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I've read a couple of Claire Allan's books now and she has a real knack for writing really warm and realistic characters that you want to read about in a well woven and written story. It seems that Irish authors are really on the up at the moment, and it's a terrible fact that they are often overlooked by the bigger name publishers because they are a lot better than some of the big names I read if I'm totally honest... especially celebrity authors! The cover of this book caught my eye, it isn't anything amazing yet it intrigued... what did the wedding dress and purple shoes have to do with the story, and exactly what secrets was Betty hiding from her 2 nieces.

The 2 nieces in question are Ava Campbell and Hope Scott. Ava is happily married to husband Connor, and together they have their two year old daughter Maisie, a delightful but lively young thing, and Ava is feeling a little fed up of juggling all the balls by herself, and never seeing Connor as they both work so hard to provide for their families. On the other hand, Hope is hopelessly in love with her best friend and flatmate Dylan, and has been for as long as she can remember. The two cousins barely know each other but are thrown together after the death of their Aunt Betty and her request that they clear out her farmhouse in France. Neither woman is keen to go but luckily they decide to honour Betty's wishes and are surprised by what they find. Ava was a wonderful character, a busy working mum who constantly feels the guilt she isn't there for her daughter all the time (what mum doesn't know those feelings?!), and I really warmed to her, she was so nice and through the revelations that appear in the book I felt so sorry for her. Allan has written her as a sympathetic character, but she has an inner strength that I really loved.

Hope was one that took a little while for me to warm to but once I did, I thought she was great. As a reader, you can see her love is unrequited, but she's sure Dylan must have feelings deep down. I felt sorry for her believing in that, I'm sure most of us have experienced those feelings once in a while and it is a hard thing to go through. However, I enjoyed watching her grow as a person as the book progressed, and especially how she supported her cousin through her own turmoils too. In fact, the reactions both women had to their letters from Betty was truly touching, and it's nice to feel the love from the elderly woman to the nieces she never really got to know, yet she seemingly could read them like a book.

Allan writes about France really well, perfectly describing not only Betty's beautiful old house, but the sights that Hope and Ava go to see at the same time. There is really only one French character that we meet, Jean-Luc, who is pretty much your typical French heart-throb lol. He was a nice male addition to the otherwise female cast, but wasn't overly prominent. I found this book to be very emotional and touching, especially when the letters from Betty are revealed, detailing her own love story. I have to moan a little bit because I felt the font that the publishers printed Betty's letters in was really hard to read, and I did struggle to work out a few words along the way, which did slow me down a bit. However, I pushed this to one side in my head because it was so enjoyable, a very heartfelt read and Allan's writing really brings to life not only Ava and Hope in the present day, but Betty through her letters too. It was a joy to read, and Claire Allan seems to be going from strength to strength. Definitely a book I would recommend!
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on 14 October 2011
was worth the wait, been home alone this week except for my book and the week has flown by, it has felt as if i have melted into the pages, does that sound right. really really really good read. thank u.
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on 15 November 2011
If Only You Knew is about two cousins, Ava Campbell and Hope Scott, who are tasked - although, tasked is a bit strong a word, considering where they go to do said task - with the, er, task of sorting through their late Aunt Betty's life once she dies at her house in Saint Jeannet (in France). They're confused as to why Betty chose them; after all, Ava only met Betty once at a funeral and Hope only stayed with her for a month years ago when she went travelling with her best friend Dylan. However the two cousins duly head to France, and once there, they find letters from Betty, detailing her life in France and her life in Ireland before she went to France, and as the girls delve more into Betty's life they learn of secrets they weren't already aware of and they figure out that although Betty only knew them barely, she was indeed a lot more perceptive than anyone gave her credit for.

I very much enjoyed reading If Only You Knew, the story is an excellent one, although there is a niggling feeling that I've read a similar book that was also really good (so good, I appear to have forgotten what it was...). I wasn't sure what to expect, as you know, but it's a really perceptive read. I felt Claire Allan tapped in to the story brilliantly, managing to make Betty such an important part of the book despite her death, I felt she tapped into Ava and Hope in such a way that they'll stay with me for a while yet and I just found the whole book to be an enchanting read. I found myself getting lost in the story, getting lost in Betty's letters which really, really added to the book. It's truly one of the most impressive books I've read this year and I was just so impressed with how layered it was.

