Dear Darling – A Valentine Special

CHAPTER TWO

I chew on my nail as I browse through houses to rent online, hoping that ‘the one’ will jump out at me soon. Tensions are running pretty high right now and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m actually glad to get Adam away for a few days, maybe he’ll be able to relax a bit. I feel him tossing and turning in bed every night, our deadline to get out of this house is 25 February. That’s approximately 2 weeks to find somewhere we’re happy to rent for at least 6 months because the conveyancing department at work have told us we’d have to be bloody lucky or buying a repossession to be in a new house within that timescale.

I put my head on my desk and groan. Being a grown up can kiss my arse.

“Ellie, that Lease, is it ready?” Adam bursts into my room in a whirlwind. A delicious smelling whirlwind but a whirlwind nonetheless.

“Yeah, here.” I hand him the draft Lease and smile back at his bemused face. “What?” I feel at my face and something drops from my forehead. Pringle crumbs. Nice.

“I need you to book me some accommodation for a meeting next week in Manchester. Our new branch has fucked up with a major client so all the Partners are heading up to try and sort something out.”

“Sure, when for?” I mentally plan a night with Hannah now Gina has to be a proper grown up to a little person.

“Just Thursday overnight. I’ll be back Friday in time for dinner with my parents.” He’s scanning through the Lease as he talks, glancing up at me occasionally.

“A free meal always sounds good to me. I really need to get the recipe from your mum for her carrot cake, too. That counts as one of your five a day, right?” I flash him my newly whitened teeth and he laughs.

“Yes, of course it does.” He gives me a wry smile. “Right, I’m off. I’ll probably be late home tonight so grab something without me. I can’t come home to a hangry Ellie, it’s terrifying.” Kissing the top of my head, he rushes out of my office as quickly as he came.

Work was manic before Christmas. I’m talking 12 hour days, ratty clients, staff shortages, but somehow, January and February have seemed worse! It’s like those that didn’t complete their transactions before Christmas are hell bent on making my life miserable by insisting it happens right now. Not next week, not next month, now. And it doesn’t matter that their tenants can’t move in until spring, they want shizz sorted right this second. Feckers.

Ripping open the lid on my carrot and hummus snack pot, I pull up Google and look at images of New York. Because when you have work coming out of every orifice what else is there to do other than kick back and toss it off?

I hope it snows when we’re there. Not enough to affect our flights but wouldn’t that be the ultimate? New York on Valentines Day wandering around hand in hand while the snow falls.

“Ellie?” I jump as Hannah appears at my door.

“Jesus Hannah, at least give a girl some warning before making her jump like that.” I put my heart to my chest and feel my heart thudding against it.

“Guilty conscience much.” She arches an eyebrow so I give her my middle finger in return. “What’s up?” I close down the New York tab on my computer and give her my full attention because let’s face it, I’m so easily distracted that she could be telling me she was about to give birth to a sea lion and I’d simply smile and nod.

“Have you told Adam about your interview yet?”

Good mood – splat.

“No,” I shift in my seat, not meeting her gaze.

“Ellie! The interview tomorrow, how have you not told him? How have you got out of working in the morning?”

I bite my lip and smile as I remember Adam’s face. “I told him I was going for a smear.”

“ELLIE!!” Despite her anger, Hannah laughs. “You can’t lie to him, you know that don’t you?”

“I know, I know. But it’s just so hard, you know. I’m breaking up our work relationship. I just thought maybe I could go for the interview-“

“In secret?” Hannah gave me her judgey face. She gets so judgey these days when she thinks I’ve had a foolish idea or I’ve ordered 3 starters, 2 mains, a side and 2 naans from the Indian down the road then go back for a dunk of her curry sauce.

“I’ll tell him tonight.” I roll my eyes and pull up an image of New York, wondering how I’ll tell him that I don’t want to be his PA anymore without hurting his feelings. Maybe I’ll cushion the blow with new underwear.

“Good. Now let’s start planning how to take Tiffany’s by storm!” Giggling, Hannah comes around my desk and perches on the window ledge. “Oh I hope it snows. Christen has been to New York before but I want to make this special for us, you know? He took such a massive leap of faith moving to London to be with me, this will be our first proper break together.”

