It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of the quite wonderful Bonnie and Stan by Anna Stuart: published in paperback by Trapeze Books on 30th May, it’s also available for kindle and as an audiobook. My thanks to Tracy Fenton of Compulsive Readers for inviting me to be part of the tour, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy, provided via netgalley.
Let’s take a closer look…
After 50 years together Stan still adores his wife… so why is he dating again?
Bonnie and Stan are soulmates. They met during the Swinging Sixties, to the soundtrack of The Beatles and the Merseybeat scene. Now they’ve grown up and grown old together, had children and grandchildren. They are finally building their dream home, when disaster strikes.
Stan is running out of time, and can’t bear the thought of leaving Bonnie alone. Alongside his teenage granddaughter Greya, he forms a plan to find Bonnie a new love of her life. And she must never find out…
Bonnie & Stan is a poignant, surprising love story set during the Swinging Sixties and the present day. Ultimately feel-good and full of emotion, Bonnie & Stan will make your heart sing.
I’ll admit that this book had caught my eye long before the tour was arranged for paperback release – it was already sitting on my kindle, awaiting its turn in the spotlight. There was so much that appealed to me about the story line: although I was originally drawn by the focus on the older characters I often prefer, I really liked the premise of the story with its look back at Liverpool in the 60s (I’m old enough to remember), the enduring love story, and that promise of strong emotional engagement. I did think it was a debut novel, and that I’d like to take a chance on the author – but hadn’t realised that Anna Stuart was the alter ego of esteemed historical author Joanna Courtney, but a complete change of genre.
I absolutely loved this book, and devoured it in one glorious afternoon. I’ve noticed a few reviews have mentioned a slow start, but I really don’t agree: I thought the book was quite perfectly paced, and I particularly liked that early exploration of the relationship between Stan and Bonnie – facing a devastating diagnosis, sharing the news with the family, then continuing with their day-to-day lives while endeavouring not to dwell on the future.
And I thoroughly enjoyed the way the present day story is punctuated by episodes from Bonnie’s early life in 1963 Liverpool, and her relationship with aspiring stars the Best Boys. The era is brought quite perfectly to life, authentic in all the small details: I particularly enjoyed the inclusion of real characters from the Mersey scene like Brian Epstein, Billy J Kramer searching for a backing group, Cilla in the Cavern cloak room, and everyone’s jealousy of the meteoric success of the Beatles.
The stories in both timelines are equally strong. Stan and Bonnie in the present day totally won my heart – it’s a sad story, filled with love: at times there were tears, but the book has a gentle humour throughout and manages to entirely avoid the maudlin. The relationships and interactions are just wonderful – lovely granddaughter Greya with her passion for everything eco, their two very different daughters with their tangled lives and relationships, the conversations with Stan’s mate Dave, and the different characters encountered as Stan tries to ensure that Bonnie won’t live the rest of her life alone. I even loved Stan’s conversations with Terry, his Troll keyring – might sound strange, but it works so very well.
The way the back story moves into the present is beautifully done – there isn’t a Stan in the 1960s story, a rather inspired idea and so intriguingly handled. And I absolutely loved the way Susie-Ann’s life had developed – eons away from her scally (but wonderfully caring) family. And the present day scenes in the Cavern were quite excellent, and very touching with Stan’s unexpected VIP status and the chance to erase past bad memories and make new ones.
I really loved this book – very highly recommended to all, and I’ll really look forward to seeing what Anna Stuart does next.
This is a very big blog tour, and that’s certainly something this book thoroughly deserves – here are details of all the bloggers taking part…
(It’s something I rarely do, but I would rather like to recommend a couple of other books you might enjoy on a similar theme. Although this book is entirely original and the “issues” quite differently handled, the matchmaking theme did remind me a little of Madeleine Reiss’ Before We Say Goodbye: if you’d like to explore a little, you’ll find my review here. I could also see themes in common with Hannah Beckerman’s If Only I Could Tell You (review here), and a very similar emotional impact.)
About the author (from her website)
I wanted to be an author from the moment I could pick up a pen and was writing boarding-school novels by the age of nine. I made the early mistake of thinking I ought to get a ‘proper job’ and went into Factory Planning – a career that gave me some wonderful experiences, amazing friends and even a fantastic husband, but didn’t offer much creative scope.
So when I stopped to have children I took the chance to start the ‘improper job’ of writing. During the baby years I wrote in the brief gaps provided by sleeps, playschools and obliging grandparents, publishing short stories and serials in all the women’s magazines.
But my ultimate aim was to write longer fiction and several years ago I published a series of successful historical novels under the pseudonym Joanna Courtney. I will continue to publish under that name but am delighted, as Anna Stuart, to also be able to write contemporary fiction. Bonnie and Stan, a true to life romance set in both the present day and sixties Liverpool, is now released, with a second novel to follow in 2020.