17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
SATC meets Mills and Boons,
This review is from: Spare Brides (Paperback)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This is the first Adele Parks I have read in some time, I liked her earlier work but just don't seem to have gotten around to reading her later novels.
I was really excited to receive a preview copy of this book but it was very different to my expectations and I can't quite decide whether I liked it or not. It revolves around 4 friends:
Ava is a "new money" It girl and has a dazzling beauty which draws everyone to her. She is forward thinking and I guess, a feminist. She is single but has many dalliances and is not willing to conform to society's rules or expectations.
Lydia is another beauty who is desperate to conceive in order to carry on the family name but feels she is cursed as her husband served at a desk during the war. Bea and Sarah are sisters. Sarah lost her husband in the War and Bea is the ugly duckling hoping to marry and become what she has been "trained" to be her whole life.
One of the ladies embarks upon an affair which changes everything for her. I really enjoyed how the affair saw her from being superficial and loving chiffons and gowns, to getting a real grip of herself and start living. Her feelings become all consuming and she is forced to examine her life and make some difficult choices. The book then follows the other three ladies but I feel their narratives were not that central to the plot.
The reason I am torn about how I feel about this book is this: I wanted a sweeping 20s saga with romance and glamour, but sometimes it just felt a bit schmaltzy. I found some of the sex scene descriptions a bit graphic too, not that they went into great detail but just some of the imagery seemed out of context to me with the flowery descriptions of love, but I guess, that is the stark reality between sex and love. In essence, I got what I wanted but something was missing for me and a few days after finishing this book, I'm still not sure what it was.
I think AP has really caught the friendship between these ladies and on more than one occasion, I was thinking of Carrie Bradshaw et al transported back several decades, it was just some of the descriptions which were a bit too Mills and Boon-y for me (as well as the endings for all the characters). The best scenes in the book for me, was when the women would be together and offering council or discussing life. The way the relationship between Ava and Bea changed was excellent and showed a softer side to Ava as Queen Bee.
Where there are women, there must be men and all the men in this book have somehow been scarred by WW1. AP has clearly done her research into the era and evokes horrifying thoughts and scenes of the trenches. Unfortunately, in a book where 4 women are central, I felt something was lost in trying to cover the male emotions too, which for me, had the effect of watering down each character when greater depth could have gone into fewer.
Despite the negative things I have said, this is worth a read, even if it is to see this lovely author try her hand at something new.