“Ah Han, it’ll be amazing. Oh, before I forget, Adam’s away in Manchester next Thursday, do you fancy a night at mine? We could grab food, a few cocktails, stick a girly film on? Like old times, what do you say?”

“Oh yeah, just like old times,” Hannah laughs. “What time will Arianna’s clients be knocking on the door? Thank God you’re out of that place.”

Groaning I close my eyes. The image of a stumpy, sweaty older man propositioning me in my doorway will be forever etched on my brain.

“Right, it’s a date. Better get on with some work, haven’t you heard my boss is an absolute dick?” I laughed as Hannah rolled her eyes and left me to catch up on a dozen emails, as well as downloading the holiday countdown app on my phone. Obviously.

*

Interview day rolls around all too quickly.

I’d broken the news to Adam over a bottle of champagne and a box of his favourite truffles. He’s such a woman.

To be fair, he didn’t take the news badly at all. He was however slightly pissed off that I had lied about the whole smear test thing.

“You really felt that you had to lie to me?” He asked, muting the television so that I had nowhere to look other than at his beautiful face. I squirmed under his scrutiny with nowhere to run or hide.

“No, it’s not that, I just didn’t know how to tell you and thought that after the interview, it might be easier to somehow tell you. Because after the interview I’d know whether I was good enough to work anywhere else. I’m still not sure I got the job with you because I was good enough for it.”

“Ellie.”

“No, Adam. I love you but there’s not a week goes by that I don’t wonder whether I got the job because you thought I had a nice arse.”

“Well, you do have a nice arse, that is true,” a slow smile spread across his face. “But listen to me, Ellie Darling, you are bloody good at your job. You do the job of about 4 people, all while keeping me in line and you have never once complained.  You are kind, generous, and far too helpful for your own good and even when the shit hits the fan you front it out. If you feel like you want to spread your wings and see other employers,” he smiled as he took my hand, “then so be it.”

“You old romantic, you.” Leaning in for a kiss, I was once again floored by Adam Donley. As our lips touched, I pulled at his shirt collar and climbed onto his lap. “You never cease to amaze me. From surprise weekends away to coming home on a Friday night with my favourite ice cream when you know I’ve had an awful day.” I peppered kisses across his face as I undid his shirt and slipped it down his tanned arms.

“Ellie, not here.”

“Oh yes Adam, right here. If we’re going to lose the house anyway I want to rechristen every single room, starting right here, right now. I want you Adam, in every single way, and I can feel that you’re in agreement.” I laughed, wiggling my bum as he groaned and pulled me into a long deep kiss, sitting up and pinning me underneath him.

“God I love this dress,” he whispered as he slowly unzipped the front of my dress, his fingers delicately following the trail until it fell apart. “And I love you.”

My memories are quickly poofed through like a cloud of smoke as a 6ft glamazon smiles at me from above, legs to rival Taylor Swift as I stumble to my feet, my own Bambi like legs shaking with nerves.

“Ellie Darling? Hi my name’s Lydia, it’s so lovely to meet you. Won’t you follow me?”

Elite Event Management in the world according to Gina, is the dog’s bollocks at what they do. They have organised some of the most high profile celebrity events that London has ever seen and are about to branch out to New York. I only know this because the marketing firm Gina works for swear by Elite and if Gina gives a place the thumbs up you know it’s good. One of her contacts had recently told her that a vacancy had become available and wondered whether she would be interested. She told them she’d rather eat her own liver than work those kinds of hours anymore but she knew I’d thrive on this kind of challenge so here I am. About to go for an interview for a company that, according to the rumour mill, have arranged parties for Kim Kardashian and Kanye. I figure if they’re good enough for Kimye then why the hell not go for it.

Lydia’s office was the complete opposite of what I expected. Whenever I think of someone with a reputation as good as Lydia’s, I imagine them to have an office to rival Miranda’s from The Devil Wears Prada. The office I’m faced with is muted greys and nudes, an elegant suede sofa in the corner with cream scatter cushions, a sleek Macbook sat atop a dark oak table and the most intimidating view I have ever seen. I’m talking Trump Towers view. Even Adam’s view couldn’t rival this.

