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This is a tale of marriages going right and going wrong; of women at a certain age who feel insecure, busy, stressed, angry and in need of friends.

Three friends see one another's marriages crumble almost at the same time and some marriages can be recovered but others not. Observing that these ladies do not have the perfect lives she'd envisaged, another local lady extends a hand to help.

This American author has written series set in Virgin River and Thunder Point; this standalone book will be good for people just getting to know her who do not want to pick up halfway down a series. Carr is easy reading with serious life lessons under the surface. Her characters feel very real and reactions seem authentic for both men and women. When you've read this one, try a Virgin River book. I can recommend Redwood Bend.
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on 10 July 2014
In spite of their differences in family life and careers, Gerri, Andy and Sonja have been friends and exercise buddies for years. Gerri’s hectic lifestyle hasn’t stopped her from helping Andy through her relationship problems over the years, and both women appreciate Sonja’s positive attitude, even if they could do without some of her New Age advice. But one day, Sonja turns up on Gerri’s doorstep for their morning walk to discover that their simple, little suburban world is starting to crumble. Andy has just caught her husband cheating and is devastated to be going through her second divorce. Normally Gerri would offer a shoulder to cry on, but she’s recently discovered a secret from her husband’s past that is threatening to destroy her previously rock-solid faith in her marriage. And Sonja’s meditation and herbal remedies may not be enough to help her weather the storms coming along in her own life. Throw in teenage children who are experimenting with drugs, alcohol and sexuality, and these women don’t know where to turn. Will they be able to cling to each other during this difficult period, or will help come in the surprising form of their usually quiet and reclusive neighbour, BJ, who appears to have some secrets of her own?

I discovered Robyn Carr a little over two years ago, and I’ve been slowly working my way through her back catalogue ever since. Given the speed that she manages to write at (I believe she’s already released three new books this year alone), I don’t think I’ll ever get caught up, but that doesn’t stop me from jumping on each new book as it arrives. Four Friends is a little different from Robyn’s previous novels. While it centres around a community of close friends and features a healthy dose of romance, the protagonists are significantly older than those typically featured in her Virgin River and Thunder Point series, and the focus is more on the friendships between the female protagonists than their love lives. I’m not entirely sure if this book fits squarely into the categories of chick-lit or women’s fiction, but if you like a little more family drama than romance, this book might be a perfect fit.

I wasn’t entirely sure how well I’d relate to Gerri, Andy and Sonja, given that I’m significantly younger than them. I’ve no idea what it’s like to balance family life and a high powdered job, or how to handle a drunken teenager or a marital dispute. Fortunately, my lack of experience in these areas didn’t stop me from becoming interested in each woman’s situation and the dilemmas she faced.

This book could easily have become a depressing read, given the difficult situations each woman found herself in, but the close friendships the characters clung to enabled this book to be more encouraging than I initially expected. Even as it’s revealed that Gerri, Andy and Sonja are all having marital problems, their ability to weather the storms and push through their difficulties managed to prevent this book from becoming too discouraging. That’s not to say that Robyn brushes over the difficult subject matter and turns a serious situation into a fluffy, happy story—but she manages to deal with each issue as it arises, without the storyline feeling too preachy or disheartening.

Given the number of issues that arise over the course of this story, I wondered if some of them might be skimmed over or neglected. Surprisingly, it seemed like each issue was dealt with in a realistic manner, even in the case of small side stories that only appeared for a couple of chapters. I was definitely impressed with how Robyn dealt with the various topics that arose over the course of Four Friends, from mental illness to homosexuality to domestic abuse. That said, it did sometimes feel unbelievable that so many problems would crop up in such a short space of time, in such a small group of friends. In particular, what were the chances of all three protagonists having serious marital problems at the exact same time? This book may require a little suspension of disbelief with regard to all the drama that occurs over the course of the story.

