Today’s book review of a contemporary women’s novel is brought to you by yours truly, Morgen Bailey. If you’d like your book reviewed or to send me a book review of another author’s book, see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog.
From Notting Hill With Love Actually by Ali McNamara
Scarlett loves the movies. But does she love sensible fiancé David just as much? With a big white wedding on the horizon, Scarlett really should have decided by now . . .
When she has the chance to house-sit in Notting Hill – the setting of one of her favourite movies – Scarlett jumps at the chance. But living life like a movie is trickier than it seems, especially when her new neighbour Sean is so irritating. And so irritatingly handsome, too.
Scarlett soon finds herself starring in a romantic comedy of her very own: but who will end up as the leading man?
Review (of the audiobook)
Threaded through this story are reminders of other chick flicks which could help but endear me to the novel and Ali’s main character, Scarlett O’Brien, especially when she begs her father for information about her mother who’d left them twenty-three years before. And I’m with her about never forgiving Angelina from stealing Brad from Jennifer.
Characters shouldn’t describe themselves, especially when looking in a mirror, but the novel starts when she tells us that she’s not only been compared with the heroine from Gone with the Wind, confirmed by her being christened Scarlett, then the next named character admires her lily-white (less of a cliche than a later pair of chocolate-brown eyes and a ‘fight tooth and nail’).
Unlike Ali’s Step Back in Time (which I reviewed back in January) and like Carole Matthews’ ‘A Cottage by the Sea’ (which I reviewed the following Monday), our main character is in a less-than-perfect relationship and we know (or at least I suspected) that they won’t stay together, especially as she lusts after other men (apart from chocolate-brown eyed Johnny Depp, there’s Brad Pitt and a stranger in the travel bookshop that features in this novel’s homaged movie – we even have an orange juice-stained top which leads us to the charismatic Oscar – and George is equally delightful.
There are some phrases could have been trimmed because we know why the characters’ are doing what they’re doing, e.g. ‘Making me jump with fright’, ‘she asked in alarm’, ‘dropped the book in alarm’, and ‘nodded his agreement’. Other picks are ‘quietly crept’ (we don’t creep loudly), and cliches included ‘fitted me like a glove’, and ‘bolt upright’. Adverbs weren’t too obvious but the few I would have chopped included ‘I love your decor, I said admiringly’.
The search for Scarlett’s mother has more ups and downs than Perfect Storm, and when they meet (it’s inevitable that they will or the reader would be disappointed), it’s hooking.
Scarlett’s Valentines wait at the top of the Eiffel Tower (which doesn’t involve her mother, in case you’re wondering) was so touching, and the elderly couple who catch Scarlett at Sean’s hotel room door are brilliant, and the Blues Brothers scene at the church is possibly my favourite of the novel. That was until we find out why they’re there and what the result is, and more importantly what happens when Scarlett gets to where she get, and who she sees on the way.
There are some coincidences that didn’t quite ring true but incidental not vital so I let them go.
Like ‘Step Back in Time’, this novel was brilliantly narrated by Judy Dench’s daughter, Finty Williams. This is Ali’s first novel and, apart from the minor picks above, it’s superbly well written.
Rating: 5 out of 5
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local county council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page). She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog.
Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List ($0.99 / £0.77) and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works. She also has eight collections of short stories available (also $0.99 / £0.77 each) – detailed on https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com/books-mine/short-stories.
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If you would like to send me a book review of another author’s books or like your book reviewed (short stories, contemporary crime / women’s novels or writing guides), see book-reviews for the guidelines. Other options listed on opportunities-on-this-blog. And I post writing exercises every weekday on four online writing groups.