“Please, take a seat. Would you like a drink?” Lydia sits opposite me, her back to the magnificent view.

“Oh no, I’m fine, thank you.” I try to swallow the nerves and pull back my shoulders. I can do this. I totally have this. All I have to do is be myself.

“Wonderful. I’ll just bring my assistant in, you’ll be working side by side so I’d like to have her around. She’s been with me almost a year and I don’t know how I managed without her now.” Lydia laughs as I smile, prepared to meet the woman who, by the sounds of it, will get the final say on whether she thinks I’m up to the task.

A secluded door opens to the left of Lydia and my face freezes on what can only be described as a manic smile.

Sophie.

Of all the mother fudging people to walk through the door it had to be her. Still blonde. Still a size 6. Undoubtedly, still a bitch.

“Ellie! Oh when I saw your name appear in my diary I hoped it would be you. How are you these days?”

I gulp, my whole body numb. Sod it, I may as well relax, it’s not like I’m going to get the job now.

“Fine, thank you. You?” I want to vomit.

“Oh I am wonderful.” A sinister smile cross her face and my defences are officially on red alert.

“You two know each other?” Lydia looks confused which makes me wonder how creative Sophie has been with her CV.

“We do indeed. I worked with Ellie briefly at a law firm some time ago. She’s remarkable at her job Lydia, slept her way to the top like a true professional.” Sophie sits back in her chair and crosses her tiny ankles that are swallowed by the chunky black boots she has on. Her fashion sense always did leave a lot to be desired.

“Oh….” Lydia turns her nose up at me. “Is this why you’re wanting to leave? Has it gone a bit sour?” I can tell she’s trying for sympathetic but her tone is enough to curdle milk.

“Not at all, and that’s not really what happened. Sophie stalked my former fiancé via Twitter, took him for herself for a slice of fame pie, tried to get me sacked which resulted in my promotion and then blamed me for her relationship turning sour. Roman is gay now, you see.” I pick up my handbag, not in the mood for a bun fight. “I’m truly sorry for wasting your time, Lydia. If I had known Sophie worked here I would never have applied for the job. Thank you for taking the time to see me. I’ll see myself out.”

I hear Sophie whispering something as I leave the room, my face burning. I want to burst into tears. I had such high hopes for this job, to spread my wings and try something a little different. I’ve worked in law for 13 years and I’m ready for a change.

As the cool February air hits me, I take a deep breath and call Adam.

“Hey gorgeous, how was it? I wasn’t expecting to hear from you so soon.” I want to burst into tears down the line, to slide down the wall of the building and sit on the cold pavement crying that Sophie has once again managed to stick the knife in unexpectedly. But I don’t.

“You free for lunch?” My voice is timid. I’m tired, hungry and just want to see the face of my best friend. Gina aside, obviously.

“Yeah, of course. Are you okay?” I smile to myself picturing exactly how he’ll look right about now. He will have sat forward in his chair, frowning, biting his lips as he tries to work out what’s happened and how he can fix it. He is always so good at fixing things.

I sigh, staring up at the clouds as the move lazily across the powder blue sky. “Gingers in half an hour?”

“Oh Ellie. I’ll see you soon. I’m clearing my diary for the day as we speak, don’t worry about whatever has happened. We’ll fix it.”

Adam Donley. My very own Superman.

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Dear Darling – A Valentine Special

Gooood evening everyone! There was a slight fudge up with posting so I’m so sorry that you’ve been without for the last 2 days. I guess this means you’ll be treat to a double whammy soon 😉

Enjoy xx

CHAPTER ONE

Christmas is well and truly over, the ‘January blues’ are still hanging around, and I have about a stones worth of salted caramel profiteroles sticking to my arse courtesy of Marks and Spencer.

Running my hand down the list of chart DVDs at the supermarket, I wonder which new miracle workout DVD to buy, if any. Will it be the reality tv star who sacrificed her weekly kebabs and pints of beer for the tiny bikini body she’s now sporting, the presenter who I just can’t seem to trust because she smiles too much for someone who isn’t high, or a bootcamp master that could potentially kill me off with the warmup alone. Decisions, decisions.

