Saturday, 26 September 2015

Sarah's Guest Review: Wendy Holden - Wild and Free

Reviewed by Sarah Brew

Wild & Free is the festival du jour. Everyone piles through its gates - and Cupid lies in wait to sprinkle a little midsummer madness on them all.

Teacher Ginnie is desperate to forget her crush on headmaster Mark, and hopes glamping might do the trick. But Mark is also heading for Wild & Free to reform his college band ... desperate not to be seen by anyone he knows.

Mark's bandmate James dreams of a festival blow-out with his son, Guy ... until his wife Victoria's ambition kills the dream. Now she and Guy are en route to Wild & Free instead but when Guy meets Shanna-Mae and falls for her earthy charms, Victoria is determined to snap Cupid's arrow.

Will the magic of the festival send them wild? Or set them free to find peace and love?

Amazon links: Kindle or Paperback

Wendy Holden has brought us a wonderful story using the theme of summer festivals – one that will resonate with many readers as her vivid descriptions bring back memories and fuel the desire to attend for just one more time. Engaging characters weave through the well-woven storyline as the author gently, and in the nicest way possible, pokes fun at festival goers. 

The eponymous festival is held in the West Country. It is definitely upmarket, middle class and many of the festival-goers are the middle-aged, trying to recapture the excitement of festivals attended in their youth. Each of the main characters is linked by their past, and these stories are told through the book. It’s a varied cast of characters, including a headmaster, trying to recapture his youth;  one of his teachers; a husband trying to engage with his son – both of them being controlled by their wife/mother; there’s a writer and his girlfriend; and a pair of young criminals, out to make the most of the carefree atmosphere. There are many others, too, who play smaller parts and who provide characters to whom the reader can relate. This varied cast makes for a pacy book that never gets boring – I found I was eagerly waiting for the next time a character appeared so I could find out what happened.

All are seeking a form of escape from their everyday world. The observations are spot on and wickedly accurate but never spiteful. There’s plenty of romance as you would expect. The festival background is superbly evoked – the sheer enormity and chaos of it all really hits you. It’s a world completely removed from everyday life and the way the characters behave reflects this – behaviour that would be considered unusual becomes the norm and inhibitions take flight. Storylines abound – the main ones are satisfying and well concluded but to bring everything to a full and satisfactory conclusion would have made the book far too long. This left the feeling that some stories had been truncated in order to resolve the plot. My favourite characters were Mark and Ginnie and I so wanted things to work out for them.

Sharp, witty and hugely entertaining, this is a perfect summer read for festival goers but just as good for curling up with on a long winter evening when summer is a dim and distant memory.

I'd like to thank Sarah for reviewing Wild and Free which I received from publisher via Bookbridgr. 

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