It’s a year now since I discovered Jan Ruth’s wonderful writing. Friends told me how much I’d love her books, and when I read Silver Rain – you’ll find my review here, along with an interview with Jan – I felt like I’d come home. Having declared her one of my favourite authors, I then shamefully ignored her again – until I finally decided to be totally self indulgent for a while and immerse myself in The Wild Water Series. Many of you will know that I’ve been having a bit of a tough time recently, and have been struggling to enjoy my reading. And this wonderful series was everything I wanted it to be – it’s taken me a ridiculous length of time to read at a few chapters a night, but on those days when everything was just too much to cope with, I can’t begin to tell you the pleasure it gave me to escape to Snowdonia and Jack Redman’s complicated life.
The Wild Water Series (available at £3.99 for kindle) is actually three full length novels – Wild Water, Dark Water and Silent Water – all also available separately. My review follows, but here are the details of the individual books:
The tragedy and comedy that is Jack’s life; secrets, lies, long lost loves and family ties.
Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set. An unlikely hero? Or someone to break all the rules? Wild Water is the story of forty-something estate agent Jack, who is stressed out not only by work, bills and the approach of Christmas but by the feeling that he and his wife Patsy are growing apart. His misgivings prove founded when he discovers Patsy is having an affair, and is pregnant.
At the same time as his marriage begins to collapse around him, he becomes reacquainted with his childhood sweetheart, Anna, whom he left for Patsy twenty five years before. His feelings towards Anna reawaken, but will life and family conflicts conspire to keep them apart again?
The tragedy and comedy that is Jack’s life; is there a future for him and Anna, or is the past too destructive? Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set and skilled juggler of complex relationships. Someone to break all the rules, or an unlikely hero?
In this sequel to Wild Water Jack and Anna return to discover that history repeats itself. Anna’s long-awaited success as a serious artist is poised to happen, but her joy, along with her relationship with Jack, is threatened by old scores. Simon Banks is a depressed and unstable man with a plan. He wants to wipe out his past by buying a brighter future, but Jack Redman stands in his way. Will Jack ever escape the legacy of lies and deceit left by his ex-wife? Can Jack and Anna hold it all together, or will tragic repercussions from Jack’s past blow them apart forever?
The tragedy and comedy that is Jack’s life; a dangerous web of lies concludes a bitter-sweet end. Jack Redman, estate agent to the Cheshire set and someone who’s broken all the rules. An unlikely hero or a misguided fool?
In this sequel to Dark Water, Jack and Anna must face the consequences of their actions. As the police close in and Patsy’s manipulative ways hamper the investigations, will Jack escape unscathed?
With her career in tatters and an uncertain future, Anna has serious decisions to make. Her silence could mean freedom for Jack, but an emotional prison for herself. Is remaining silent the ultimate test of faith, or is it end of the line for Jack and Anna?
When the author was my guest on Being Anne (you’ll find our conversation here), she mentioned that Jack Redman has been her most popular character to date, and that she’d love to know what I thought of him. Well, I thought he was just wonderful. But he’s certainly not a conventional romantic hero. First of all, he’s an estate agent – now how can an estate agent be a hero? And his life is desperately complicated – he has all the trappings of the perfect life with the trophy wife, the Cheshire mansion, the three perfect (well ok, not quite…) children, the nurturing parents.
But then things begin to fall apart – in spectacular style, as the cracks in the perfect picture begin to widen and the story becomes one of a flawed but lovely man desperately trying to keep afloat as life throws everything at him. On top of everything else, he then finds himself shuttling between the Cheshire branch of the agency and the other branch in North Wales when his father falls ill. There he meets again the wonderful Anna, his childhood love, an artist living in a remote farm amid the beautiful Snowdonia countryside, who is also finding life difficult to cope with.
I read Wild Water first, and separately – and that book establishes the characters (and what wonderful characters they are).and hooks you into Jack’s life. Dark Water and Silent Water – which I read back to back – take everything in a quite unexpected direction, as lies and dangerous secrets threaten to blow everything apart. And the story really does become very dark indeed – a compulsive read, dramatic and emotional, as characters you thought you knew act in ways you never would have expected.
Jack himself is a wonderfully complex character – impulsive, quick to anger, slow to forgive, and his actions sometimes drive the story into uncomfortable places. He’s also tender, loving, a wonderful father – and 100% human, authentic and believable. He keeps your sympathy throughout – although it must be said that he does test your patience at times.
It’s not just Jack though – the author really has created a wonderful cast of characters. I adored Anna with her inner strength and outward insecurity, her confidence in some situations and her total inability to cope in others. The young people are particularly excellent – especially young playboy Oliver and his frighteningly precocious girlfriend (complete with costumes and tail…), and the wonderful Lottie with her sassiness and inimitable style. And Patsy, Jack’s scheming wife, is a magnificent creation – she creates chaos with her every action, and perpetual angst for Jack, but is never less than completely and horrifically believable. Every single character, however peripheral, is vividly real in all their actions and frailties, from the staff at the estate agents’ to the many friends and family members. And I loved some of the smaller cameos too, like Patsy’s horrendous boyfriend, and Clarissa and “the boys”…
All human life is here – the darkness, the joys, the day to day challenges, the sadnesses, and plenty of the funny side too. In fact, I should mention the humour, quite perfectly judged – much of it coming from Lottie, but I particularly enjoyed some of the situations stemming from Jack’s flat sharing.
And then, underpinning it all, there’s the setting. I remember the author’s vivid descriptions of the landscape of Snowdonia from when I read Silver Rain, and again this story is largely set against the background of that breath-taking scenery, quite magnificently described in its wild beauty and majesty.
I very rarely have the opportunity to work my way through a trilogy, but I’m so glad I did – this collection was simply wonderful, and I enjoyed every single moment I spent in its hold. Thank you Jan – I loved it.
Given the timing of this review, I must also tell you that Jan does have a Christmas book, available for Kindle and in paperback – Home For Christmas. It’s a trio of long short stories with a festive theme, and is available through Amazon for 99p for kindle at the time of writing.
About Jan Ruth
Jan Ruth writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic with a generous helping of humour, horses and dogs. Her books blend the serenities of rural life with the headaches of city business, exploring the endless complexities of relationships.
The real story began at school, with prizes for short stories and poetry. She failed all things mathematical and scientific, and to this day struggles to make sense of anything numerical.
Her first novel – written in 1986 – attracted the attention of an agent who was trying to set up her own company, Love Stories Ltd. It was a project aiming to champion those books of substance which contained a romantic element but were perhaps directed towards the more mature reader and consistently fell through the net in traditional publishing. Sadly, the project failed to get the right financial backing.
Many years later Jan’s second novel, Wild Water, was taken on by Jane Judd, literary agent. Judd was a huge inspiration, but the book failed to find the right niche with a publisher. It didn’t fall into a specific category and, narrated mostly from the male viewpoint, it was considered out of genre for most publishers and too much of a risk.
Amazon changed the face of the industry with the advent of self-publishing; opening up the market for readers to decide the fate of those previously spurned novels. Jan went on to successfully publish several works of fiction and short story collections and after a brief partnership with Accent Press in 2015, has returned to the freedom of independent publishing.