Already a bestseller in ebook format, Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons has now been released in paperback in an attempt to introduce more readers to this quirky contemporary romance.
The book follows the relationships of sisters, Emma and Rachel, with their respective other halves and the sense of discontent which is sneaking into their lives. Emma is a high-flying book editor on the verge of securing a potential bestseller for the company, and is looking forward to planning her wedding with fiancé, Martin. He adores her, frequently surprising her with meals, champagne and weekends away. However, Emma can’t help but feel a little wary at the prospect of married life, having no desire to give up her career just yet. When her handsome and devilish new author starts making advances towards her, she finds herself struck with a moral dilemma.
Elsewhere, Rachel is happily married to Steve and spends her days looking after their three children while he works. With how her children behave, her days are often a long, hard slog, struggling to get them ready to go out or to have a minute alone. When Steve drops the bombshell that he has been offered a job in Edinburgh, there is increasing unrest in the home, as Rachel is conflicted about leaving everything she knows behind. The bond between them starts to break down, and she finds solace in talking to her kindly neighbour, Tom, who is clearly attracted to her, even if she can’t see it.
With their relationships under stress, both Rachel and Emma find support in each other and in their parents, Diana and Edward, from whom we also get some perspective passages. They provide some much needed grounding for the girls, even if they can’t solve all of life’s problems. We also get to meet Rachel’s fellow mothers and Emma’s work colleagues, who each provide copious amounts of humour and help to lighten the tone of the book.
What this book prides itself on is the deliverance of the classic message, ‘you don’t know what you have until it’s gone’. It helps to put life into perspective, and reinforce that boredom or dissatisfaction with a relationship can be temporary, and to be careful how you act upon it. I think the book was somewhat more serious that I expected in its treatment of family life and relationships, as I had anticipated more of a predictable happy ending than I received. I was pleasantly surprised, and enjoyed getting to know the sisters in more detail as the plot progressed.
For once, in a book with multiple perspectives, I didn’t actually have a favourite sister, as I enjoyed both Emma and Rachel’s dilemmas in equal amounts. Emma’s work/life balance was in dangerous territory as she grew closer to her new author, Richard, despite knowing that he has a dreadful reputation as a ladies man. I think she was somewhat typical in wanting a touch of excitement before settling down into marriage, but at the same time she maintains her morality and is always mindful of Martin’s feelings. There are obviously moments when she slips up and drama ensues, but I think everything worked out as it should in her story.
As for Rachel, I really enjoyed seeing her daily struggles with the children, as it gave ample opportunity for witty, childish antics, and perfectly captured the difficulties of parenthood. Like her sister, Rachel felt her brain had become numb from disuse in being a housewife, growing bored with her suburban life when Steve is repeatedly late home from work. She feels trapped, despite the love she feels for her children, and finds it more and more difficult to have an adult conversation with Steve without it descending into a row. I think she just needed to find a chance to be herself again, and would have liked a little more detail about Rachel in the concluding chapter.
As expected, the book does have a happy ending, albeit coloured by events that transpire. There is a genuine sense that happiness will now be possible for both parties, and that a balance will be achieved in both lives. I really enjoyed the overarching message of the book, and found that I could really connect to both sisters. Both of their dilemmas are something that many women experience and easily relatable, as the seriousness of life becomes repetitive and fun feels like it is disappearing.
