After helping reveal the lovely cover back in May, it’s such a pleasure today to join the blog tour on publication day (8th July) and share my review of The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows by Jenni Keer: it’s published today for kindle by Avon Books, with the paperback to follow on 19th September. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
I’ve been really looking forward to this one! Jenni’s first book, The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker, was the loveliest read – all those misunderstandings, such great characters, and that perfect balance between the comedy and the moments that tore at your heart (you’ll find my review here). I read her latest on one of those perfect afternoons in the garden, and when I’d finished I just had to message Jenni to tell her how very much I’d enjoyed it – and that’s something I really don’t do often enough. This book was simply wonderful…
When Maisie Meadows finds herself single and jobless on New Year’s Day, she resolves that this will be the year she focuses on bringing her scattered family back together. Romance is all very well, but it’s the people you grew up with that matter the most.
But a new job working at an auction house puts her in the path of Theo, a gorgeous but unattainable man who she can’t help but be distracted by. As their bond begins to grow, Maisie finds herself struggling to fulfil the promise she made to herself – but the universe has other ideas, and it’s not long before the Meadows family are thrown back together in the most unlikely of circumstances…
Can dealing with other people’s treasures help Maisie to let go of the past, and teach her who she ought to treasure the most?
When you read as many romance books as I do, it can be quite difficult to find one that stands out from the crowd – although I enjoy every single one, and have a love for the genre that will never die. But it is always particularly exciting when you find one of the particularly special ones – and this lovely book provides sheer enjoyment from beginning to end, with some really original twists and turns to the story, a touch of magic, and a cast of characters that you can’t fail to fall in love with.
And then there’s the writing: strong, confident, with dialogue that sparkles and the surest of touches with both the emotional content – and there’s plenty of that – and the gentle comedy that constantly makes you smile. There’s a multiplicity of story threads in this book that would be daunting for the most experienced of authors – all equally enchanting and engaging, every one spooled out and untangled with dexterity, care for the detail, and tremendous aplomb.
Maisie, at the book’s centre, won my heart very quickly – with her desperate need to bring together her fragmented family, to recreate the happier times of her childhood, however unlikely and difficult that might be. And that’s mirrored in her quest to reunite the parts of a tea set, initiated by the chance find of a teapot that played an important part in her childhood memories. I loved Maisie’s quirkiness and relentless optimism, unusually coupled with an obsessive need for control and order, everything in its proper place: and I loved her release, the art created in her spare bedroom, a truer reflection of her messy life but tackled with a joy that’s entirely contagious.
As she tries to bring her family and the tea set together – and finds herself involved in bringing together yet another fractured family, and quite a few more broken links and relationships – she’s finding her feet in a new job at Gildersleeves auction house, taken on to bring their marketing into the 21st century. The setting is wonderful and lovingly recreated – if the auction house’s name sounds Dickensian, wait until you meet Johnny – and allows the introduction of a whole additional cast of quite wonderful characters. Misunderstandings do abound, mainly about the relationships between all her new colleagues – and while that might not always be my favourite plot device, in this book it all works just perfectly, its glorious confusion providing many of the book’s funniest moments.
Then there are the gnomes, Nigel’s reactions and interventions (no, you’ll need to read the book!), the tea set’s secret code, the relationship between Maisie’s parents (I adored her mother), her particularly intrusive and entitled sister, Theo’s scruffiness and 80s obsession (but he’s so thoroughly loveable), Elle’s vulnerability and the unfolding of her character…
I must particularly mention the quite excellent handling of the individual stories of the book’s older characters – Meredith’s support for her struggling neighbours, the nursing home scenes so realistically portrayed (and with such funny and touching moments), the relationships between the Mayhew sisters – but particularly that of auction house porter Arthur, so beautifully done and so unexpected that it made me cry.
I’ve rarely come across a book where every subsidiary character is so perfectly drawn that I became so entirely engrossed in and enchanted by their personal stories, every one given appropriate weight and worked through to conclusion. Its magical touches might be real, might be coincidental, but it’s all so very beautifully and cleverly done – and the book’s ending is so absolutely perfect, uplifting and heartwarming, that it moved me to tears yet again.
Just in case I might have left any room for doubt, this was such a special book, and I loved everything about it – highly recommended to all.
With thanks to Jenni and Rachel, I’m delighted to offer one lucky reader the chance to win a signed copy of The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker, a pack of Scratbag notelets, a pretty purple pen and a Maisie bookmark (UK Only). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions UK entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Jenni Keer is a history graduate who embarked on a career in contract flooring before settling in the middle of the Suffolk countryside with her antique furniture restorer husband. She has valiantly attempted to master the ancient art of housework but with four teenage boys in the house it remains a mystery. Instead, she spends her time at the keyboard writing women’s fiction to combat the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere with her number one fan #Blindcat by her side. Much younger in her head than she is on paper, she adores any excuse for fancy-dress and is part of a disco formation dance team. The Hopes and Dreams of Lucy Baker was published in January 2019, The Unlikely Life of Maisie Meadows is published today.