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4.4 out of 5 stars89
4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 3 November 2011
It was a real treat reading this book, and revisiting Longhampton (and spotting some of the characters we've met before). I read it while off work sick and it was great place to escape to - comforting and enticing but not too escapist and fluffy, and much better than daytime telly. I love the other Longhampton books and the way they tackle some tricky issues, not just the usual romance - but I have to say this one has got even more depth and honesty and complexity. It covers ageing, step families, the whole 'does motherhood really make you a superior/worse person' debate. NONE of the relationships are pat or straight forward, the heroines are both sympathetically flawed, the kids are fantastically believable. I cried at least three times, which is rare for me, but the situations were so poignant at times - it's the little defeats or successes in life which affect us most, more than the great tragedies or triumphs, and Lucy Dillon gets these across perfectly. I am not part of a step family, so I can't judge, but I think the depiction of the endless difficulties (big and small) of a step family are really thoughtfully and believably put across. I found my heart going out to the stepmother and her constant attempts to connect with the kids and make things right, while the actual parents were oblivious to her efforts and how much more difficult their unthinking actions make things for her. It is heart warming in showing women in the full diversity of who they are - not just young heroines who somehow afford funky flats in London and have a useful array of zany friends for plot purposes. But women who run businesses, run families, make tough choices, care for others, stand at the centre of their communities in one way or another. Yes, there's romance too, but actually I thought the book was an ode to the amazing strength and creativity and fellowship of women. In case that makes it all sound a bit heavy, be reassured it's not - and it's got a happy ending so it's a good one for Christmas! And of course always the dogs!

I think it is my favourite Lucy Dillon so far. And everyone's getting it for Christmas!
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on 30 December 2011
Another fabulous book from Lucy Dillon - on a deeper level than chic lit but at the same time so easy to read. I have read 3 books over Christmas (the others not by Dillon) and this is easily the best. The friendship aspect between Michelle and Anna is explored beautifully, both the ups and the downs. Also the difficulties of being part of an extended family are looked at in a probing but sensitive manner. I loved the bookshop, if it existed in real life I am sure I would never want to leave in the same way I was sad to finish reading this book. A book about fiction, friendship, families, setting up small businesses, love and communities - this has it all.
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on 15 December 2011
Lucy Dillon has a lovely, soothing writing style, which lends itself to great story-telling. Once again this book takes us to Longhampton, a town which Lucy Dillon has used as her setting in some of her previous novels. The familiarity of the setting really helped me to settle into the story and also it was nice that some of Lucy's past characters were mentioned as it was nice to know they weren't forgotten.

The Secret of Happy Ever After tells the story of two friends; Anna and Michelle. I thought that Anna was instantly a likeable and identifiable character, however, Michelle was flawed and less likeable to begin with. Thankfully, as time moved on and secrets revealed I found she became more likeable as more was revealed and explained about her.

This book is mainly about relationships and how important they are in life, and I thought Lucy Dillon put this across perfectly. Overall, this is a good read and one that fans of Lucy Dillon's previous novels will love.
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on 3 February 2012
I have read all of Lucy Dillon's books and thoroughly enjoy her style of writing and believable characters. This latest book is again set in Longhampton and a few of the characters from previous books reappear which is a nice touch. I found myself so lost in the story I missed by stop on the train twice this week! For any Lucy Dillon fans, this latest book does not disappoint.
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on 30 November 2011
Fabulous. There's enough of the familiar Lucy Dillon magic but with the additional ingredient of some topics not often dealt with in fiction. The characters are easy to idenfity with and I loved the nostalgia brought on by the fact that a book shop is the setting and that chapters are introduced by references to books which every reader will be familiar with. It makes you realise how books form such a large backdrop to our lives, whether as children or adults. Another triumph for Lucy!
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 13 December 2011
I've never read one of Lucy Dillon's novels before, but I was swayed by the dreamy, fairytale-like quality of this front cover and the other great reviews for this book on here. I'm so glad I started with this book- and I will definitely be looking to read her others at some point soon because this was a fabulous read- full of characters you can care about and a really charming storyline.

Set in the small town of Longhampton (which has apparently featured in Dillon's books before), we meet Michelle- new to the town after her recent divorce and determined to set up a homeware/interiors shop in the abandoned fishmongers. Michelle is a character full of determination and organised beyond belief. She encounters Anna whilst the other woman is out walking her stepdaughters' dog, Pongo (he escapes into a café and snarfs up her carrot cake!) and the two of them click instantly. Anna by contrast, is struggling with her role as stepmother and is a bit of a downtrodden doormat. When Michelle takes on the lease for the abandoned bookshop next door to her own shop premises and hires Anna as the manager, that's when the real magic (and romance) begins to happen...

I have to say that at first I wasn't sure if I was going to like Anna very much. She did come across as a little bit `woe is me' and so completely lacklustre in the first few chapters particularly in contrast to assertive, independent Michelle who I liked instantly. I also wasn't particularly eager to read about Anna's husband Phil or her horrible sounding stepdaughters (especially Chloe)! Eventually I found myself warming to Anna though- after all, she loves books! She wants everyone to love books and reading (I can emphasise with that). The secondary characters are also very well drawn- I really liked geeky Rory and the interesting dynamics going on between he and Michelle. All in all, by the time I'd finished this book I wished I could go to Longhampton myself!

