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3.1 out of 5 stars
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Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Helen Walsh is an author who certainly doesn't shy away from difficult subjects. I thoroughly enjoyed her previous novels, Once Upon A Time in England and, in particular, Go To Sleep, but unfortunately this one didn't engage me in quite the same way.

Jenn is enjoying her annual holiday in Spain with her nice but rather dull husband Greg. They're awaiting the arrival of their 15 year old daughter (actually Jenn's stepdaughter) Emma and her new boyfriend Nathan. When the young couple arrive Jenn is immediately overwhelmed by her strong feelings for Nathan, and from then on we just know it's not going to end well!

What follows makes for uncomfortable reading at times as Jenn embarks journey of sexual discovery with her young and very eager new lover. It's pretty graphic, but I can't say I found it particularly sexy. I think in Walsh's previous novels I've found something in the characters with which I could identify, or at least understand. My difficulty here was that I didn't like any of them (not that that's essential in a novel) and just found their actions frustrating and annoying.

I did wonder whether I would have enjoyed the book more if I'd read it over a hot summer holiday (rather than a damp March commute) - the steamy, oppressive atmosphere is certainly well conveyed. Overall a disappointment then, but based on her back catalogue this slight blip certainly won't deter me from reading more from this author in future.
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Jenn and husband Greg have already spent a week on holiday at Villa Ana near Deia in Mallorca, a place they've visited often, a blissful location nestled amongst lemon groves. They are staying a further week, with Greg's fifteen-year-old daughter Emma, Jenn's stepdaughter, flying out and joining them. Having pleaded with Jenn to intervene with Greg and persuade him, Emma now has her boyfriend Nathan, 17, accompanying her. Jenn expects the atmosphere and dynamic to change when they both arrive, and it does; Nathan's presence affects all three of the family members.

'...they would be opening their door, and their holiday, to a stranger - and no matter how much she tries to tell herself she's done a good thing, Jenn simply cannot shake off her misgivings.'

This story picks you up and takes you away, transporting you to sunnier climes and allowing you to be an observer as a woman grapples with the temptations of youth and desire, the quandaries of being a stepmother, with ageing and the joys and irritations of a long-term relationship, these latter suddenly being brought sharply into focus for Jenn.

I found the relationship between Jenn and Emma intriguing. We know that Emma and Jenn have shared closeness in the past, but things can sometimes be strained between them, never enjoying the same bond as Emma and her father. It's quite telling when we read that Emma only refers to Jenn as Mum now 'when she wanted something.' And it's hard to see this little girl become a woman, aspects of her so adult, so full-formed, yet sometimes there are reminders that she is not yet an adult. Jenn is torn between her role as a mother, as a wife, and her desire and thrill at being thought so desirable by Nathan, so that 'she is neither here, not there.' Nathan is young, confident, physically attractive, and Jenn experiences longings for him that she cannot fight, not when they are reciprocated, and illicit sexual encounters between the pair ensue. As well as passion and gratification, she experiences conflicting emotions; guilt, envy, and bewilderment at how she can have acted as she has.

I didn't find any of the main four characters overly endearing, indeed they are all flawed, but if anything this made it more interesting observing them and their weaknesses and mistakes. I was excited and anxious as to whether Jenn and Nathan would be caught in the act. I found this a fairly quick read, I was drawn in, wondering what would happen, and what the consequences would be. I could never quite picture Jenn, or decide exactly what she looked like, in my mind, the same for Greg. I don't know if this was deliberate or my failing. I've never been to Mallorca but Helen Walsh conveys the setting, sights and atmosphere of the place where the family stay so that you can imagine this backdrop to these events, the sea, the coves, the restaurants, all really nicely evoked. This sun drenched setting almost seems to add to the temptation for Jenn to abandon her restraint and duty, and follow her desires; the climate and the tension both sizzle at times.

