Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Emma's Review: The Summer of Second Chances by Maddie Please

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

Lottie is about to discover that even when you think you’ve lost everything, hope and romance can be just around the corner . . .

It takes time to build your life. To get into a long-term (OK, a bit boring) relationship. To find a job (you don’t completely hate). Lottie might not be thrilled with the life she’s put together, but it’s the one she’s got.

So when in the course of one terrible evening, it all comes crashing down around her, Lottie has a choice: give herself over to grief at being broke, single and completely lacking in prospects.

Or, brick by brick, build herself a new life. And this time, with a little help from friends, a crumbling cottage in Devon and a handsome stranger, maybe she can make it the one she always wanted.

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Many thanks to Avon Books UK  for my copy of The Summer of Second Chances to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

The Summer of Second Chances is the début novel from Maddie Please. It has a cute and colourful cover and is a typical chicklit story that won't set the world on fire but is a pleasant enough read. The chapter headings are all various flowers and the meaning of each given underneath, the first chapter being the snowdrop and its meaning of hope which makes sense as it is the first sign of Spring, after the long and dark months of winter, that bright and happy days are around the corner and that is what Lottie wishes for with all heart and soul. Initially I liked the thoughts behind having the names of flowers and their meanings as headings but after a few chapters I even forgot they were there and got straight into the chapter. I had been trying to find a connection between the chapter content and the meaning of each flower but to be honest they were tenuous at best so that made me question the necessity of their inclusion?

The book started off promising enough as our main female character Lottie is facing a major life upheaval. Her sanctuary of security and certainty is gone and she now faces the unknown. Now she will have to do a lot of growing up pretty fast and become the independent person she didn't realise she had needed to be for her own personal benefit and growth. 'I lost my partner, my home, a lot of my friends and my peace of mind - not necessarily in that order- and yet only a few days had passed'. The unthinkable has happened to Lottie. The man she loved, trusted and believed she knew so well has gone and in doing so has left her world in tatters. Partly because her rock has gone but also because of the lies and secrets and debt he left behind.

Lottie's cushy lifestyle is no more and she has to embark on a new adventure and as the title suggest a summer of second chances and new opportunities awaits. One questions whether Ian and Lottie were ever meant to be together for the long term given the fact that Lottie had refused his proposals of marriage several times over the years. Did she know at the back of her mind that all would turn out so different from the reality she believed she had been existing in? She had put her trust and faith in Ian and it all come crashing down. She was the one who had to deal with the repercussions of everything and in doing so over the course of the book she became a different woman as she attempted to journey through the hurt, bitterness and anger hopefully to emerge a far stronger person on the other side.

Left homeless and virtually penniless Lottie grabs the opportunity presented to her by her friend Jess. She has a cottage in Devon recently vacated by tenants and is in need of some redecorating before Jess decides to put it on the market or not. As Lottie spend hours redecorating the house she shared with Ian, in order to pass her days, she is the perfect person to step in and help Jess out.'Now I had to take this chance and focus on the future because I certainly couldn't change the past'. At the same time she has somewhere to run to,to lick her wounds and attempt to heal. She wants no one to know where she is and she wants it kept that way for as long as possible.

I've read heaps of books where women have been let down, are now hurting and bewildered as to the next step in their lives and Lottie was no different. From the moment she arrives at Holly Cottage, aged 34, broke and with no immediate prospects, and sees the state of the cottage Lottie knows she has a challenge ahead of her and it is one she is most certainly up for. Her encounter with neighbour Bryn living in Ivy Cottage next door is the typical introduction I've read countless times before. The two get off on the wrong foot and instantly Lottie has conjured up this bad image of Bryn. Misconceptions and misunderstandings abound and they remain for the majority of the novel, yet at the same time a spark is ignited between the pair and as Bryn is the brother of Jess' husband Greg, Lottie knows she has to thread very carefully. It was fairly obvious the eventual outcome of the story and normally if I guess fairly on I sit back and enjoy everything that unfolds in the lead up to the big moment but at times in this story my attention wandered. Just as I feel the plot at times did within this book, it felt overly long and if it had been slightly shorter with a few chapters cut out, not much would have been missed out and I feel the story would have been tighter and not as aimless as it did become for several chapters.

The reasons behind the situation Lottie faces aren't all clearly explained straight away. Instead, frustratingly so, in the middle of most chapters, we would wander from present day and Lottie's adventures doing up the house, back to the past and to the time leading up to Ian's death and the immediate aftermath. The reasons were never fully explained, hints and teasers were dropped and I could guess what had happened. I understand it was Lottie's mind thinking back to what she had been through while working on a task in the present but honestly it felt all wrong and very disjointed for this to occur midway through a chapter. I think it would have been far better if the author had split chapters into present and modern day if she wanted to recap what had happened to Lottie in the months leading up to Ian's death and the immediate period following it. Leaping back and forth unexpectedly was very annoying and it didn't really help the flow of the story as I found myself on edge that in a minute I would be back in a different time frame and having to acquaint myself with a different time and place. Normally this wouldn't usually bother me but as I have said distinct separate chapters would have been more beneficial overall.

The story in the present day the more it progressed did become more enjoyable if a little bit inevitable as to the eventual outcome. The inclusion of Jenny, Lottie's sister, was a breath of fresh air. She was the polar opposite to Lottie and in a completely different place in her life compared to her sister. She was a woman on a mission to find a man and her eyes were open at every opportunity to seek what she was searching for. Having left three husbands behind in her wake and a handsome American - Trent pining for her she was here to show Lottie a good time  and as Jenny felt the silence and the isolation of the cottage was too much for her she wanted Lottie to get out and get dating and get some excitement in her life. I think the hot tub scene provided more than enough excitement than Lottie could cope with and it did have me laughing out loud. Also the scene with the water and the ceiling was hilarious and a clever way of moving the story forward, having characters come together and a few more strands of the story weaving themselves nearer to completion.

Lottie was a woman who, after being through a trauma, wants to feel good about herself but the reader can see her confidence has been knocked and a new life of positive action won't be easy to come by. The fallout of Ian's death and the estrangement from his mother Susan has bashed her confidence and she arrives at the cottage stuck in a rut, one in which she sees no way of emerging from. It was enjoyable to read of her journey to find a path that will lead to happiness but at times it just felt as if I had read this storyline umpteen times before and there was nothing new here that made this book stand out from all the rest. Undoubtedly the author has plenty of potential and there were glimpses of greatness here but they came too little for me to fully throw myself in and adore every page of this book. It was a pleasant read but not the most memorable story, the reel me in factor and have me hooked until the last page just wasn't there so what could have been amazing was just OK. I'd be interested to see how people would view the author's second book A Year of New Adventures in comparison to this one but I think I will be reading other people's opinions before deciding to read it or not.

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