Review: The Accidental Life of Greg Millar by Aimee Alexander

By | May 1, 2016

Lucy Arigho’s first encounter with Greg Millar is far from promising, but she soon realises he possesses a charm that is impossible to resist. Just eight whirlwind weeks after their first meeting, level-headed career girl Lucy is seriously considering his pleas to marry him and asking herself if she could really be stepmother material.

But before Lucy can make a final decision about becoming part of Greg’s world, events plunge her right into it. On holiday in the South of France, things start to unravel. Her future stepchildren won’t accept her, the interfering nanny resents her, and they’re stuck in a heat wave that won’t let up. And then there’s Greg. His behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre and Lucy begins to wonder whether his larger-than-life personality hides something darker—and whether she knows him at all.

Ok, it’s not a secret – Aimee Alexander is the pen-name of best-selling Irish author Denise Deegan. She has a website called The Reinvention of Aimee Alexander with some great content to tell you more about it. But I’d really liked the look of The Accidental Life of Greg Millar – published on 26th April by Lake Union Publishing – way before making the connection. And the fact that I knew I’d enjoyed other books by the same author only made me want to read it more. 

I do need to explain though that I picked up this book without reading the story summary or any reviews – because when I then say it wasn’t at all what I expected, you might understand. The first surprise was the first person, present tense narrative – we see everything through Lucy’s eyes – which is something I sometimes have difficulty with as a reader. If I’m honest, for the first few chapters, I really thought I wasn’t going to like this book. Lucy, a career driven graphic designer, with a hint of tragedy in her past that makes her seem rather closed down and emotionally cold, has a chance meeting with a rather false and flashy famous novelist… and I thought I could see exactly where it was all heading. When she decided to marry him after a matter of weeks… I’m afraid the story really wasn’t working for me at all.

But I’m really glad I didn’t give up – because the book very soon afterwards turned into something very different. Greg turned out not to be the flash and superficial character I’d had him marked down as – and the whole issue of his problem and how it affects everyone around him was totally engrossing and quite excellently handled. I’ve noticed that there are quite a lot of reviews that clearly identify Greg’s “problem” – I must admit, I think that’s a bit of a spoiler, and I’m not going to (and, if you can, I’d urge you to read this book not knowing more about the story too). 

There’s a lot in this book about families – Lucy’s experience when introduced as potential stepmother to Greg’s young children is presented in great detail, and has the feeling of total authenticity. The children are superbly drawn – Rachel’s hatred and jealousy moving very slowly to acceptance and beyond, Toby’s openness, innocence and natural friendliness. The family theme is explored further with Lucy’s own (simply lovely) parents who help her build bridges with the children, the contrast with her sister’s apparently perfect home life, the coldness of the children’s maternal grandparents and the downright animosity of Greg’s mother (softened by the presence of his peacemaker brother). 

Everything conspires to make this a long way from the simple happy ever after story I’d expected it to be – the obstacles to that come thick and fast, from Greg’s issues, to the competing demands of family and career, through to the vindictiveness of others who consider themselves wronged or displaced. And when there finally seem to be still waters and plain sailing, there’s another storm ahead that keeps you turning the pages as the tension is cranked up yet further.

I might not have liked the first person or present tense narration at first, but as the crises multiply it really does work very well. I never particularly liked Lucy – but that doesn’t really matter, you rarely like everyone in life – but there were times that seeing things through her eyes put me very firmly in her corner, and able to feel what she was feeling. This was a very different read, emotional, quite dark in mood at times, very moving – a story about ordinary people being tested beyond endurance, and a story really well told… I look forward to reading more from Aimee Alexander.          

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