Friday, 2 October 2015

Emma's Guest Review: Mandy Baggot - One Wish in Manhattan

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

The temperature is dropping, snow is on its way and Hayley Walker is heading for New York with one wish… to start over. 

With her daughter Angel, Hayley is ready for adventure. But there’s more to New York than twinkly lights and breathtaking skyscrapers. Angel has her own Christmas wish – to find her real dad. 

While Hayley tries to fulfil her daughter’s wish, she crosses paths with billionaire Oliver Drummond. Restless and bored with fast living, there’s something intriguing about him that has Hayley hooked. 

Can Hayley dare to think her own dreams might turn come true – could A New York Christmas turn into a New York Forever? 

Travel to the Big Apple this Christmas and join Hayley and Oliver as they realise life isn’t just about filling the minutes… it’s about making every moment count. 

Amazon link: Kindle

Bookouture definitely excel in producing the most magical, atmospheric covers and One Wish in Manhattan is no different. Shamefully this is my first read by Mandy Baggot but honestly I devoured it and from now on will eagerly await each of her new releases whilst reading her back catalogue. In the months and weeks leading up to the Christmas season we are going to be inundated with festive reads, like many others I adore books centred around Christmas but one niggle I sometimes have is that more often than not Christmas is rarely mentioned in a number of these books. Why go to the bother of focusing a book all around one of the most special times of year and barely mention the big event or the lead up to it? There are numerous opportunities to create a wonderfully, enchanting story associated with the season so in my opinion for a writer it's best not to waste it. In this case none of my issues arose as this book was simply fantastic - a real page turner with a good solid storyline and a fantastic cast of characters. One Wish in Manhattan ticks all the boxes and it certainly has me excited and eager for all the special moments that are sure to be created over the coming weeks.

The book opens in Salisbury in a McDonald’s as Hayley sits with her daughter Angel contemplating her big holiday to New York for Christmas. It's supposed to be a real exciting, adventurous time but she has just quit her job and she has ulterior reasons for the trip. Hayley desperately wants to fulfil Angel's Christmas wish – to find her dad, their last encounter being the night Angel was conceived. Could Hayley's one night stand (charming artist Michel) still be living in the city that never sleeps ten years on? Well there is only one way to find out and Hayley is determined to make her daughter's dream come true.

Hayley and Angel are just fantastic characters, the mother/daughter bond runs deep. They are almost like sisters, best friends and mother and daughter all rolled into one as close as they possibly could be and I really adored both of them. Their love and support for each other radiates from the pages, the banter between the two was brilliant and gave me innumerable laugh out loud moments. Angel is a child genius and her 'special dictionary of facts' is never far from her side. Littered throughout the book are Angel's facts and statements about life in general and New York City. This could have bordered on tedious and inappropriate but Mandy slips them in at just the right moment that they offer light relief from a tense scene or else add superb comedic value. Angel was a child wise beyond her years and more like forty than nine but she made such positive, humorous contributions to the story that without her in it this book would not have worked as well as it did. 'Children had no filter.They were truth tellers' this just totally sums Angel up and I love her for it.

Hayley may well be a single mother but she wants the best for her daughter, her own dreams and aspirations regarding fashion have been put aside. Travelling to New York with Angel she is able to stay with her brother Drew who works in a computer company. He has the plush apartment, the hunky boyfriend and everything he could wish for. Whilst Hayley frets that having lost her job how will she give Angel anything? By committing to a search maybe she can give Angel the greatest gift of all? Hayley to me was strong and determined and someone who always puts everyone else first as is evident throughout the book with her careful considered actions towards others. Hayley should be applauded for her willingness to find the father of her child. She could have just thought I've done well on my own for the guts of ten years, I can keep going but no she knew her daughter needed to form a relationship with her father. A chance encounter with Oliver Drummond, CEO of the company Drew works for, sets in motion a chain of events, connections, twists and turns that had me enthralled right until I read the very last line of this impressive story. Hayley with a little help does everything in her power to find Michel. But does she? The only thing I will say is when Hayley feels she needs money if she wanted to stay in New York longer or treat Angel to nice things she goes and gets a job. Majestic Cleaning was a brilliant addition to the overall storyline but would a tourist really be allowed to work whilst on holiday? Surely they would get thrown out of the country if discovered. I realise Mandy addresses this later on in the book and this plot line is essential but at the time of reading it really bugged me.

The more we read of Oliver in the first six or so chapters the more it struck me how selfish he was and he was engaging in a pity party. How could he be certain his life was going to be cut short like that of his brother and father? He was wishing his life away and not engaging on a day to day basis, embrace each day as it comes, live life to the full as history might not repeat itself. Otherwise he would be left wondering why did I put myself through all that for no reason only one of my creation. The way Oliver speaks to and treats his PA Clara really irked me, she devoted herself to her job and to ensuring Oliver's work life went as smoothly as possible. I think secretly she had a soft spot for him and wanted the best for him even though for quite some part of the book his obsession with what had happened in the past prevented him from moving forward and being the best man he could be both on a personal and professional level. As all the women in Oliver's life including his mother Cynthia just wanted him to break free from the shackles he had placed around himself but it would take a special someone for that to happen. As the story progresses there is certainly one of the best character transformations I have read in a long time and this may sound silly to say but I found myself beginning to fancy Oliver just that little bit. Normally I just read a book and take the male characters as they are but here Mandy Baggott does such a fantastic job of endearing you to each character especially Oliver that I could see beyond the hunky billionaire to a man who was nervous and afraid. 'He didn't do caring like that. It only led to pain'.  Hopefully by the end of the book Oliver would be able to retract that statement.

Christmas books can often be in danger of being airy, fairy concentrating too much on the magical, romantical side of things but One Wish in Manhattan was a story of real substance and depth whilst maintaining a cheerful fun side. The headings within each chapter helped the reader identify the various settings throughout the city where scenes were taking place. They really enabled me to identify with the city and the characters. Mandy Baggot has done a super job of making me feel like I was in New York with Hayley, Oliver and co. I've never been to New York, god I would be ashamed to tell you the last time I was on a holiday, but after reading this book I believe I have experienced the cold, the snow, ice skating, the wonderful shops and restaurants, fabulous festive ambiance of New York and much much more. One Wish in Manhattan peels back the layers of its characters to reveal their true selves with the added dash of romance, laughter, forgiveness , healing and all things Christmas I loved every minute of it and didn't want it to end. In the end notes Mandy Baggot hopes we enjoyed our holiday in New York with Hayley, Oliver, Angel and the rest and asks was it the perfect Christmas read? The answer to both those questions Mandy is yes and yes and I will be recommending this to everybody. Let's hope the rest of the Christmas books to come are as good as One Wish in Manhattan.

Many thanks to Bookouture for my NetGalley copy to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

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