The writing of this story flows beautifully overall- the author cleverly references other books throughout and conjures up memories associated with characters own experiences of reading them- as well as bookish references at the top of every chapter from them too. I think I will be going back and re-reading some of my childhood favourites after this actually! A few things did irritate me though, which is what has stopped me from giving it the full five stars- basically I just don't understand how sometimes grown women can't stand up for themselves properly- Michelle with her mother and her ex-husband and Anna telling her bratty stepdaughter to shove it and telling her husband what she really wanted out of life! It annoyed me a bit and this happened a lot in the text.

I would recommend you give this story a go if you enjoy contemporary romantic fiction with characters who are believable and likeable. It was a really heart-warming, girly read. Definitely one I'll be passing on to my female friends.
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on 11 November 2011
I loved Lucy Dillon's other two books set in the fictional town of Longhampton, so couldn't wait to get my hands on this one. I started it the day I bought it and I loved it so much that I read it all in one night! I am pleased to say it is the best in the 'series' so far. I was worried that the mix of chick lit and dogs might get a bit boring by the third book but this feels completely fresh and original, whilst still managing to retain that Lucy Dillon magic.

If you've never read a Lucy Dillon book, you are in for a treat. Her novels are essentially chick lit, but they are a sublime example of the genre. They are easy to read, but the story lines are always completely absorbing and have a good amount of depth to them. Plus, Lucy Dillon writes dogs into her novels so brilliantly that the dogs feel like one of the main characters too.

You don't need to have read Lost Dogs and Lonely Hearts or Walking Back To Happiness to enjoy this book. Although I called it a 'series' earlier, the only link between the books is that they are all set in the same fictional village and they all feature dogs prominently. Each book has a new set of main characters (both human and canine). There are occasional mentions of characters from the previous novels in this one, but not to the extent that you need to read the others first. However, I suggest you do anyway. The novels are written in such a way that if you read this book you're bound to fall in love with Lucy Dillon's style and immediately want to read the others too, so you may as well read them in order so that you can enjoy the little extra nuggets of information in this book about the main characters from other books.

Lucy Dillon fans won't be disappointed with this latest Longhampton book. Plus, if (like me) you've been a bookworm since childhood then you will particularly love the storyline in this novel. It had me longing to re-read all the childhood favourites again! I loved this and I'm already looking forward to the next book by this author- I hope it'll be another one set in Longhampton.
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on 5 February 2012
Having just bought my first puppy, always secretly harbouring a desire for working in a bookshop and coping with a teenage daughter applying to Oxbridge this Autumn and being the first person EVER to experience True Love, I related to so much in this book. It is written in a warm, intelligent style and my heart went out to Anna on many occasions. I also felt like the advice was being given to me when my Daughter who occasionally feels overwhelmed by everyone expecting so much of her *"Every paent wants the world for their children. That isn't pressure, it's love.". My puppy also enjyed the book and savaged it on the two occasions I left it lying around!
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on 17 January 2012
I have recently finished reading The Secret of happy ever after! It is amazing, kept me in bed reading for hours on my days off! :) It is brilliant, made me laugh out loud at numerous parts and also made me cry!! Can't wait to read more of her books! Its great that other characters from previous books pop in this story too! :) ENJOY!
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on 22 December 2011
I was captivated even before I started the story because Lucy Dillon is a woman after my own heart who mentions her love of Enid Blyton, Malory Towers, Chalet School, Ballet Shoes, Mrs Pepperpot - oh, numerous books that were the very heart of my own childhood - and of many more like us. Her knowledge and love of these childhood stories shouts from the pages and I am sure I am not the only reader who thought 'I AM Anna!'....
Anna...a dreamy librarian, struggling to be the perfect step-mother, always caught in the middle of her her own family dreams and the ready made family she has.
Michelle - brilliant business woman, steely and determined but with something dark and mysterious lurking in her past, runs a prosperous home furnishing shop and seeking to buy the shop next door for expansion learns that to do so she must first run it as the bookshop had been. Michelle rises to the challenge and, with friend Anna's help, develops every book lovers ideal bookshop - believe me I was drooling for this bookshop!
This sets the central stage for the story but we learn, bit by bit, more about Michelle's previous life and about Anna's difficulties with her step-family and her longing for her own baby. Family features very strongly in this wonderful, touching novel. The characters are very realistic with faults and good points. Problems with children, aged parents, interfering parents, ex-partners, dogs and over sexed brothers make the story funny, witty, sad, touching and sometimes quite scarily real.
I came to really care about the characters and when we find out what Michelle's past is really about, I defy any reader not to shed a tear. I can quite honestly say that this is one of the best novels I have read. All the personal and family life details combined with the luscious memories of books that I have read and loved make this novel something really special.
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