“You could try the old fashioned route. You know, join a gym?” Gina raises a perfectly groomed eyebrow at me as she bounces Mathilda on her hip, wiping the drool from her chin.

“You know what I’m like, I’d pay the joining fee, turn up to my first session with the personal trainer, see the other women barely out of their teens bouncing about on the treadmill with their boobs still where they belong and flee like the coward I am. No, I think at home sessions are the best way forward.”

“But half of these DVDs are made by celebrities that purposely gained the weight just so they could lose it for a profit. Surely Adam would help you work it off?” She winks as I shake my head and cover Mathilda’s tiny ears.

“Firstly, Adam refuses to condone any extreme measures where my weight is concerned because he thinks I look perfect and likes the extra boobage. Secondly, 3 times a day 7 days a week wouldn’t help with the amount I’ve eaten over Christmas. I also blame you and your cravings. And Dale. Why is it that I was the one who always had to go on the cream cake shop for you, not to be crude but it wasn’t me that fertilised you and turned you into a walking garbage disposal.”

“Dale got the 2am trips for salad cream and red onion for my sandwiches. Anyway fat arse, don’t blame me for your lack of self-control. I gave birth well before Christmas and your festive cream cake obsession kicked in. You do realise that just because something is a limited edition it doesn’t mean you’ve got to eat enough of it to make up for the 11 months it’s not on sale, don’t you?” Kissing Mathilda’s head, Gina nudges me away from the DVDs and guides me towards the salad aisle. “Just stock up on salad and green tea so if all else fails, you’ll pee your weight off.”

“Nice. Thanks.” Adjusting my bra that’s steadily impaling me, I load my basket up with salad and tea bags and head to the checkout. Hannah insists that my new waistline is contentment and that I could just not buy the treats in the weekly shop. We’re no longer friends.

I joke, of course, but I mean there’s really no need to take such extreme measures is there? She may as well have sworn at me.

What I didn’t admit was that she was probably right. I’m the happiest I’ve been in a long time now that I’m with Adam. We cook together too every weekend which means that the days of a bottle of wine and Pot Noodle for my Saturday evening meal are long gone. My parents are thrilled with my new ‘healthier’ physique but I need exercise and until I start to tone up my jiggly bits, I refuse to shop for anything new. Apart from bras. This one really is digging in.

“How is Adam anyway? You guys found a house yet?” Mathilda gurgles and chews on her chubby little hand as Gina straps her into her baby seat and fights with the pram.

“He’s fine, stressing about finding somewhere as nice as where we are now.” The day the owner of his rented house decided he didn’t want to sell to us was a dark day indeed. I clung onto the bathtub like a child with their favourite blanket as he argued it out with the grumpy old git of a landlord. My apartment was long gone since Arianna moved back to the UK and decided that London was where her soul felt most at ease. I called bullshit on that and my guess is she ran out of money and wanted to get back some of her old clients from her call girl days, so all in all we haven’t had the best of luck where property is concerned.

“Well, you know my old apartment is empty at the moment, you can always stay there if you get stuck.”

“Thanks, G. Right, I’d better get back to work, sleeping with the boss won’t save me from the dead eye from the others if I’m late back.”

“Okay, give Hannah my love. And on a serious note babe, you look gorgeous, you don’t need to lose any weight.”

“Yeah, yeah.” I bat her away and blow kisses at Mathilda. “You just don’t want me raiding your wardrobe since the whole coffee down the cashmere incident.”

Glaring at me, Gina gets into the car and gives me the finger. Such a smashing role model.

 

*

 

“So I’ve been thinking,” Adam starts as he spoons out the salad onto my plate. We move in perfect synchronicity as I grab the steak from the griddle pan, doing my best to avoid the hiss and spits as I plate up.

“Go on,” I pour the wine and wait.

“These last couple of months have been incredibly stressful for us both, between work and having to move out of this place, and I think we deserve a break. We didn’t even celebrate our anniversary properly in November it was so hectic.”

My mind flashes back to our anniversary night and I feel myself blush. We may not have made it out but we certainly celebrated most of the night.

“Sure,” I cough. “Where were you thinking?” I silently pray it’s not somewhere that I’d need to get bikini ready for in a matter of weeks.