If Only You Knew really impressed me. I just loved it all and it was just the whole package, a nice story, a good backstory, characters I cared about. The only thing I felt was lacking was a real set-to between Hope and her best friend (and secret love) Dylan. I kept waiting for them to duke it out properly, for Hope to just be honest and it never came, which was a shame. It seemed as if it needed to happen, if I'm honest, and I was disappointed it never did. Apart from that, though, I thoroughly enjoyed my reading of the book. Claire Allan is supremely talented (even if she sometimes uses Irish words I don't understand - boking, for example, which if my powers of deduction are correct it means puking. I also don't understand the use of the word "baggage" as in "You're such baggage", because to me, that makes no sense!) and I just loved the whole book. I will indeed be reading the other Allan novel I have, and I can safely presume that this is indeed her breakout book and what a book it is.
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on 13 November 2011
Claire Allan's fifth novel proves she has both the storytelling gifts of Cathy Kelly and the wit and warm humour of Marian Keyes. If Only You Knew is the story of cousins Ava Campbell; the sensible married teacher and Hope Scott; the flighty single journalist who are thrown together when, at the reading of their aunt's will they discover her request that they visit her house in the South of France to pack up her belongings. The girls are bemused at first but they decide to go, for the chance of a holiday if nothing else. Through a series of letters left in various parts of the house in France Aunt Betty's story is revealed and her reasons for asking her nieces to visit the house and raise a glass to her and to each other become clear. Through the discoveries they make both women learn to move their lives forward and to reconcile the past especially when they discover some of the shocking truths about Aunt Betty's life and the reason why she ran away to France. Claire Allan's story is a hilarious and life affirming tale of families, secrets and love which you won't be able to put down.
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on 17 January 2015
Two cousins, Ava and Hope, both in their thirties, both leading very different lives.
Ava is a married mother of one and juggles family life with her job as a teacher. Always striving for perfection, she is the queen of the to-do-list and organises everything with extreme care.
Hope, on the other hand, is a freelance journalist, living with her best friend Dylan, who she is secretly in love with. Scatty and not at all in control of her life, she is coasting along day to day.
When their Aunt dies and leaves them a letter in her will, it leads them both to France, where they will discover more about themselves, as well their Aunt Betty.

I have read this author's work before and have always enjoyed her novels, so it was a no-brainer to choose this as part of #IrishFictionFortnight. From Derry, in Northern Ireland, Claire has a lovely way with words and yet pulls no punches with her language. The story of these two cousins was believable, with a great cast of supporting characters. I especially loved Fiona, the fellow mother of one, who has nothing good to say about being a mum and who makes you wonder why some people have children at all. Through a series of letters, the author introduces us the wonderful world of Betty. Growing up in Derry, in the midst of The Troubles, she is swept of her feet and moves to France. Her new life is a far cry from the one she left behind, but she has left a part of her in the walled town. The cousins both have their issues, with Ava struggling to be themother she wants to be and Hope feeling let down by her flatmate and the love of her life. However, I found Hope's repetitive rants and thoughts about Dylan became a little tiresome.

The house in France sounds idyllic and, more than once, I had that fleeting dream of packing up my family and moving there. Then I remembered, this is the real world, not a novel, and it's never going to happen! Nonetheless, the descriptions of Betty's home, and the surrounding areas, were divine. I felt like I was with the girls as they crept into the attic to find out more about their Aunt.

This is women's fiction so, of course, there is a love interest. Predictable as it was, it lightened the mood of the book and added the romantic element to the sun drenched chapters. For those who have not read Claire's work, be ready for some Northern Ireland turn of phrase, like 'wee' instead of 'small', which always bring a smile to my face as I read them. Try saying them out loud for added entertainment, my kids loved when I tried my best Derry accent (which is not good). I have already rooted out my next Claire Allan book, as she is a perfect blanket to wrap yourself in, on these cold January evenings...
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on 18 October 2011
I read If Only you Knew over the weekend. I literally couldn't put it down.
It has to be my favourite of Ms Allan's books so far, although all are well worth the read. This one made my laugh and cry in equal measures.
So well written with such emotion, compassion and humour.
Can't wait for the next one. Thank you very much.
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on 20 February 2012
Claire Allan gets better and better. Another great read, this time featuring two disparate cousins thrown together by the death of an aunt. I really loved the characters and they stayed with me long after I'd finished reading. The story is funny and sad, a must read for chick it lovers.
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on 13 November 2012
I have never left a bad review on here before, but after all of the positive ones about this book, which were the reasons that I bought and (unfortunately!) read the book, I thought I would write something. It is a nice enough, cute story but it was just so corny and cringeworthy throughout, I really did not enjoy it. The story itself was a nice idea, but I found the book in general really boring and the style of writing pretty irritating. I normally love a good chick-lit but this was just not for me
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on 30 January 2014
Oh wow!!
This is the first book that I have read by Claire Allan....and it certainly won't
be the last.
Such powerful characters who I absolutely loved and a wonderful story.
Had be enthralled from beginning to end.
If only I knew what a fab author she was!! Excuse me while I download some more!!!!
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on 31 December 2013
If you have never read a Claire Allan book you HAVE to!! I absolutely adore her style of writing and read along in an Irish accent! (I am scottish, not Irish lol) Fantastic read and I can never put her books down!
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