I very much liked the note on which the story ended; often I like stories that are all sewn up but here, the way it was left, with both the characters and the reader on a precipice, was exquisite. It is perfect for reading on a hot summer holiday, but it's just as interesting to read wherever you are; the descriptions transport you away and the exploration of human fallibility, desire, temptation and regret is well done and makes for compulsive reading.
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on 22 July 2014
I was seduced into buying this book by the wonderful cover picture, the title and the synopsis. Unfortunately, although I stuck with it, I was very disappointed. I didn't particularly like any of the characters. I didn't feel it was well-written; it didn't flow all that well and at times I was rather confused - not knowing how many days had passed, or when one day had ended and another had begun. I thought "he" and "she" were a bit over-used, and occasionally I was left wondering who exactly the author was talking about. Did not like the language used - it seemed to come from nowhere (pardon the pun); none of the characters really swore so couldn't imagine why the author had decided to include such graphic words. Thought the whole thing was a bit unbelievable. However, I did like the very end. Such a pity the rest of the book wasn't as good as the final three pages.
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on 29 April 2015
I bought this with the recommendation of Radio 2's book club, I wish I hadn't. I was under the impression that this was a first time author as it comes across as ameteurish, I am surprised that Helen Walsh has written other books. Needless to say, I didn't enjoy it.
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on 23 April 2014
Thank you to BookBridgr for allowing me to review my first Helen Walsh novel.

Before I read the book, I realised how much Helen and I had in common. She’s a girl from Merseyside – ditto and we were taught by the same Creative Writing lecturer at University. Madness.

Just by reading the opening paragraph, I instantly knew that this book was going to extremely high in powerful detail and to no surprise of my judgement, it was.

Jenn is the first character who we meet. We don’t know her age, what she looks like but she is reading and that tells a lot. She has a husband, Greg, but at first, we learn of who they are before we learn of their martial life together.

The setting of Mallorca is beautifully described and it’s not long before the holiday is joined by two people – Emma (Greg’s daughter and her slightly older boyfriend, Nathan. Emma (great name by the way!) has a tendency to wrap her little finger around her loved ones and when she wants something, she expects it straight away. Her mood dampened the holiday but after a while, she lit up and was a great character. After all, she is a teenager so readers can’t expect her to be sunshine and roses all the time. Emma acts a lot older than she actually is and I couldn’t believe she’s only 15. I did slightly question why Greg and Jen had allowed her boyfriend of a few months on holiday with them..

My favourite line of the entire book was: And you don’t have to dress like the Fitzgerald novel.

Helen’s writing is coated in powerful details of all five senses. There isn’t a great deal of dialogue but that didn’t matter. It was like viewing an Opera. We learnt of the story through their body language.

At times, I found Nathan to be extremely rude. At when point, he called Greg ‘childish’ and ‘stubborn.’ It was disrespectful of him to say so as he was trying not only to seduce Jenn but he was kindly invited on holiday with them. Rude. Just rude.

The ending wasn’t what I expected at all. But somehow, it seemed quite fitting. I can’t help but think of what their lives are like now…
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on 11 March 2014
The Lemon Grove is a highly-charged novel about a safe and settled middle-aged woman who becomes obsessed by a much younger man. Set on the wild west coast of Mallorca in the bohemian village of Deia, the story plays out over 8 days of a family vacation. Day One is the last day of Greg and Jenn's week alone. Tomorrow their teenage daughter Emma arrives for the second week of the holiday, and she's bringing her boyfriend Nathan. As the balmy Balearic weather turns stormy, Jenn feels severe misgivings about Nathan's arrival.

What follows is by turns sensual, halucinatory, visceral and very sexy. Jenn is shocked by how beautiful Nathan is, shocked how attracted she is to this 19 year-old boy-man. She tries to suppress her attraction to him, but pangs of desire eat away at her, as turbulent as the gathering storms over the bay. Jenn cannot stop looking at Nathan, thinking about him and obsessing about whether Emma and he are having sex. She finds herself following them, envious of their close contact and young love. This particular theme - about age, beauty and desire - is beautifully evoked. There's a car-crash element to the reading experience - you're willing Jenn to snap out of it, take a long cold shower and understand her obsession for what it is...yet there's a part of you that just wants them to tear each others swimsuits off and get on with it.