“How about a long weekend in New York? How would you feel about that?” He sits back in his chair and watches me as my fork hovers in limbo.

“Seriously?! That would be amazing! New York is right at the top of my bucket list! When?”

I watch relief flood his face, his dark eyes dancing as he bites his lip and takes my hand. I swallow hard and try to smile. I might be having a bad day because my work trousers are so tight that the top button has been undone all day, but nobody has ever made me feel as special and sexy and important as Adam does every single day.

“I’m so glad you said that because it’s already booked.” He laughs and his eyes crinkle in that way I love. “We fly out on Friday. Happy Valentines!”

Leaping from my seat, I throw myself into his lap and kiss his face like a dog who hasn’t seen his owner all day – which is pretty much how I feel at work anyway not being able to kiss him as and when I want.

“Have I told you lately how much I love you?” I ask.

“Hmmm, now that you mention it, not for a while. You can always show me tonight though.” His hand travels up my back and under my silk shirt and I smile against his mouth.

“Deal, Mr Donley. When did all this happen?!”

“Well Gina and Hannah have both said that they’re worried about you and so am I. We thought a break would do you the world of good and I know how much you love America. The only thing is….” He trails off and sucks air through his teeth, “they’re coming with us. Well, Gina and Dale, Hannah and Christen. We don’t have to see them but we all thought that a night out together letting our hair down might be nice. No work worries, no stresses at home.”

“It sounds perfect. I’m a very lucky lady to have so many people in my life that love me,” I laugh. “Although I’m not sure why you’re worried?” I spear a potato and chew slowly.

“Ellie, Gina rang me today to tell me about the exercise DVDs. You’re a beautiful, sexy, vivacious woman that lights up whatever room she walks into. You do not need to lose weight, okay?” His voice is firm, commanding, and I may have just peed my pants a little. “You want to get fit, fine. But you need to get the losing weight mission out of your head because you’re perfect, just the way you are. Also, you’re a bloody nightmare when you’re hangry.”

“You’re an idiot,” I laugh. “But I love you.”

Catch up on Chapter two soon………

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Wellies and Westies (a novella) by Cressida McLaughlin

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What it’s all about:

Catherine ‘Cat’ Palmer realises, too late, that bringing an adorable puppy into work at the local nursery was a bad idea, especially after the ensuing chaos gets her the sack.
Determined to turn a negative into a positive, Cat decides this is the perfect opportunity to get her dog-walking business off the ground with the help of her flatmates, Polly and Joe. After all, Primrose Terrace where she lives, is full of home-alone hounds…

Wellies and Westies is the first part of a serialized novel told in four parts – all set in Primrose Terrace.

Review

Book provided by HarperCollins UK via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

There was a serious buzz on Twitter about this glorious novella and the moment I saw the cover, I was sold. As well as being a sucker for a gorgeous cover, I love anything that involves animals and this was perfect.

In Wellies and Westies we meet the lovely, if not slightly unlucky, Catherine. Cat for short. She doesn’t have much luck with jobs and in the opening chapter, you understand why. Her heart is in the right place but she pushes the boundaries a little too far and gets herself the sack. On returning home to her friends house at number nine Primrose Terrace where she is currently living, Cat feels deflated and lost, not knowing which direction to go in. She has lost her job in the nursery and doesn’t know what else she’s good at. Aside from her love of animals, dogs in particular, she insists she doesn’t have anything else that she enjoys. This conversation with her friend eventually inspires her to set up her own dog walking business! Starting with the residents of Primrose Terrace, Cat begins to build up her business and it thrives. With a celebrity author requesting her services, Cat finds herself attending a glamorous party and making not only new friends but contacts.

Encouraged by her friend, Polly and Polly’s brother, Joe, Cat gains confidence but occasionally finds herself mesmerized and distracted by another local dog walker, the intriguing and over-confident Mark; who may or may not have a secret. Cat isn’t sure what to do for the best but she does know she’d like to find out more about him.

