This post was originally published at Novelicious.com and is now at WritingTipsOasis.com. WritingTipsOasis.com acquired Novelicious.com in June 2022.
The Perfect Present is a huge tome of a book with over 500 pages and a beautiful, sparkly cover. As a reviewer, with around two-weeks in which to read it, there was a flicker of trepidation as I picked it up. Would I finish it in time? Would it keep me captivated for all 530 pages? I needn’t have worried.
Laura Cunningham is a jewellery maker living in a sleepy Suffolk village, working in a studio cut off from the mainland when the tide is in, spending time with nobody beyond her devoted boyfriend Jack and young friend Fee. When Rob Blake walks into her studio a few weeks before Christmas and commissions her to make him the perfect charm necklace for his wife Cat’s birthday, his brusqueness and demands initially put her off. But when she discovers what he is willing to pay, and that it would allow her to buy Jack his dream for Christmas, she is forced to reconsider.
Rob asks her to interview the key people in Cat’s life, so that each of the charms will represent a key moment or memory. As she visits Cat’s friends, work colleagues and family, Laura discovers that Cat’s life is not only incredibly privileged, but Cat herself is also seemingly perfect. Beautiful, gifted and kind-hearted, Laura begins to think she is creating a charm necklace for an angel. And when Laura is forced to join Rob, Cat and their friends at their ski chalet in Verbier for a celebratory weekend to get the interviews finished, Laura is thrust headlong into their world.
The Perfect Present is a lush, opulent novel full of intrigue, romance and secrets. It is rich in its story, and in its story-telling. The writing is wonderfully descriptive without stifling the flow of the story; the characters are fleshed out and believable, each with their own paths, and their own relationships with Laura or Cat. I loved Kitty and her busy family home, Sam with her sharp exterior, and Fee’s teenage dress-sense and endless optimism. Laura, too, is a complex character, strong-willed but with a vulnerability that isn’t initially explained. The locations, too, from Laura’s Suffolk village and studio to the jaw-droppingly beautiful Chalet in Verbier, are 3D enough to put you right in the middle of the action.
The story itself is intricate and brilliantly crafted. Laura’s slow immersion in Cat’s world, her growing distance from her boyfriend, the events of Verbier that start to change her and reveal things about her past that she has tried to keep hidden. Every page is engrossing, every new event adds to the complicated web Laura finds herself in and, able to see Cat’s life from every angle, leaves her with a heart-breaking decision to make.
There are displays of super-wealth, a lot of champagne, beautiful women and even more beautiful men, and for about two pages I thought this was going to annoy me. But seeing things through Laura’s eyes, and the skill with which the characters and the plot have been created meant that it soon added to my enjoyment, not lessened it. And honestly, what’s wrong with having a host of delicious would-be-heroes for readers to choose from? There is Laura’s wonderfully kind boyfriend Jack, blue-eyed daredevil Alex, smart financier David and Cat’s sultry, thoughtful husband Rob. But there is one in particular who I was drawn to (OK, had a massive crush on), and let’s just say I was happy with his outcome!
I hadn’t read anything by Karen Swan before this, (though I had heard good things about Christmas at Tiffany’s) and I was surprised to go on Amazon today and see no reviews had been posted for this book. I loved it. It is romantic and shocking and sad and uplifting and exhilarating. It has enough twists and turns to put a helter-skelter to shame. I am going to buy everything else Karen Swan has written and prepare myself for some long nights, because I often found myself, past midnight, going just one more chapter, I can’t possibly stop now. And if you’re daunted by the thought of a book that’s over 500 pages long then The Perfect Present is the one to try. You might find yourself wishing it was a little bit longer.