The Ex Factor by Eva Woods

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Published by Harper Collins, 8 Sept 2016, 368 pages,  £7.99

4 stars

I started reading this during the final two days of my trip in Berlin. And I didn’t stop. I was glued to my kindle and didn’t really take any notice of what was going on around me. The usual sweat-faced and back-aching, return journey was a dream… 

Eva Woods’ (aka crime author Claire McGowan) writing is swift, twisty and enticing. Its a hilarious account of four thirty-somethings’ dating life in London. It got me grinning like a loon on holiday, and even more so when my brother thought I was reading ‘A History of The X-factor’ (song contest). Its very suited to Sex and the Citians or those who are general fans of light romance/ chick-lit. And of course its perfect for travel and holiday reading.

Four single friends, who have ties going back to school and Uni, get together and embark on a dating experiment to date each other’s exes. This girl group is the stereotypical Rom-Com assortment: wild-child Marnie who came up with the idea, comfortably single Helen who prefers nights in with her cat, smart and cynical lawyer Ani, and newly divorced and vulnerable Rosa.

It starts off as a ‘why not just grit your teeth and do it because nothing has actually been working and it could be fun’. But of course it spirals into chaos. 

I was a little cautious, because I have found in the past that chick-lit can get a bit too light for me. Little drama and mediocre characters become dull rather than soothing. But no, this book kept bringing in change, making the pace feel very snappy. It had constant switching between four very different POVs, new characters filing in, and changes in the plot. There are also lots of unresolved issues and mystery that keeps tension pulsing. What I liked most was how it dealt with jealousy and insecurity between friends. You know who I’m talking about- the friend who has got it all figured out, or the one who always looks effortlessly fantastic and is so fun and interesting.

So if you want a good laugh and time off with other people’s drama then here is the ticket.

I really don’t want to turn thirty…

Many thanks to Cara from HQ Stories for my review copy xxx

 

About the Author

Eva Woods lives in London, where she writes and teaches creative writing. She likes wine, pop music, and holidays, and thinks online dating is like the worst board game ever invented.

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The House in Quill Court by Charlotte Betts

 

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Published by Piatkus, 25th August 2016, 383 pages, 5.99

‘Romantic, engaging and hugely satisfying’

Katie Fiorde on The Apothecary’s Daughter

‘A highly-recommended novel of love, tragedy and the power of art’

Daily Mail on The Painter’s Apprentice

‘Full of passion and drama . . . I was captivated by this moving, heart-warming and beautifully woven story – gripping, atmospheric, eloquently told and full of rich detail’

Kate Furnivall on The Chateau on the Lake

2.8 stars

The beginning got the plot cogs churning nicely. Its 1813, imagine a young, noticeably handsome but hostile, man strolling in to inform your family that your father has been murdered. Not only this, but he secretly had another family in the city which he hopes for you to live with, to which this young man’s a part of. Shock and horror for Venetia, a young, ambitious woman as she experiences her whole privileged world smash against their elegant wall. We follow her family as they uproot themselves to London, meet the ‘others’ and overcome all the shame buzzing around. They also have to find a way to support themselves, so Venetia busies herself with re-opening her father’s furniture business. Jack Chamberlaine, the guy who broke the news, reluctantly helps her. He’s war-wearied, initially suspicious, but soon softens, and conveniently not a blood-relation. Together, they try to gather up the mess while something blossoms between them.

We also get POV chapters from Kitty, their maid, who accompanies them. Kitty is sweet and lively. She was bored with the village life she had, where the end point was to be married in a tiny shack with a bundle of babies. When she arrives, she runs into Nat, a good-looking street rat who is as fascinating as the city. He introduces her to a whole new world of women wrestlers, dangerous alley-ways and professional house burgling. So it was refreshing to get a change of story now and then. I grew to like Venetia and Kitty as pleasant characters. The main vein that connects to two is a mysterious mafia called King Midas that controls the neighbourhood and begins terrorizing their lives. He is also connected to the death of Venetia’s father. So the book gradually gets darker almost to the point of echoing Les Miserables.

As Kitty and Venetia begin to clash with King Midas and his cronies, the book unfortunately reaches a bit plateau 40-70% through. The pacing slows down and you’re basically living with the characters during their daily activities. I found this slightly mundane, but it suits those who enjoy soothing sagas. Those like me, who prefer heart-constricting romances and thrilling paces, will feel a little held back during this stage. Things pick up towards the end. There is a sneaky little twist which I didn’t see coming, and a good old fight scene. Kitty’s ending saddened me because seemed a direct result of class. Despite it being a fairly realistic portrayal, it seemed a bit typical of Victorian yarns and gives off the wrong attitudes if it intends for readers to be OK and accept it as a happy ending.

Many thanks to Piatkus for my review copy xxx

 

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About the Author:

Charlotte Betts began her working life as a fashion designer in London. A career followed in interior design, property management and lettings. Always a bookworm, Charlotte discovered her passion for writing after her three children and two step-children grew up.

Her debut novel, The Apothecary’s Daughter, won the YouWriteOn Book of the Year Award in 2010 and the Joan Hessayon Award for New Writers, was shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2011 and won the coveted Romantic Novelists’ Association’s Historical Romantic Novel RoNA award in 2013. Her second novel, The Painter’s Apprentice was also shortlisted for the Best Historical Read at the Festival of Romance in 2012 and the RoNA award in 2014. The Spice Merchant’s Wife won the Festival of Romance’s Best Historical Read award in 2013.

Charlotte lives with her husband in a cottage in the woods on the Hampshire/Berkshire border.

www.charlottebetts.com | @CharlotteBetts1

For further information please contact Clara Diaz on 020 3122 6565 | Clara.Diaz@littlebrown.co.uk

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