‚s blog tour for her debut novel „Learning to Speak American„. This book is  based on Colette’s experience of renovating a derelict house in California’s Napa Valley. Having bought and renovated the house, Colette lived there with her husband for many years before moving back to the UK, and the parts about renovating the house were really brilliant! The novel was a quarterfinalist in Amazon’s first novel award in California. Colette’s second novel, The Sinners, will be published by Bonnier in 2017, which is a great news guys!

Learning to Speak American

by Colette Dartford


Publisher: Twenty7

Publishing Date: 14th July 2015

Source:  Copy provided by the publisher, thank you!

Number of pages: 384

Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)

 Buy the Book: Kindle | Paperback



„Having suffered in silence since the tragic death of their young daughter, Lola and Duncan Drummond’s last chance to rediscover their love for one another lies in an anniversary holiday to the gorgeous Napa Valley.

Unable to talk about what happened, Duncan reaches out to his wife the only way he knows how – he buys her a derelict house, the restoration of which might just restore their relationship.

As Lola works on the house she begins to realise the liberating power of letting go. But just as she begins to open up, Duncan’s life begins to fall apart.

Colette Dartford’s debut novel, Learning to Speak American, exploring whether a parent can ever truly move on from the death of a child. And, after all the heartbreak, whether Lola and Duncan can learn to love again.”

Rating: 3/5


I’ve heard many praises about Colette Dartford’s debut novel „Learning to Speak American” and I truly wanted to read the book for myself, so when the opportunity for taking a part in the blog tour came, I didn’t hesitate and jumped at the chance. I really liked the sound of the book as well and I was asking myself all the time, can such a tragedy bring people together or rather drive them away? This is the question that was really bothering me all the time, maybe because I know people who are experiencing the same situation and it doesn’t seem to work for them, so I was really intrigued to see how it is going to continue between Lola and Duncan. On the surface they both seem to cope with the death of their daughter, or should I rather write „cope” because I think it is a situation that you can never process, and I wanted to see for myself the outcome of this story.

I think that for a debut the author has chosen a really difficult subject matter to deal with, and hats off to her for starting with such ambitious novel. The book started in a very promising way and I could feel all the feelings and emotions of the characters myself, as they were really written in very descriptive way and I could feel the tension, the uncertainty, this wall between Duncan and Lola. However, soon the story went a little downhill for me, I found it hard to get into it – I can’t tell you why exactly, it’s just that all the feelings started to overwhelm me. I also think that the death of Clarissa should have been explained much quicker – we know that Lola and Duncan had a daughter and that she’s dead, and this subject came every once in a while in the story, but the real reason of her death was kept a secret. There were some flashbacks, some hints but we needed to wait almost to the end of the book for it to be explained, and I think it was unnecessary tension as it led us to thinking that there was some kind of mystery, especially as Duncan made it clear more than once that he feels guilty about it. I think it should have been told straight at the beginning because maybe then it would change my view of the characters? Because I also couldn’t connect with the characters and as much as I understand that after such a tragedy you must find something to keep you occupied, I couldn’t stomach Duncan and his escapes into work and other „hobbies” (I didn’t like Duncan. I just didn’t. He was a coward, he was cold and he was unjust. I understand his grief, I truly do, but he should have open to Lola and stop carrying the weight of the whole world on his shoulder – because he felt like this. Though there were moments that even with me disliking him, my heart really went to him, he was so incredibly sad and he lived with this sadness alone) and Lola being obsessed with the house renovations.

I much more enjoyed the parts of the book set in Napa Valley than the parts in the Somerset village, as they were so full of sadness, secrets and lies and they made me feel really depressed. And the characters that I liked most were probably Lola’s new neighbours. I empathised with Lola but somehow, the way she acted and reacted, she didn’t feel so genuine to me – I can’t put my finger on my problem and it annoys me to be honest, because there seemed everything to be okay with Lola and yet I had problems to warm to her. To be honest both the characters, Lola and Cain McCann felt just too bland to write a whole story around them and I think I missed a little more depth to them.

The book is written in a lovely writing style, however the pace was too slow for my liking and I was mostly waiting for something to happen. But it was a deeply emotional novel about grief, about second chances and new beginnings and I was intrigued by Lola and Duncan’s story and wondered how it’s going to end. Although the end was far too Disney – like in my opinion and it didn’t make me feel so content and glad. I liked how the story was told from Lola and Duncan’s perspectives, alternatively, as it gave us a deeper insight into their heads, into their thoughts and we were fully aware of what they were thinking and feeling. And the secrets they were keeping from each other as well, and there was quite a number of them. And what the author managed to do is write a novel that is sad on one hand, and on the other filled with hope – she did it really professionally and perfectly blended those two feelings. She has also with a lot of subtlety captured the works of a broken relationship. Yes, I am a little torn about „Learning to Speak American” but altogether it was a nice book and I will be looking forward to reading more from Colette Dartford.