Cressida’s writing truly was fun and I really enjoyed Wellies and Westies. It’s the first time I’ve read anything by Cressida and it won’t be the last. I can’t wait to hear more about Cat’s adventures and what happens with Mark. If you want to be whisked away to a welcoming town by the sea for a few hours and love the idea of reading about the adventures of some unruly pooches, then this novella is definitely one for you. It gives me great pleasure to give this wonderful read……

4 STARS

Buy it now on Amazon UK / US

Follow Cressida on Twitter

Add Wellies and Westies on Goodreads

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About Cressida

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Cressy was born in South East London surrounded by books and with a cat named after Lawrence of Arabia. She studied English at the University of East Anglia and now lives in Norwich with her husband David.

Cressy’s favourite things – other than writing – include terrifying ghost stories, lava lamps and romantic heroes, though not necessarily at the same time. (Though perhaps a good starting point for a story . . ?)

When she isn’t writing, Cressy spends her spare time reading, returning to London or exploring the beautiful and romantic Norfolk coastline.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

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Here’s the official description:

Meet Pat. Pat has a theory: his life is a movie produced by God. And his God-given mission is to become physically fit and emotionally literate, whereupon God will ensure a happy ending for him — the return of his estranged wife Nikki. (It might not come as a surprise to learn that Pat has spent time in a mental health facility.) The problem is, Pat’s now home, and everything feels off. No one will talk to him about Nikki; his beloved Philadelphia Eagles keep losing; he’s being pursued by the deeply odd Tiffany; his new therapist seems to recommend adultery as a form of therapy. Plus, he’s being hunted by Kenny G!

Review

I won’t lie to you now my lovely readers, I absolutely bought this book because I remembered seeing Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in the clips for the movie version. At the time of reading, I hadn’t seen the film so I really went in to this book blind. I wasn’t 100% sure of what it was about but it had been in my TBR list for a while and given that I was about to go on a long journey, I figured now was as good a time as any to get into it.

When I first started the book, it took me a few minutes to adjust. It’s like it should be read in a diary style but it’s not a diary, you’re basically reading Pat’s thoughts which are quite….simple really. Not childlike, but they are definitely those of a man who is struggling. You then find out that Pat has spent a considerable amount of time in a mental health facility aka ‘the bad place’.

As the book progresses, you realise that Pat’s problems run quite deep. He is so focussed though, his main goal now is to get better and for ‘apart time’ with his wife, Nikki, to finish. He desperately wants Nikki back and has immersed himself into working out and reading, just so that he is in better shape than he used to be and is more intellectual for her. We learn that one of her old colleagues used to call him an illiterate buffoon and I don’t know about anyone else, but I felt really protective of Pat and wanted him to be able to go up to that guy, like he was imagining he would, and to be able to fire back at him.

I really loved Pat’s character and wanted to see him succeed but you can’t help but think that he isn’t going to get his happy ending, his silver lining like he dreams of, and you wonder whether Nikki really is worth all of the trouble – she certainly doesn’t seem it.

Pat imagines that his life is a movie that God is in control of and thinks that if he pleases God by improving himself and ‘practising being kind’, then he will return Nikki to him. You get the feeling that this ship has sailed though, especially as his family are being very vague with him whenever he mentions her and the end of their apart time.

When Tiffany comes onto the scene, his friends wife’s sister, I really wanted them to hit it off straight away. Tiffany is an extremely direct woman who speaks her mind, a bit too much at times, but Pat doesn’t want her attention, all he wants is Nikki. Tiffany however, makes herself a part of Pat’s life, whether he likes it or not. It was no surprise to learn that she also has mental health problems and towards the end of the book when you learn why, my heart literally broke.

The supporting characters, like Pat’s family, therapist and his friends were great and even though they weren’t always very understanding of Pat’s problems, you discovered that they were still there to support him 100% when it mattered.

Overall, I LOVED this book. It has the perfect combination of humour and really touching moments and it really made me think about things in a different way. I loved Pat’s thoughts on silver linings and practising being nice, something we should all do. The only thing that stopped this from being a 5* for me was the amount of sports talk in the book. It didn’t put me off finishing reading it because I actually finished it in the day, that’s how much I enjoyed it, but I found myself skimming over the bits where they were talking about things I really didn’t understand. I imagine this doesn’t have the same kind of impact in the film though which for me is a good thing.

