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on 11 January 2015
This gloriously written, powerful novel was superb. Four friends, women from privileged backgrounds, struggle to absorb and overcome the ravages the Great War war has wrought. Everyone is expected to do their duty, yet some cannot, too much has changed. Set against a glittering backdrop of wealth and glamour, I love this era and was immediately immersed. What I did not expect was to care so much for the characters, solid, lovely Sarah, razor sharp Ava and Bea, transforming beautifully as her circumstances dictate. And Lydia, her torrid affair and concern for her fate had me turning pages long after I should have been asleep.
I have always loved Adele Park's books, she is an excellent writer, yet with this change of genre I feel she has stepped up a gear, moved into a different realm, evocative, effortless and extraordinary. Brilliant, thank you Adele.
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VINE VOICEon 17 January 2014
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( 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.
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on 14 August 2015
I heard Adele Parks talk at the recent Felixstowe Book Festival and was so impressed by her I rushed to buy a copy of this book at the end of her talk (having previously decided that I couldn't possibly buy any more books until I'd read some of the towering stack I had at home). Not only was I lucky enough to grab the last copy of this story (to the disappointment of several other ladies) but Adele was also kind enough to sign it for me.

I hadn't come across this author before (I know...) and have since purchased another of her books, but was drawn to the concept of this one in particular. We know the wartime romances - they have been done again and again. But how often do we think about the consequences of the war? Especially the massive shortage of eligible young men for a whole lost generation of women. In my own family tree there was a branch of sisters who remained unmarried - born at the wrong time - and these maiden great aunts were very much on my mind as I read the book. There simply weren't enough men to go round and Adele cleverly explores this phenomenon, albeit among the upper echelon of nineteen twenties Britain.

Not all of the ladies in the story get equal air time, but this was less of an issue than I thought it would be. I didn't want to read an unrealistic account where everyone got their happy ending. I felt she dealt with the subject matter and probable consequences for these four women expertly. Her period detail was exceptional, without letting it take over the book, and the characters became real to me - drawing out heartfelt emotional responses from me as a reader. But what will stay with me most are the few short but incredibly hard-hitting accounts of Edgar's experiences during the war. This was some of the best writing I've seen in a long time.

Thank you Adele - I can only aspire to write like this.
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I’ve read and enjoyed some of Adele Parks’ books in the past and Spare Brides is her first venture into Historical Fiction. After reading the synopsis I knew this was a book for me. There is a wealth of books set during WW1 and so I found the idea of a book set post war really refreshing. This book focuses on the outcome war had on society, particularly the women, a generation of ‘spare brides’ left behind after losing their men.

The book centres around four friends who have been affected by the war in different ways. Firstly there is Lydia who is more fortunate than most. She has her husband, money and title still intact but instead of feeling lucky she feels ashamed of her stay at home husband and so begins an affair with a Sergeant. Lydia brought out a range of emotions in me as a reader. At times she really frustrated me and other times I felt incredibly sorry for her. She’s a complex character that’s for sure and she constantly surprised me. Although not my favourite of the girls she was definitely the one I enjoyed reading about the most.

Then we have Sarah, Lydia’s opposite, who lost her husband and money to the war and is left bringing up their children alone. Although we don’t hear from Sarah as much as the other girls I loved her character and felt sympathy for her situation.

Ava is a modern and forward thinking young woman. She’s the life and soul of the party and a flapper through and through. She embraces the idea of this new future war has given her and all the exciting new opportunities that come along with it for women.

Then there’s Beatrice who has an opposite attitude to Ava. A single and plain woman with no fortune she faces a life alone without the husband and babies she so desperately wanted for herself. Beatrice is incredibly lonely and my heart ached for her.

I loved the different vantage points having four very different heroines provided and each lady had a different story to tell and brought out different emotions in me. Each voice stood out and sounded authentic and I adored the women’s friendship. In a new world that was different and uncertain in many ways all they truly had was each other.

