Saturday, 27 January 2018

Emma's Review: Million Love Songs by Carole Matthews

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

After splitting up with her cheating ex, Ruby Brown is ready for a change. She's single again for the first time in years and she's going to dive into this brave new world with a smile on her face and a spring in her step. The last thing she's looking for is a serious relationship.

Mason represents everything Ruby wants right now: he's charming, smooth and perfect for some no-strings-attached fun, and yet Ruby can't help feel that something is missing. Joe on the other hand is kind and attentive, but he comes with the sort of baggage Ruby wants to avoid: an annoyingly attractive ex-wife and two teenage children.

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Many thanks to Little Brown UK via NetGalley for my copy of Million Love Songs to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

Carole Matthews certainly doesn't rest on her laurels as it was only in October that the gorgeous story that was Christmas Cakes and Mistletoe Nights was published and now she is back with a brand new story featuring Ruby Brown called Million Love Songs. Ruby lives in Milton Keynes and is recently divorced from Simon, something she is slowly struggling to come to terms with. After five years it's hard to contemplate the fact that she is once again on her own but as they say when life throws you lemons you make lemonade and that's exactly what she is going to do. She has walked away from her secure, if slightly boring, job, her friends, family, everything. So a fresh start with new adventures is definitely on the cards if she can muster the energy and courage to get out there and attack that dating scene with gusto.

Ruby is known for her reliability and not her impulsiveness but this is an image she wants to shake off. Instead she wants to come across as if she is very sociable, communicative and always ready for fun and the unexpected. This came across very much as bravado on Ruby's part as it was evident she was bruised and broken from her experiences and it would take a lot for those images to vanish from her mind. She needs someone who will set her heart a flutter but what happens when two men present themselves? Can she choose between them? Does she feel she is worthy of either of them?

One could say Ruby was having a pity party based on her situation now stuck living in a granny annexe and working in a gastropub which couldn't have been more different from her previous job. But we have to reach the bottom and go through all the various emotions and experiences before we can see the light and emerge victorious and better off at the top. Her co-worker Charlie Clarke, who becomes her best friend and confidant, may just be the person to help her emerge from the sadness and lack of faith she has in herself. Charlie was a brilliant character, fun, likeable, supportive and never afraid to say what was on her mind. Telling a porky pie was never on her agenda and when Ruby was going down a route that you really wouldn't want your best friend to go down, Charlie wasn't afraid to express  her opinion and say hey Ruby this is wrong and you should know it. Whether Ruby always took her advice remained to be seen.

Charlie and her fellow superfan Paul are obsessed with Gary Barlow and in turn Ruby is brought on their adventures as they queue for hours even just to catch a glimpse of their idol. In doing this it was another way for Ruby to get her confidence back, to get out there and do things she would have never thought possible. I was a huge Take That fan back in the day, although Mark was the one I followed, and at first I did enjoy all the Take That references but later it became a bit too much and I felt they could have been curtailed. It was clear Charlie was obsessed with Gary so continuous remainders and mentions weren't strictly necessary all the time throughout most chapters.

The chapters were short and snappy which I like as they usually keep the storyline moving on and if you need to stop reading for any reason there wasn't that frustration that you had to leave the story in the middle of the chapter. I did think the book was too long though, there were several points where I thought it had come to a natural conclusion and I would have been happy with the ending and yet it went on for several more chapters. Even the epilogue had plenty in it with one final surprise but by that stage I had thought the outcome had been achieved and then another twist had been put in. The indecisiveness of Ruby throughout the story irritated me at times. At the end of chapter she was firm, no that's it I'm having nothing to do with so and so and then a chapter later she was back with said person. In this sense she was reckless and dived straight in to things despite the advice of Charlie.

Charlie knew what she was talking about as we learn when more is revealed about her background and I wished Ruby had the good sense to listen to her friend. There was too much back and forth which I know is needed in a book where a woman is looking for a new start in life and a new love interest but it became confusing to keep track and therefore my general opinion of Ruby changed countless times. I wasn't even sure who I wanted her to end up with as the two men in question had attributes some of which I liked and some I didn't. I could see Ruby was confused and torn all the time and it was understandable given she had just come out of a marriage she believed to be very much stable and for the long term. But still she tested the waters a bit too much for my liking and the flitting back and forth at times hindered my enjoyment of the story.

So to the two men in question which have Ruby's heart torn in two and filled with indecision. Joe runs scuba diving classes which Ruby decides to try her hand at. She soon finds out it's a pastime not for her but maybe Joe could become more than a pastime? Unfortunately he is recently separated but has two teenage children and an ex who are very demanding. Ruby feels that with Joe she will never be the main priority, that his sole focus and attention will never be on her. She does have feelings for him but how can they develop into something more if one person gives 100% and the other doesn't. I can't say I had any particular feelings towards Joe. I didn't dislike him nor was I overly enamoured with him. He seemed to blow very hot and cold and didn't know what he wanted with regards to his future. I think he needed to be more honest with Ruby and not have her running after him thinking something deeper could happen when maybe he wasn't ready for that. He needed to find his own resolution before concentrating on Ruby.

Mason Soames is Ruby's boss at the pub. A man about town, business man. He was suave and sophisticated and had the reputation that went with it. He was cute, young, cocky, smooth and charming and ignited a spark in Ruby that made her transform from a broken woman to someone with fire in her belly willing to go against the persona she portrayed when we first met her. The weekend in Paris springs to mind even if what went on was very much not of her character. Mason had such a way about him, it was almost like Ruby fell under his spell as I am sure many readers will do to. But surely you need someone with a bit more stability, who won't act rashly and can keep their attention on one person at a time? Roving eyes aren't ideal in a relationship no matter how handsome you are and what you can provide someone with or even if the words you want to hear come out of their mouth.

The remainder of the story went back and forth between the two and Ruby's confusion and feelings increased. It became a bit repetitive and I can't say it held my interest throughout. Million Love Songs as a whole was bit of a mixed bag for me. It could have been amazing but I didn't get the compulsive need to never leave the book out of my hands in order to discover the final outcome. I much preferred Paper Hearts and Summer Kisses and the Christmas book I mentioned above. In general that's what happens with me with Carole Matthews books I like two or three in succession and then there is one that is not for me. I am glad I read this book because I think I would read anything Carole writes but this one just wasn't my favourite.

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