It also kind of made me want to take up running but I imagine that will pass pretty quickly, I run like Bambi, it’s not a pretty sight!

4 STARS

I have since seen the film, a couple of times, and although I do love me some Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, I can’t help but feel the script writers let the author down. So much is missed out and so much is changed that I didn’t have the same kind of empathy with Pat’s family. I also missed the therapist who played a major role in the book.

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Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll

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What’s it all about:

HER PERFECT LIFE

IS A PERFECT LIE

As a teenager at the prestigious Bradley School, Ani FaNelli endured a shocking, public humiliation that left her desperate to reinvent herself. Now, with a glamorous job, expensive wardrobe, and handsome blue blood fiancé, she’s this close to living the perfect life she’s worked so hard to achieve.

But Ani has a secret.

There’s something else buried in her past that still haunts her, something private and painful that threatens to bubble to the surface and destroy everything.

t see coming, Luckiest Girl Aliveand introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.

The question remains: will breaking her silence destroy all that she has worked for—or, will it at long last, set Ani free?

Review

MASSIVE thanks to Simon & Schuster who provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Have you ever read a book that got so far under your skin that you struggled to express why? One that pulled you in from the very first chapter and refused to let you out of its grip until IT was ready. Luckiest Girl Alive was one of these books for me. The chilling skill that Jessica Knoll has when writing about Ani FaNelli was so vivid that I almost felt like I lived through her story with her.

I first heard about Luckiest Girl Alive via Reese Witherspoon’s Instagram (I know, I was quite late to the party) and the cover was one of the things that drew me in. When I saw it on Netgalley I knew that I had to try it and I am 100% thrilled that I did.

TiFani Fanelli is our narrator and what a  narrator she is. The book flits between the past and the present, 14 year old TiFani and 28 year old Ani. I can’t say I blame her for altering her name when she gets older!

TiFani is just your average 14 year old really, not the most likeable teenager ever but somewhat relatable. After moving schools to Bradley, a place that by all accounts, costs her parents a small fortune, all TiFani wants to do is fit in and become part of the popular group. In this respect, she’s just a normal girl wanting to get by in school, and who can blame her? High school can be a horrific time for anyone but for TiFani, things take an unfortunate turn when she is invited alone to a party with a few of the popular boys and this, this tragic night where 3 of the boys take advantage of a completely out of it TiFani, is what moulds and shapes the rest of her life.

Ani (that’s Ah-nee not Annie) is a 28 year old that works for a women’s magazine in New York, is engaged to a rich, handsome fiancé and has clawed her way up the social ladder with every ounce of strength she has. She isn’t particularly nice or pleasant, she starves herself in preparation for her wedding and only really has 1 friend, Nell. In the run up to her wedding, we learn that there is also a documentary about to be filmed  that centres around her past, another reason she wanted the rock on her finger and the perfect life/body, to show the people from her old school just how far TiFani has come. What we don’t know at this point, is what other dark secret she has lurking, one that she doesn’t talk about, one that still haunts her on top of what happened to her at the house with those boys that night.

I won’t go into too much detail because a spoiler for this book would completely ruin the rollercoaster ride that the author has you on. What I will say though, is that although I think we aren’t meant to like Ani, I did. When we dig a little deeper into her past, when the scars are ripped open and the wounds are gaping for all to see, that’s when you start to see why she is the way she is. Why she does the things she does.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who likes their leading lady with a bit of a bite, who enjoys the twists and turns of a thriller that will keep you guessing for as long as possible, and who isn’t of a squeamish/sensitive disposition!

5 STARS

Buy the book on Amazon UK / Amazon US

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About Jessica

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Jessica Knoll has been a senior editor at Cosmopolitan, and the articles editor at SELF. She grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and graduated from The Shipley School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, and from Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, New York. She lives in New York City with her husband. 

Lila’s Choice by Laura Brown

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Here’s the books official description:

Never let your friends get involved in your personal life.

Lila and Nate learn this the hard way. They are the star-crossed lovers of Glendale High. For three years the students have waited for the two to get together. They begged Nate to put his past relationship behind him, and cringed when Lila started dating Bryce. Just your typical teenage romance, except they’re the teachers.