Although I didn’t particularly relate to any of the women, they were all compelling characters, and their problems and family dynamics drew me into their lives. I was pleased to see Andy find happiness in spite of her two failed marriages, and waited patiently while Gerri came to terms with her husband’s secret and figured out how she wanted to move forward with her life. It was Sonja’s storyline that I initially thought I might relate to the most, given her interest in herbal remedies and the part that mental illness played in her storyline. For part of the story, her plot was the most intriguing to me simply because it was the most unexpected. But I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about the developments Sonja’s character made. By the end of the book, she seemed like an entirely different character, but not necessarily in a good way. While it’s obvious that she’s gone through a massively altering experience, I wasn’t entirely sure how believable her abrupt change in personality and mannerisms was, or whether I thought she’d truly changed for the better. Even a week after finishing this book, I’m still not sure how I feel about Sonja.

Although we never really get to see the story from BJ’s point of view, I enjoyed the addition of her character, and the role she came to play in the story. It was encouraging to see such different women rallying together to help each other through difficult times, and BJ’s situation brought about some interesting questions that I’m sure book groups would love to discuss. I don’t want to spoil anything for potential readers, but BJ’s story certainly provided a lot of food for thought.

While Four Friends is quite different from Robyn Carr’s more popular works, it still contains elements that will appeal to fans of her writing. The family dynamics and diverse friendships that evolve as each character struggles to get a hold of their situation make for a very compelling read, and are accompanied by just enough romance to stop the book from ever feeling too dark or depressing. Four Friends may even reel in some new fans who wouldn’t normally pick up one of Robyn’s straight contemporary romances.

Review title provided by Harlequin and Little Bird Publicity.
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Every once in awhile, I need to step away from my usual murder and mayhem and read something different.

Robyn Carr's latest book, Four Friends, seemed like a good choice. (And I really liked the cover - I have some old chairs that may just receive a bright coat of chalk paint this spring.)

Carr quickly introduces us to four women living in the same fairly affluent neighbourhood. They're all in their forties, with successful careers and enviable lives. Or so you would think, looking from the outside in.

But there are cracks in each....Gerri discovers that her husband has had an affair. And so has school principal Andy's husband. Sonja, who doggedly pursues every alternative health therapy going, overwhelms her husband, and he leaves. Their newest neighbour, widow BJ, is quite private with her life, but is slowly drawn into the lives of the other three.

Carr candidly explores women's friendships as well as other relationships - maternal, familial and spousal. She does this through a variety of crises and solutions that touch on health concerns, drugs, drinking, sexuality, spousal abuse, mental health, infidelity and more. The lives of the four women's families are brought into this exploration with the children and partners begin given a voice as well.

At times I felt a bit overwhelmed with the sheer volume of crises that befall these four. But again, we never know what goes on behind closed doors do we?

Take charge Gerri was the lead character and I have to admit that I found her to be the most annoying. She's definitely someone I would avoid in real life. One of her lines in the first few pages had me laughing, rather than empathizing, (although it seemed to be written in all seriousness). ...."When Gerri had been brought to her knees by a killer hemorrhoidectomy, Sonja was there, drawing the sitz bath, making broth, administering pain meds and, of course, she was armed with the perfect, natural, gentle laxative. Gerri had learned you just don't give the right laxative enough credit until you find yourself in that position." The character I was actually drawn to the most was gentle Bob the carpenter and his dog Beau. His calm, measured way of dealing with things was quite appealing. His relationship with feisty Andy was my favourite 'situation' of Four Friends.

I applaud Carr for tackling so many current, topical and relevant issues. But for this reader, there were just a few too many. Some of the characters and situations seemed 'textbook' rather than engaging. Still, Four Friends was an easy read and a good diversion for an evening for me. And a reminder to appreciate your friends.

Established Carr fans will not be disappointed.
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on 9 April 2014
Read via local elibrary. Starts but slow then speeds up. For me, hated putting it down to go to work. Wanted to know what was happening. 4 friends with loads family issues that beset our times. Found it edgy, tense, lovely. Many emotions. Thought 4* but as drew towards end felt deserved 5*. Its not an easy book from the sense of emotions. I totally "got" the trials and tribulations being a much more mature reader and could empathise with characters. Gerri was my favourite, strong.
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on 22 April 2014
My review:

There are many reasons why I loved this book!
It's mature.
It deals with realistic conflicts.
It's well written and it is very engaging with characters who deal with problems that are common in real life. Therefore, also easily relatable.
It flows.
It's unoriginal. Yes, I loved it because the story is unoriginal and I will explain later what I mean with that. Bear with me and you won't be disappointed.
It's humorous, sharp and gut-wrenching.
(Just to name few reasons...)

