I emerged from Milly Johnson's latest book at 5:30 this morning. Utterly knackered, but with a big smile on my face.
When dynamic, power-dressing Christie blows in like a warm wind to take over their department, five very different women find themselves thrown together at work. But none of them could have predicted the fierce bond of friendship that her leadership would inspire…Anna, 39, is reeling from the loss of her fiance, who ran off with a much younger woman. Her pride in tatters, these days Anna finds it difficult to leave the house. So when a handsome, mysterious stranger takes an interest in her, she's not sure whether she can learn to trust again? Then there's Grace, in her fifties, trapped in a loveless marriage with a man she married because, unable to have children of her own, she fell in love with his motherless brood. Grace worries that Dawn is about to make the same mistake: orphaned as a child, engaged to love-rat Calum, is Dawn more interested in the security that comes with his tight-knit, boisterous family? When a sexy, footloose rock singer catches her eye, will Dawn have the courage to follow her heart? At 28, Raychel is the youngest member of their little gang. And with a loving husband, Ben, and a cosy little nest for two, she would seem to be the happiest. But what dark secrets are lurking behind this perfect facade, that make sweet, pretty Raychel so guarded and unwilling to open up? Under Christie's warm hand, the girls soon realise they have some difficult choices to make. Indeed, none of them quite realised how much they needed the sense of fun, laughter, and loyalty that abounds when five women become friends. It's one for all, and all for one!
This book was so wonderful that it's hard to know where to begin with the review. First of all, Milly Johnson is a natural born storyteller. The highs and lows of each women's story were written beautifully, and with excellent timing and pace. Pageturner…Big tick. I became completely engaged in what was going on, so much so that the book may as well have been glued to my hands. I simply could not put it down.
Secondly, the characters were a joy to read. The book has a fairly large cast, which isn't something I'm usually very fond of, but each character was so distinctive that they could have held up an entire novel all on their own. While the main characters were utterly, believeably wonderful (my favourite was Anna), it was the supporting cast that really shone for me. Muriel and the Crooke family, Gordon, Malcolm and Jane, were all characters that we've come across in real life, but none of them were cliched. As usual with Milly's books, the romantic interests were something else. Sweet, sexy Ben, country singing Al, and dark vampire Vlad were just brilliant. Literally a total swoonfest. Characters who I want to see more of…big fat tick.
Thirdly, this book took me on an entire spectrum of emotions. I got the rage, I chuckled, and welled up and I hoped. The humour lay primarily in the characters as opposed to the plot, and parts of the dialogue had me squawking. I mentioned in my review of A Spring Affair that Milly Johnson must be a bit of a chatterbox. Now I think she's a lurker too. In the nicest possible way, I'm not sure how somebody can produce such warm, real, funny dialogue without spending a lot of time lurking around other peoples convos and jotting down notes.There were points at which I actually wanted to get into the conversations going on between the characters! Took me on a journey…another big tick.
Finally, while being a stand out romantic comedy, this book also touched on darker issues such as bullying, racism and miscarraige. To be able to write this in a way that adds to the emotionality of the audience's experience, while not becoming completely depressing is very impressive. This book made me want to send out a copy to everyone who has ever dismissed chick lit as a vapid genre and say "There you go! Take That!". I can't do that though, because the postage would be expensive and I'm skint.
So. Having gushed like a big fat chick lit nerd, I would like to finish by saying BUY THIS BOOK! I am fervently recommending it.
A huge 10/10