Lila, a guidance counselor with a sweet demeanor, has an answer for every problem, every problem but her own. A visit from childhood friend Bryce thrusts her calm world into turmoil, as emotions buried deep inside are dragged to the surface. He soon realizes what only a friend can notice and a lover regret, that Lila, unbeknownst to herself, is in love with Nate. 

Nate has seen better days. He is a history teacher stuck living in the past. Depression has kept his love for Lila unspoken, his ego frail after being cheated on.

Now Lila and Nate’s coworkers must unleash a scheme and uncover Lila’s true feelings. In a school this nosey what better way to get fast results than to involve the student population? The students are all too eager to get involved. 

If everything goes as planned Lila will have to choose between two men. If her friends fail they might destroy these three and ruin their friendship. No wonder the scheme is called Project Torture.

Review

I’m currently part of an amazing group of women on Facebook who write chicklit and the lovely Laura is one of these women.

Her novel, Lila’s Choice, is her debut novel and I enjoyed every second of it. There are some great characters in it, all of them down to earth and completely relatable.

The book really centres around Lila, a school guidance counsellor who lives with her colleague and friend Ette.

Early on in the book we learn that Lila has one of her oldest friends, Bryce, coming to town for a spell and that she has suddenly realised she has feelings for him. Feelings that are more than the ‘just friends’ feelings that she thinks she should be having. She’s certain that these feelings are wrong and that she shouldn’t act on them. Ette however, disagrees completely.

We soon learn that the pair are a group of four friends who all work together at Glendale High. Nate and Kent complete the group and I have to say, I loved the friendships they all have. Kent and Ette are brilliant at lightening the moods of Lila and Nate, who incidentally has a huge crush on Lila.

Poor Nate is currently going though a divorce after being separated for 3 years but can’t seem to take that final step, and when he learns of Lila’s new relationship with Bryce, he all but gives up on the idea of anything more than friendship with her – especially when Bryce pops the question in front of the group and Lila says yes, and then drops the bomb that she’ll be leaving with Bryce to move to Florida at the end of the school year.

About halfway through the book, Ette learns of Nate’s affections for Lila from Kent and after watching her carefully, she realises that Lila is not only having doubts about the move to Florida, but she’s having doubts about Bryce. So Kent and Ette decide team up with some of their students – who are also abundantly aware of the feelings Nate has for Lila – to try and get Lila to see what everyone else can, that they are both very much in love with each other.

There are some very comical moments in this book, but most of all I found it a sweet and genuinely heartwarming read about friendships and going after your true love. There are many twists and turns, and in parts I felt really sorry for both Lila and Nate, but as with any love story, the path to true love doesn’t always run smoothly.

I also have to say that Glendale High has a Deaf Program in the book and reading about it really made me want to learn sign language! This really made the book stand out from anything else I’ve read and I look forward to reading more.

4 STARS

Get the book here:

Amazon UK

Amazon US

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Dear Darling – Cover Reveal

Cover Reveal

Today is the day that I’ve been SO looking forward to since I put Dear Darling out there for the world to add on Goodreads……COVER REVEAL DAY!!

Many people will vouch for me when I say I’ve been like a child at Christmas with this cover, patience is not one of my strongest virtues but I got there. Eventually. Anyway, without further ado, here is the cover for my new release which will be out on 31 July!

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What it’s all about:

‘I’m 30 years old and sat celebrating with a greasy pizza and a bottle of cheap plonk.’

On her 30th birthday, Ellie Darling decides that it’s time to start a diary. Mainly as a reminder for when she’s old and living with cats that she once had a life that wasn’t all bad. Even if it was one where at 30 years of age, she still refused to spend that extra £3 on the good wine instead of chocolate.

But when the only proposal she gets from her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day is that of a threesome, she decides that enough is enough! With a new, improved job as Personal Assistant to one of the most feared Partners at her law firm – one that she doesn’t seem to be able to stop dreaming about – Ellie decides that this will be her year. And if she has to run errands for her boss’ neurotic Russian girlfriend or drag her best friend to a sponsored cycle with her now gay first love, then so be it.

Let me know your thoughts!

You can also add Dear Darling on Goodreads here.

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