Plot:

Four Friends by Robyn Carr deals with the lives of four friends: Gerri, Andy, Sonja and BJ.

Gerri, whose marriage has always been solid, accidentally finds out, that her husband had an affair for several years ago. She has always been sure on her husband and these news devastate her. She kicks out her husband Phil and besides dealing and explaining the situation to her kids, she also struggles with hormonal changes due to upcoming menopause and it doesn't help, that her friends are facing some serious issues. Gerri has been the anchor for her friends and the fact that she finds about her husband's affair, she suddenly has to learn how to put together the pieces.

Andy has had several relationships and usually with men who do not suit her. The last relationship was with the younger man and after breaking up with him, she founds out, that a man whom you can lean on, might come from a place you don't expect it to come from. She meets a middle-aged man who has average looks, who has not a lot of experience in the sexual explorations... and who yet is the man Andy has missed in her life. He is stable, seemingly boring, but sweet and reliable and very good in bed.

Sonja is a total flower-power-new-age-type of woman who believes in alternative medicine, healthy lifestyles and she takes them to an extreme. When her husband George leaves her from one day to another announcing that he is through with all this weirdness, she loses it... badly.

Likes:

As I mentioned in the beginning of my review, there was a lot to like.

First, I enjoyed tremendously, that Robyn Carr wrote about people who are mature, around 30-50 years old. It's a nice change to read about lives and issues of grown-ups. What made the reading even more compelling were the issues and topics the book dealt with. I have personal experiences with couple of topics touched in the book and I think the author did a great job with describing both the situations and the emotions.

Second, I mentioned, that I like that the plot is unoriginal. And when I say unoriginal, I mean that it deals with real issues of real people and there is nothing new in relationship problems, like cheating, breaking up, finding new love, solving problems, having a breaks-down and I think it was very well written. You recognize things from your own life and you cheer for the characters because you know and understand, what it means. The writing was really really good and the characters both lovable and relatable and that made the reading very engaging. Even thought there was no serious action, it was not a boring reading, it was awesome! It was beautiful, touching, gut-wrenching and funny! The writing absorbs you and makes Four Friends a page turner.

Characters:

Besides the writing, I loved the characters.

Gerri was by far my favorite, even though all 4 women were interesting. Gerri was a woman successful with her professional career, a loving and good friend and a nice person. I loved how the author developed Gerri who was split between the wish to forgive and her anger. I loved how she went extra miles for helping her friends. Gerri is a woman you would love to have as your own friend.

I also liked Gerri's husband Phil. I loved the dynamics between Gerri and Phil and it pained me that he cheated on her, even though it was years ago. I ADORED how Phil worked for getting Gerri back and loved his patience with Gerri. I think they suited, balanced and complimented each other very well.

I think Andy's and Bob's relationship was a cute one. When Gerri and Phil dealt with serious problems, then Andy's and Bob's story is really a cute one compared to the other story. It's a match which doesn't seem to work out, but it does and it does it surprisingly good.

Sonja was probably the character I could least relate to, at least in the beginning of the story. She was beyond weird for me and I could understand why George left her. And then as story developed, I realized how deep in denial Sonja was. I grew on her, a lot.

Generally:

I think the characters and the writing itself were the things which made this book so fascinating to me. Loved it!
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on 15 April 2014
Heart warming story of 4 friends. Would love to know what happens to them next.
The writers just draws you into the story fron the beginning
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on 22 April 2014
Excellent book thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Very different from the usual Stories I read but I would like to read more of the same.
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on 24 April 2014
as usual a compelling heart felt story,had me in tears a few times, always enjoy Robyn' s writing, recommended as always
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on 20 August 2014
Not read Robin Carr before but loved following these friends.will definitely try robins other books
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on 30 May 2015
I couldn't put it down. I got caught up in the characters and their dilemmas. Very real
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