Sexy, scandalous and sad Spare Brides perfectly captures the mood of the early twenties from the grief of what was lost to the hope of a new future and tells the untold story of a generation of women who lived and endured through it all.
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on 16 April 2016
I've read a few Adele Parks books previously and enjoyed this them. But this one was disappointing. Out of the four girls, the story mainly focuses on Lydia who is not a likeable character. I wanted to know more about the other women.

The ending ties the messy story all neatly in a bow, but I wish I hadn't bothered.
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on 22 March 2014
This formulaic and sloppily written book, ( to coincide with the First World War commemoration?) is unforgivably shot through with anachronisms, which jar with even the least knowledgeable.
Parks writes about London postcodes, which didn't appear until well after the Second World War, about Inheritance tax, when she should say Death duties. She mentions the landlady wearing a nylon 1921?!, and Ava interesting her father in going into electronics!! Either Parks is unwilling to do even the most basic research for herself, or she is badly, badly, badly served by her editor. What a waste of a marvellous opportunity to bring the lives of the post 1918 generation to life.
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on 13 May 2015
This book is somewhat of a departure from Adele Parks normal style, normally her books are contemporary fiction but on this occasion she transports us back to the 1920’s and the years post World War I.
With it being the centenary of the end of the war features it has been a popular topic both in the media and in books. Parks has decided to focus upon how the loss of so many young males led to a shortage of potential husbands for the young women after the war and how this impacted their lives.
The book features 4 such women, Beatrice who’s plainess and lack of fortune makes her a poor catch in society, her sister Sarah struggling to cope with the loss of her husband, Ava who is full of life and money and with no intention of marrying and Lydia who finds herself set to be the next Countess of Clarendale but who cannot forgive her husband for having not served at the front.
I worried before reading this book because of it not being in Parks usual era and my fears proved to be founded. I worried that the stories would mimic those of similar novels set at the same time and unfortunately this was true. A heroine disenchanted with her husband meets a handsome war hero, she’s struggling to conceive and unhappy in her marriage. From that point I had the whole plot sewn up and that disappointed me.
In fact the other 3 characters were grossly underused. Their stories playing out as a sideline as opposed to having equal time to develop. I would have enjoyed the book more had they spent more time exploring these rather than picking up and dropping them.
It’s brave of any author to try something new and I applaud Parks for trying: it wasn’t a terrible book it just fell into the trap many books set in this era can where they become staid and melodramatic. I’d be surprised if the author remained in this time period next time around as she seemed a little out of her comfort zone.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The only other Adele Parks book I have read apart from this one "Whatever it Tales" which was a good, newsy read. However, there were a few moments in the book where the suspension of disbelief gaped open like a stage curtain due to clumsy writing, a juvenile tone or a moment of lapsed realism.

I found the same thing happened with Spare Brides. I couldn't help feeling it was a little contrived in order to fit in with the current love of all things Downton. It is also the centenary of the First World War this year, so I cannot really knock anything that makes us more aware of what a dreadful time our antecedents lived through. However, I felt that Parks was out of her comfort zone.

However, I felt compelled to compare this to Lisa Jewell's novel "Before I Met You" partially set in the Twenties. Both Jewell and Parks are contemporary novelists who have written about life in the 1920s. However, I think Jewell did it better.
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on 23 November 2015
I was looking for an easy holiday read and had read some Adele Parks before and thought it would fit the bill. Easy to read but not so easy as to be annoying. I was wrong. This book is drivel in that it is classic romantic fiction trying to masquerade as something more powerful by dropping in several pages of terrible descriptive narrative about soldiers' experiences in the First World War. Regeneration, it ain't. There are also lots of descriptions about dresses and what people are wearing and also descriptions of people's features. Very poor writing. None of the characers were believable. I only finished it because I had nothing else to read. Poor show.
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on 14 October 2014
I have read all of Adele's books and loved every one ....... but this one is the exception. I am on chapter 16 .... its taken me days to get here. I keep falling asleep after 2 pages. I keep having to go back over the pages I have just read because I have missed things. My mind is wandering I may just have to give up reading it. Very disappointed.
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