Whenever I come across a book featuring a heroine I might just have something in common with, I can’t resist. I’m delighted to join the blog tour today for the debut novel from Helen Bridgett, The Mercury Travel Club, due to be published by RedDoor Publishing on 16th March in paperback and for kindle. I’m really quite excited by this new publisher – they’re certainly bringing out some excellent and very different books. And this was another I thoroughly enjoyed.
Meet Angie Shepherd who, after 24 years and 11 months of marriage, finds herself divorced and driven by friends and family to move on. From hangover to makeover, Angie steps firmly away from the sensible knitwear, and launches into every adventure on offer – from baking classes and book groups, to speed dating, and even ‘The Granny-Okes’, a 1980s tribute act and YouTube sensation.
But Angie needs more than a bar of galaxy and a night in with Murder She Wrote… what she dreams of is entrepreneurial success. Channelling her inner Richard Branson, the light bulb moment happens: it’s time to take the plunge and invest her divorce settlement into The Mercury Travel Club, an exciting new business venture. But as the Travel Club gets going, things never go according to plan, and in this digital age a little chaos brings the fame she’s been looking for.
Set in present-day Manchester, this classic mid-life journey features the 1980s soundtrack from Angie’s youth, and sees her travel the world whilst coping with life after the Ex. Angie’s journey is the catalyst her friends need to examine their own lives; as they start to find their true callings, will Angie find hers? Witty, entertaining and laugh-out-loud funny, this feel-good debut novel shows it’s never too late for a second chance.
Now, I’m old enough to believe that there’s nothing wrong with a sensible cardigan – or thermal vest and granny knickers if the weather requires it. But there’s also nothing wrong with trying to get your life kick-started again, and I loved taking this journey along with my new best friend, Angie Shepherd (otherwise known as Bo – after the shepherdess?!). Laugh-out-loud isn’t always my favourite kind of reading, but Helen Bridgett gets this one absolutely right. The life coaching, the book club, the speed dating, the baking classes – so much that was familiar! – and I just loved the friendships and the way they were drawn. The Granny-Okes are just wonderful, a really different and original idea – and friend Patty, loud and larger than life but with a little hidden sadness of her own, was quite perfect at their centre and as Angie’s constant source of support. The Mercury Travel Club is an inspired idea too, and with my love of everything holiday-related I loved it all, from the planning and marketing through the trips and holidays (the cruise was particularly great reading…), and I was with Angie all the way as she dreamed of her chance of being awarded Entrepreneur of the Year.
All the supporting characters are fantastic – I have a particular soft spot for Angie’s mother with her outspokenness and love of a freebie, and also for fellow travel agent Charlie as he finds his path to some happiness of his own. Ex-husband Alan and his new partner Amanda – the new A-Team – are magnificently awful, as you share Angie’s anger and ambiguous feelings about the man she’s shared most of her life with. And then there’s the lovely Socks – and as for Gnorman and Gnorma, the garden gnomes with a life of their own…
This was a wonderful story – superbly written in a conversational style rich in wit and detail – with perfectly judged humour, really touching moments and a cast of characters who will become your best friends too, all set against a 1980s musical background. And the end? Well, I’m not giving anything away, but I thought it was simply perfect. Highly recommended by me.
My thanks to Anna Burtt at RedDoor Publishing for my advance reading copy, and for including me in the tour. You will follow the other stops, won’t you?
About the author
Helen Bridgett was born in the North-East and now lives in Manchester having stopped off at a few places in between. Following a career in Marketing, Helen took an MA in TV and Radio Scriptwriting and created short films before writing her first novel. She loves nothing more than a glass of wine and witty banter with friends; her love of dialogue feeds into her work and has given her the perfect excuse to eavesdrop on conversations. Helen lives with her husband and their chocolate Labrador, Angus; all three can often be found wandering the Cumbrian hills or in country pubs.