Reviewed by Emma Crowley
When Nell is marooned at the altar, her feisty best friend Rachel says she'll come with her on honeymoon instead. Why waste a week in a posh country hotel?
So the duo, plus Rachel's Agatha Christie-obsessed small daughter Juno, head for the hills and idyllic Edenville, on the edge of the beautiful Pemberton estate. Awaiting them is a cast of colourful characters, from Jason the harassed hotel manager to the ruthless Angela, Director of HR. Not to mention the handsome Dylan, a bestselling writer on the run from his past.
Nell doesn't want to go back to London, so when a job on the estate comes up, she's happy to stay. Even if it is arranging weddings in the Big House! As she becomes entangled in the lives of the locals - and they weave their way into her heart - she realises there might be a way to reach the rainbow's end after all.
It's been awhile since I have read anything by Wendy Holden. I had read a few of her books in the past but the last one I read Marrying Up really wasn't that good and that put me off reading more from this author. Then along comes Honeymoon Suite with the most gorgeous cover that couldn't but fail to brighten up the long gloomy days of January fortunately it's the month of its publication. It is so colourful and bright and would certainly stand out on the shelves of a bookshop and say buy me now please. In answer to that I would say you have to buy this book it would be worth every penny, I literally couldn't put it down and despite being apprehensive before reading, considering my feelings on the last book I read from this author, I was ever so glad I took the chance on this one.
Yes it's long for a 'chick-lit' book at over 500 pages and one would wonder does a book in this genre need to be that long? What can be possibly be brought to the boy meets girl story? Normally I'd say no it doesn't at all but here it's the opposite if there had been 500 more pages I would have had happily kept on reading so engrossed was I in the story. There was never any lulls or boring bits it was all exciting and informative. In fact the numerous little sidelines bubbling away adjacent to the main plot only added more depth and enjoyment to the overall story. Not once did the number of characters, or the issues they were having, become confusing to read, and all the tangled connections and miscommunications which usually irritate me in a book were written so well here that I was reluctant for them to be resolved too early for that would mean the book would be finished and I really didn't want that to happen too quickly.
Honeymoon Suite was my first read of 2017 and I was glad I made that choice and didn't leave it languishing on my TBR pile for too long because I would have been missing out on a little gem that certainly enhanced my reading experience. The story is split into three distinct sections, none are overly long instead they end at just the correct time before the story moves on at a good pace. Often with books I find the title barely relates to the story or you are reading along wondering when the connection between title and plot will materialise. The honeymoon suite as mentioned here doesn't appear until around the halfway mark or even the bits mentioned in the blurb but it didn't bother me in the slightest because part one was all about the setting up and introduction of characters and their back stories and connections. Initially I was thinking was this really necessary but the more I read the more I realised it needed to be there and was in fact very clever and really shaped the book giving everything a clear beginning, middle and end which is often lacking in books. Yes the author went off on some tangents but they were welcome and always connected back to the main storyline making this a book to be read in as few sittings as possible, well that's how I felt about it anyway and I hope other readers will too.
Part One introduces us to our two main characters. Dylan Eliot is an author living in the charming coastal village of Tremadoc which was just beautifully described. I had hoped all of the book would be set here but as things come together we move to Pemberton. Throughout the entire story Wendy Holden excelled with her descriptions and really set the scene for her readers, I had clear pictures of everything in my head and she certainly made you wish Pemberton was real. Dylan had had fantastic success with his début novel after writing in the evenings after work. Now he is trying to complete that difficult second novel and wondering can he replicate the success he had or was it just a fluke? Dylan was dating Beatrice, the complete opposite to himself in terms of personality. She was a fireball, tempestuous, domineering and always up to have a fight of any kind. Really the pair shouldn't have been together at all. I loved how the author made one of her main characters a writer, the book nerd in me came out and I loved reading all about Dylan. As the story progresses I came to understand what a complex character Dylan really was and he could begin to cope with what befalls him.
Our other main character was Nell and again and it's unusual for me to feel this way but I loved her just as much as Dylan. Normally I prefer one main character over the other but it's testament to the way they were written that I loved both Nell and Dylan equally and wanted happiness for both of them but god did I enjoy their journey and ups and downs on the way to maybe finding it. Nell lives in London and since her PR company folded she works from home writing copy for all kinds of catalogues. She has been single for a year since Toby dumped her. To be honest I could see Nell was at a vulnerable stage in her life both professionally and romantically. Things weren't panning out the way she had hoped and she seemed as if she would jump at the first sign of anything anyway positive happening with regard to the two above mentioned issues. She joins a dating site and between one thing and another there are crossed wires and misunderstandings, lack of communication and above all else just coming out and asking a simple question. It was fun to see what unfolded towards the latter part of section one but I wondered why is this all happening so soon and when is the blurb going to start becoming relative but the author was merely teasing her readers and there was a lot more to explore and develop before any resolution could even be attempted.
As I have said I felt Nell was vulnerable and she certainly showcased this by rushing into marriage. I wanted to shake her and say what in god's name are you doing? This went way beyond being caught up in a moment. Suffice to say my fears proved right and Nell finds herself abandoned at the altar and her life is turned upside down. I felt desperately sorry for Nell but her new found friend Rachel and her daughter Juno were there to save the day and offer support and the words Nell needed to hear. Both Rachel and Juno were perfect additions to the story in fact any character that gets a mention, be it briefly or in more of an important role, were well placed throughout the story and none seemed there just to fill page space which I find can actually happen all too frequently in stories. Juno although very young was just brilliant. She was obsessed with Agatha Christie and spoke well beyond her years full of wisdom and blunt observations and not once did she ever hold back. She was not to be underestimated and played a pivotal role at just the appropriate time and provided many laugh out loud moments. Honeymoon Suite for me was almost like two books as in so much happened before Nell and Rachel decide to take the week away that had been booked as the honeymoon. Yet even though it felt like that the two halves even though there were three parts mixed together so well and I didn't notice the pages flying by.
The action and story lines throughout this book never let up and Nell begins to get a lot more than she bargained for once she reaches Pemberton. Many more characters were introduced including manager of the hotel Jason whose storyline was subtly played out to perfection. Angela in charge of human resources was just pure evil, OK she may have had things going on but that in no way excuses her for her carry on and she just appeared to get worse and crueller the more Nell seems to become stronger. I loved how Nell never put her down. Dan the gardener seemed to stick out a bit but I was proven wrong and George Farley was such a loveable character. So much happens in that later half of the book and someone even makes a surprise reappearance. I wanted people to come clean to each other and I wanted to know how everything all connected and I raced through the pages to discover all the answers to the many questions that had accumulated in my head. Yet I didn't want this wonderfully written clever, engaging story to end and I was sad it had too.
There was such a brilliant cast of colourful characters which at times their storylines could have descended into farce but thankfully they didn't. This story will renew your faith in love, life and relationships and I am so glad I came back to the writing of Wendy Holden after giving her last few books a miss. Honeymoon Suite is romantic comedy at its best. When this is done well you find the story unbearable to be away from it once you start and this is how I felt about this book. Will everything resolve itself and Nell find the happiness I felt she deserved? Will the same happen for all the other characters we encounter. Don't hesitate to buy this book come publication day it is so enjoyable and a brilliant read. I'd love a follow up with a novella maybe Christmas themed just to see how things are now. Fingers crossed.
Many thanks to Heloise Wood from Emma Draude PR for my copy of Honeymoon Suite to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.