I did have a few problems with this book, which I think primarily resulted from the writing style. It was written in the present tense, an unusual choice for most novels, and I thought it sometimes jarred and made it a little more difficult to read. I also found some of the girls’ actions repetitive, as I lost count of the number of glasses of champagne, wine or gin and tonics that were consumed throughout the book. It seemed that whenever there was a problem, out came the alcohol and the potential drunken drama that might follow. Regardless, I thought this was a fun book with a serious message behind it, and I owe a special mention to Rachel’s Swiss friend, Christa, who has a witty tale at every juncture and often stole the show. Verdict
This was a fun contemporary novel that lives to remind us that you don’t know what you have until it’s gone. It teaches you to appreciate the relationships in your life, but at the same time is a little too serious if you’re expecting a fun romance read. Nevertheless, the sisterly protagonists both have interesting lives, and it is difficult to choose a favourite between them. Rating: 3.5 Stars
Not Quite Perfect by Annie Lyons Contemporary Romance Carina UK (18 July 2014) Paperback: 384 pages
I haven't read anything by Erica Hayes before, but after reading a few reviews for Scorched, and seeing that it was on NetGalley for review, I decided to give it a go. And I'm so pleased I did. After the first chapter I realised that this was going to be my kind of book. The author pulls no punches; the writing is gritty, witty and dark - just the way I like it.
The heroine, Verity Fortune, aka The Seeker, is complex and slightly damaged, but completely badass. She's a superhero among a family of superheroes. People at large know that they exist but only because they wear costumes and masks, without them their true identities are unknown and so the superheroes (and villains) can go on with their 'normal' daily lives without recognition. Verity's family also owns FortuneCorp, one of the biggest corporations in Sapphire City, and are well respected.
The book begins with Verity being tortured, held captive by an unknown source, although she thinks it's Razorfire, the biggest, baddest Villain of them all. Her superpowers are being held in check by an augmentium helmet, made from a specific material that prevents her using her telekinetic powers. Fortunately, there is a moment when Verity takes a chance and manages to break free. Her only thought is to get back to her family, and to plan her vengeance on Razorfire, for her lost months, for the unrelenting torture, for her scarred face, and for the people of Sapphire City. Slowly throughout the novel the story of her life unravels, her lost memories slowly return after the months and months of torture, and many of the unresolved questions are answered. But things are not always as they seem.
What I loved about Scorched was the fact that reader doesn't know any more than Verity. When she's confused so are we, when she asks questions we do to, and when she finds out the answers to those questions, we are right along side her. This made for a very exciting read. There are a lot of mistakes made along the way as she tries to figure out who is behind her kidnapping, and the murder of her father, Thomas Fortune, aka Blackstrike, the city's best loved crime-fighter, but eventually we do get some answers and they are HUGE, leaving Verity reeling and wanting to seek revenge. How Verity will recover I don't know, but it will definitely make for a very interesting second book.
Although I found out the majority of answers at the same time as Verity, I did have my suspicions about the identity of Razorfire, and I was proven right when his identity was revealed, in the most AWESOME way. But that was the only aspect I had an inkling about, everything else came as a surprise, which I loved. It really kept me on my toes. The flashbacks she has tell us the story regarding her father, her brother (Adonis) and sister (Equity) and Razorfire. As the story moves forward, and as Verity uncovers more and more about her kidnappers, we realise that her memory is not always accurate and can be deceiving.
The relationships Verity has with other characters are interesting and I really enjoyed her relationship with Glimmer, another superhero who decides to help her in her quest, as well as for his own reasons, and with Razorfire. I liked that she was pulled between good and evil. It was interesting to find out why she felt so divided and conflicted all the time. Glimmer would call her back to the good side and remind her what it is to be a superhero, but then she would take a different route and walk a dark path, which she would instantly regret. There's not really any romance in Scorched, but there is possibly a hint to one, but this book didn't need it, even if I wanted it (I do love a bit of romance).
I haven't read such a good book in a long time. I loved the world building, the characters, the story; practically everything about it was just spot-on. There are so many twists and turns, and I loved finding things out along with Verity rather than be given the answers by the author.
Scorched is a fantastic start to a new series, and a really refreshing urban fantasy/superhero tale that I simply gobbled up. I can't wait for book two, which will hopefully be released sometime later this year. If you're looking for something gritty, exciting, and fresh with complex and interesting characters, then Scorched is the book for you.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Scorched by Erica Hayes Urban Fantasy / Superhero Harper Impulse (22 May 2014) Ebook: 296 pages