Monday, 2 March 2015

Guest Book Review: Carrie Stone - Kate & Alf

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Kate loves Alf. And Alf loves Kate… Doesn’t he? 

Kate can’t wait for her long-term boyfriend Alf to propose. So he might be a bit of a control freak who’s obsessed with his career … and he also seems to have conveniently forgotten their two-year plan to get married, buy a bigger house and have children. But Kate’s sure that ring will be on her finger soon. 

When her thirty-second birthday ends in humiliating, proposal-less disaster, even Kate is left wondering if Alf really is The One. Then Alf’s friend, Marcus, needs a place to stay. With his dark eyes, easygoing manner and kind concern for Kate, Marcus is everything Alf is not - and it's not long before Kate begins to wonder if there’s more to life than diamonds.

Amazon link: Kindle

Kate and Alf is the first book I have read by Carrie Stone and with a lovely cover and interesting premise I was keen to start this novel. This was an easy read and the story began with great promise but due to the frustrating actions of the characters throughout the novel, and so much switching of their affections and loyalties, it fell flat for me around the halfway point. But I did manage to keep going and finish this and I am glad, if only to read the sweet ending that shows us connections and chance meetings can be everything.

The book opens in Summer 2010 where the main character Kate is suffering a loss, she has had a miscarriage and it is evident herself and her long term partner Alf have a strong bond and a deep love for each other despite what they have been through. We then fast forward to Spring 2014 Kate is just about to celebrate her 32nd birthday and is hoping for a proposal. Alf brings her on a surprise night out to a greyhound stadium (of all places) where her friends and family are all waiting to throw her a surprise party. Tension builds as Kate awaits the expected proposal but instead she is presented with a box containing a dog tag and then out comes a cute King Charles puppy named Sam. Kate's disappoint is palpable and this sets her heart and mind working. Is Alf really the one for her if he can mess up something so huge that was surely part of the long term plan? Being a dog lover Sam offered plenty of cute opportunities throughout the book but he could have been utilised more to add a bit more wit and sparkle to the book. He could have become almost as famous as Neil the Puffin as used by Jenny Colgan in her Beach Street Bakery series.

Kate works in a care home and the scenes set here were wonderful with such funny characters who weren't afraid to speak their minds. The care home is almost an escape for Kate providing her with opportunities to offload her problems and receive some welcome advice from people who have been through it all and seen many things. The elderly residents only wanted the best for her in her relationships and also saw the potential in her artwork that she herself failed to see. At first I thought Kate and Alf were made for each other and she should just hold out until he got his act together and wanted to make the long term commitment. But as the story unfolded I could see Alf wasn't the nicest of people unless he got his own way and was actually at times quite mean to Kate demanding why his dinner wasn't ready and being sharp with her amongst various other things. In turn Kate herself became meek and couldn't stand up for herself and say that she was actually feeling disappointed, hurt and upset, she thought marriage was on the cards instead it was the exact opposite. At this point Kate should have gotten out of the relationship for good instead of all the fussing that ensues, a good shake is what she needed to come to a firm decision instead I grew more and more frustrated with what ensued for what seemed like endless chapters.

There was so much coming and going in this book it was hard to keep track, one minute Kate and Alf are together, then they are not, then he gets a new job, then they are back together and so on. Throw in Marcus (an old colleague of Alf's) to add in some temptation and we also had Megan (Kate's best friend). Megan was a great character who really could have had a book of her own her storyline re. her brother was really interesting and totally under developed and deserved far more exploration and fleshing out. Over the course of the book I wasn't sure who I should actually be rooting for, it was difficult to identify with the main characters as their actions and half of their carry on wouldn't happen in real life. I couldn't emotionally invest time in them as they themselves didn't know what in god's name they wanted from their lives be it career or relationship wise. Halfway through they were just starting to irritate me even Kate who I initially liked. It's a sad state of affairs when you start liking the dog in the book more so than the characters. To go on any more would just see me repeating myself which is exactly what happened in the book I was glad to see the back of selfish, ungrateful, self centred Alf but was pleased by the overall outcome for Kate.

This wasn't a fast paced book by any means nor a slow burner yet the writing was extremely easy to read and the general idea held plenty of promise, just the execution was lacking.  It would be perfect to read on a sunlounger by the pool, unfortunately that's wasn't where I was. A little more tying up and strengthening of the characters and some editing of story lines would have made this a far more satisfying read. That said I would give another novel by Carrie Stone a go as I could see where she wanted to go with this and would hope future books would go in this direction. I'll keep an eye out for her next release because after reading only one book by this author I'm willing to give anyone a second chance as you can't always judge an author based on one book.

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