Isobel Graves moved to LA determined to be the Next Big Thing. Instead, she is dressed as a giant prawn handing out fliers promoting a fish market. Rather than attending glamorous parties and dating exciting men, her evenings consist of watching box sets with her sort-of boyfriend, whose idea of romance is a late-night drunken text.
Where did it all go wrong?
When Isobel catches sight of Andrew Parker, her childhood sweetheart, in the background of a TV news story she feels it's a sign. If she'd stuck with Andrew everything would have turned out better. Now she just needs to find him...
Join Isobel as she travels from LA to Devon and to a remote Malaysian island in search of true love.
Last Christmas I discovered the simply brilliant, funny and heartwarming writing of Rosie Blake when I devoured and thoroughly enjoyed How to Stuff Up Christmas. Books in this genre are regularly described as laugh out loud funny and chock full of humour and comedy but quite often I am left wondering why they were branded in that way? Some books that are described as romantic comedies and full of belly laughs can leave me a bit perturbed as to where the laughs actually were but not so in the case of Rosie Blake and now having read my second book by this author I am a dedicated fan and can't wait for plenty more books to come from this author.
The writing throughout this third offering from Rosie – How to Find your (First) Husband - was fantastic the entire way through the book and so on point, right from the first page the humour was evident in spades. I found myself chucking away, but also cringing in equal measure, at some of the scrapes our main female protagonist Isobel Graves finds herself in. This book is certainly original and fresh as I had never read anything like this before. The whole concept of finding your first true love in this case Isobel's first 'husband' is ingenious and the entire plot came together in a very clever way. At no point did this book become on the one hand serious but on the other it didn't venture too far into the fluffy light side of women's fiction becoming all airy fairy. Instead a lovely gentle balance was struck between the two and no reader could fail to be heartened by Isobel's strength and determination in her quest to find her true love. This proved to be a globe trotting adventure with a wonderful cast of characters and a heroine you truly are rooting for.
How to Find your (First) Husband opens with a prologue - Isobel Graves is at the altar literally about to marry Andrew Parker in the school playground, all her dreams are coming true and she hopes love will last forever. Fast forward to two weeks later and Isobel finds herself dumped and alone, Andrew has moved on which only serves to highlight the futility or lack of everlasting love in the playground one day you are in and the next day you are out which is how sometimes friendships can also play out at such a young age. 'You, Isobel Graves are no longer my wife and you won't be able to find a new husband, from this day forth till death you do part'. This stern statement stays with Isobel for many years to come.
We fast forward to Los Angeles many years later and Isobel is all grown up, she has left England in the hopes of achieving her dream of stardom working as a TV presenter. After two years in the land of celebs to say her dreams have not become a reality is an understatement as when we meet her she is dressed as a lobster advertising a fish market. The scenes featuring Isobel and her friend Mel dressed up were tear inducing but in a good way. They totally take the piss out of each other at the situations in which they find themselves in and really try to make the best of what is going on but know they are destined for more. Isobel is depressed and fed up of demeaning jobs and a boyfriend that, although is sweet and nice, doesn’t do all that much for her. Mel is dating Dex and their relationship goes from strength to strength if the tales from Mel are to be believed. Poor Isobel wonders why can't she find something like that or is the curse from Andrew Parker making itself known?
Andrew has always been on Isobel's mind, she feels they never got a proper conclusion to their brief romance and deep down she harbours feelings for him. So with life not going the way she had envisaged she takes the bull by the horns and decides to embark upon a search to find her 'first husband' the amazing Andrew Parker. Well amazing in Isobel's eyes anyway or has she built him up to be something it couldn't possibly be? After all these years would Andrew even remember Isobel and their 'marriage' in the playground? Some might think my god Isobel has totally lost the plot and has gone crazy but I felt all the more power to you. She knew what she wanted and once she had that idea/plan in her head there was no stopping her. She would go to any lengths to find this Andrew and would only rest once she had laid eyes on him again and confirmed that he really was the one for her. It took guts on Isobel's behalf to give up her L.A life and jump on a plane back to England to confront the past. She didn't know what was ahead of her the path was full of uncertainty but deep down she had the strength of character to complete her mission and for that I admired her. At the end of most chapters there was a diary entry from a younger Isobel detailing times she spent playing with Andrew as she grew up and this was a great idea as we really got to understand and contemplate the thinking behind what some may view as a madcap idea. Plus Rosie included emails back and forth between Isobel and her mum and these were unbelievably funny and wacky and only added to the overall humour and my enjoyment of the book.
The tag-line on the front cover of the book mentions this is Rosie's globe-trotting quest to find true love and we are definitely taken around the world. Once Rosie establishes Andrew is no longer in England her journey takes her to the most beautifully described and idyllic island of Tioman off the Malaysian coast on the other side of the world. It really is a beautifully, stunning island like something you'd catch sight of on the internet and instantly you are wishing you could transport yourself there. Trust me after reading this book you'll want to book a holiday to this enchanting tropical island or else have your fingers crossed you win the lotto so you can make the trip. The island becomes a character in itself in Isobel's story from the beautiful sandy beaches to the lush forests this island seems to be magical. But will the island give Isobel the answers she craves? Will her heart be put firmly back in place and everything conclude with a fairy tale ending that one always wishes for?
I for one couldn't turn the pages quick enough to discover the answers and I found myself becoming deeper and deeper enthralled in Isobel's quest. I was rooting for her every step of the way as she bumbled her way through the ups and downs of her search. I sincerely hoped when she found Andrew that he would live up to her expectations and that her efforts had not been in vain or turn out to be a fruitless search. The story never felt rushed at all as I had been thinking once Isobel had found Andrew that would be it and everything would be wrapped up neatly. But unlike in other books where the author reaches a point and realises uh oh I have a certain word count and need to finish this quickly, Rosie let the story flow naturally, she allowed the island and the characters to shine and in turn this allowed Isobel and Mel and one or two other male characters to get inside your head and become friends. It was almost as if Isobel was your best friend and you were there with her just like Mel was hoping to see someone achieve happiness. But as the old saying goes the path to true love never does run smooth and the author threw in plenty of curve balls so you weren't exactly sure how everything would pan out and I love this. I hate knowing or sensing the outcome to early.
Should you buy How to Find (Your) First Husband? Most definitely - I read it in a single sitting and was longing for more. Please can the characters feature in a future book Rosie? If not in a book all to themselves maybe a short story or casually mentioned in a future story. Will you be wiping away tears of laughter as you travel with Rosie? Yes but you'll also develop a real appreciation for Rosie Blake's subtle way of having you laughing one minute but the next you are sitting up straight reading of the innermost thoughts of the characters. Isobel becomes your friend. She is not one of those ditzy characters you read about in 'chicklit' all light and fluffy and full of chat about nothing much. There is a bit of substance to her and although many may think her idea of searching for her lost love is a bit off the wall I just ran with the story as the writing was so good. Truly who doesn't want to see someone have the fairytale ending you see in films and have read in stories since you could read. Yes I admit I like a serious storyline but every now and then I adore a book like this especially when it is done well and in this case Rosie Blake has certainly achieved this. I feel the reader is only just beginning to catch a glimpse of what this author is capable of and I am eager to read plenty more books from this brilliant author.
Grab a copy of this book as soon as you can, pull up a chair in the garden, sit down and relax and enjoy Isobel's journey. You won't be disappointed in any way.
Many thanks to Corvus books for my copy of How to Find (Your) First Husband to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.