The sexual tension throbs off the page, yet The Lemon Grove is so much more than holiday erotica. The sense of place, the tastes and smells of Deia, the elemental landscapes and volatile skies are all exquisitely rendered. It's a book whose spice will linger long after the last page has been turned.
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on 27 June 2014
I got this after reading about it in Glamour a few months ago, and waited until it went on sale. The story is pretty obvious, and while I found it a bit on the vile side, I was still interested. The book is alarmingly short, as in 200 pages when the average book tends to be 350-400 pages long, but I can see why. The characters are annoying beyond belief and you actually want to climb into the fictional world to beat the main character senseless. She's a selfish, immoral, promiscuous tart, which is the best way I can put it, but then the writer has tried laying on 'but she's a nice person!!!!!' overly thick without realising that the damage is done so embrace it or abandon it. I found it fairly difficult to read because I couldn't handle the two-faced, bitchiness of it all and found it disgusting. Any woman who can sleep with her daughter's boyfriend has many, many, many, many serious issues, and this one is no exception. She tries to justify it with (spoiler alert) that she isn't the biological mother as though that somehow makes sleeping with barely legal teenagers and smoking pot with them more moral. I don't know, I'm bitterly disappointed in the book, not that I know what I fully expected.
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on 29 January 2015
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Well what can I say - I absolutely loved this book and it had me hooked from start to finish. This book came to my attention after checking out reviews and as I like my books a bit saucy I thought I'd like it but I was a bit disheartened by the reviews and so put it off for a while. However, I decided to take a chance and I'm so glad I did. I loved the author's style of writing, very descriptive and I found myself racing through this book. I'm quite a slow reader usually but had to tell myself to slow down because I was getting through it so quick but I just found it so hard to put down. I loved the characters, especially Jenn and Nathan, but they are all so well written. Yes, the language used in the saucy bits is quite shocking and is not pretty (even for me liking my books to be naughty) but I think it is meant to be and it didn't particularly seem out of place. So take note if you find that sort of thing offensive. The book was a really pleasant surprise and it does in fact deal with complex issues of the heart and relationships in ways that I'd never even really ever thought about before reading the book. I think the author did a fantastic job and I will certainly remember this one. Try to take the low rating with a pinch of salt, I think the book is better than its three stars suggest and I for one am glad I gave it a go. Highly recommended :-)
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on 10 August 2014
Ok know
I day read but rather a predictable and disappointing storyline. I am a mature woman so maybe I saw it as a bit silly! I found it boring and don't really want to finish the book. I did however, do so. If you enjoy Mills and Boon type books then this is for you.
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on 15 January 2015
Middle-aged woman has ill-advised (and uncomfortable sounding) sex with step-daughter's boyfriend. Feels bad about it but does it again. Visits the odd restaurant.

If you like your plots simple, this is the book for you. This is not a long book, but it still manages to be repetitive. The only saving grace is that it is not badly written and the sense of place (Mallorca) is well constructed. Helen Walsh is clearly an afficionado of the restaurants of Southern Spain and describes a mean ham.

The central character, Jenn is self-obsessed to the point of being ridiculous, her husband one-dimensional, the step-daughter barely has any character at all and the young adonis is about as interesting as plankton. Jenn's sun-induced mid-life crisis is given very little back-story and hence difficult to rationalise; if she is attractive enough to pull a 17 year old and horny enough to want to, surely she would have had other, less melodramatic options.

Worst of all is the (non) ending. This seems to be a new trend, that authors set up situations of mild peril and then just stop, presumably with the intention of allowing the reader to "nuance" their own denouement. I hate this. It's just lazy. Having ploughed through the bonking, shouldn't we be allowed the pay-off of funding out what happens to these annoying people? Or is Greg the bearded husband so poorly conceived and tiresome that even Walsh couldn't be bothered to document his reaction to the betrayal?
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