I’ve never really made much of a secret of how much I love Sheryl Browne’s writing, have I? I’ve even quite surprised myself by thoroughly enjoying her thrillers – I’m really looking forward to the third DI Matthew Adams book, Deadly Intent, and I’ll be reviewing it here on Being Anne for the forthcoming tour with Brook Cottage Books. But I will admit that I have a particular liking for her softer side. You might remember (what – hasn’t Sheryl mentioned it in a while?!) that The Rest of my Life was one of my books of the year in 2015, and I’ve been really looking forward to reading another. My goodness, it’s taken me an age though – Learning to Love was published by Choc Lit for kindle in June 2016, then in paperback in April this year, and still it sat on my “one day soon” reading pile. But, at long last, thanks to my extended overseas stay (yes, I’m still catching up on my holiday reviews…), I finally got round to the reading. And, do you know, it was everything I really hoped it would be… and maybe even just a little bit more.
Sometimes help comes from the most unlikely places …
Living in a small village like Hibberton, it’s expected that your neighbours help you in a time of need. But when Andrea Kelly’s house burns down, taking all her worldly possessions with it, it’s the distant and aloof Doctor David Adams – the person she would least expect – who opens his door not just to her, but to her three kids and slightly dotty elderly mother as well.
Andrea needs all the help she can get, dealing with the aftermath of the fire and the suspicious absence of her husband, Jonathan. But as she gets to know David and his troubled son, Jake, she begins to realise that maybe they need her help as much as she needs theirs …
This was just a perfect holiday read. It’s not deep and serious – although it does have its moments – but it’s not laugh-out-loud chick lit either. It’s a story with family relationships at its heart, and a real sense of community, but with tension, drama, day-to-day chaos, and a lovely developing romance. There’s a really perfect balance here – characters you take to your heart, some very funny moments, but others that have you wiping away a tear.
The author has an immense talent for characterisation – these people are real, their exchanges totally believable, their dialogue so real you can hear it. Although teenagers are fairly uncharted territory for me, I really enjoyed the ones in this book – with moments when I thanked my lucky stars that I don’t come across too many on a daily basis. I loved Andrea, immediately likeable, brave, and with a real inner strength: and I grew to love David after a shaky start. I even liked Dougal the dog. But my real favourite (with an emphasis on the “real”) was “dotty elderly mother” Dee, her eccentricities both funny and touching, and wholly recognisable to anyone dealing with a similar situation. And the laughter around her behaviour was perfectly judged… there was that feeling that if you didn’t laugh, you might just not be able to cope with it and cry instead.
Heartwarming and gripping, as promised? Absolutely – a great story well told, with a warmth and depth of feeling that touched me to the heart and left me smiling. You can’t ask for much more than that, can you?
My thanks to Choc Lit and netgalley for my reading copy – I’m sorry it took me so long!
About the author
Sheryl Browne brings you edgy, sexy contemporary fiction and psychological thrillers. A member of the Crime Writers’ Association, Romantic Novelists’ Association and awarded a Red Ribbon by The Wishing Shelf Book Awards, Sheryl has several books published and two short stories in Birmingham City University anthologies, where she completed her MA in Creative Writing.
Recommended to the publisher by the WH Smith Travel fiction buyer, Sheryl’s books come to you from multi-award winning Choc Lit.
Sheryl lives in Worcestershire with her husband, son and a variety of disabled dogs. According to readers of her thrillers, she also apparently makes an excellent psychopath.