If you're a regular of the blog then you'll know that I'm not really a fan of serials, as I'm too impatient and prefer to read a story all in one go, but what's slightly different about Della Parker's The Reading Group is that a few are going to be published on the same day so can be read one after the other instead of having to wait a few weeks or even months for the next one. We'll still have to wait a while for the next ones but at least reading 2 or 3 together makes it seem OK, and after all who could resist reading a series featuring a book group, so when I was contacted by Alainna at Quercus I agreed to be part of the blog tour for the first 3 books, December, January & February.
Meet the Reading Group: six women in the seaside village of Little Sanderton come together every month to share their love of reading. No topic is off-limits: books, family, love and loss . . . and don't forget the glass of red!
Grace knows that the holiday season is going to be different this year. No turkey, no tinsel, no gorgeously wrapped gifts under the tree . . . how on earth is she going to break it to her little boys that Christmas is effectively cancelled? And can she bear to tell anyone her embarrassing secret? Enter the Reading Group: Grace's life might have turned upside down but there's no problem they can't solve.
The first book in the series is a super short read, approx 22 pages, but it is perfect as a taster for the series as we are briefly introduced to the women who make up the Reading Group as they rally round to support their friend and fellow member Grace and her family at their time of need. Times are tough and Grace is feeling lost as to how to cope with it all but that's when her friends step in to help make this a Christmas to remember.
I love the concept of this series that each of the novellas will feature a classic as it's chosen book of the month, and in December it of course had to be Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, and the central story will revolve around different group members. But of course the rest of the reading group will always be there in the background to offer a listening ear as the saying goes 'a problem shared is a problem halved', a shoulder to cry on or for morale support when needed.
Anne-Marie has always considered herself a bit of a matchmaker - never mind that she's only got one real success under her belt. And this year she's determined to up her game: Little Sanderton's singles could certainly benefit from her expertise!
But while Anne Marie thinks she knows what's best for everyone else, her own life couldn't be less of a fairytale romance. Between looking after her cranky father and running her own business, she doesn't have time for a relationship. Her friends in the Reading Group know better though: after all, love can be found in the most unexpected of places . . .
This January the Reading Group is tackling Jane Austen's Emma . . . but who's got time for fiction when romance is in the air?
It's fair to say after reading this next installment that Anne-Marie is not a natural matchmaker, no matter how good her intentions are. I wasn't sure about her at first as I thought she was going to a spoilt princess who has been handed everything by Daddy, but how wrong first impressions can be. Yes she might have had a privileged upbringing and lives in a luxury apartment but she works hard at running her own business, and isn't afraid to get stuck in when needed. But underneath it all she has a heart of gold who only wants her friends to be happy, and if she can give them a helping hand then all the better, but maybe she ought to give up on the idea of being the next Cilla Black as her misguided attempts at matchmaking fail spectacularly and had me laughing one moment and cringing the next!
Kate has tried to be a good wife to her husband Anton. Ever since he got demoted at work - answering to a woman no less - Anton simply hasn't been the same. Kate wants to help, but as the months pass and Anton pulls away from her both emotionally and physically, Kate can't help but feel a bit abandoned.
Then Kate means Bob: the handsome, blue-eyed carpenter that Anton has hired to refurbish their kitchen. Kate instantly feels a powerful physical connection between them . . . but dare she risk her marriage for a man she barely knows?
This month the Reading Group is enjoying Lady Chatterley's Lover . . . and trying not to giggle too much at the naughty parts!
Things get a little more steamy in February with their chosen book Lady Chatterley's Lover but for Kate it's a painful reminder as to what is missing in her own life as things have gone a bit stale in her marriage to husband Anton. I haven't actually read Lady Chatterley's Lover myself, although do know that it also features a woman who is feeling frustrated at the intimate part of her relationship, so can only make assumptions as to whether or not there are comparisons to the classic.
I'll also confess that I was feeling a little apprehensive about reading this installment as the blurb hints at what's in store for Kate with regards to being attracted to another man, and whether or not she would act on her feelings, as I don't tend to choose to read stories that feature infidelity at their core. But despite this being the central theme of this installment I was still able to enjoy it for what it was, a woman who was struggling with her feelings and emotions who needed the support of her friends to help her process everything she was dealing with.
As it's confession time here's another, I thought that I would find each of these stories too short, and would be left feeling that I wanted more, but that's not the case at all which totally surprised me. Each story was told perfectly and came to a natural conclusion and didn't feel unfinished which goes to show why Della Parker is a prolific short story writer.
These first three short stories were the perfect introduction to the characters and the series so I cannot wait to see what we have in store for us next when we meet JoJo and Serena early next year. There is just one little thing that has been bugging me and that's who the elusive sixth member of the group is as the blurb for the series mentions six women but we've only met five so far, Grace, Anne-Marie, Kate, JoJo and Serena......