It’s such a pleasure today to be joining the blog blitz and sharing my review of A Dozen Second Chances by Kate Field, published for kindle today (6th February) by One More Chapter, with the paperback to follow on 14th May. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
I’m really becoming rather a fan of Kate Field’s lovely writing. I never have managed to catch up with The Magic of Ramblings (I do need a holiday to catch up on all my “really want to read” books!), but I adored both The Truth About You, Me and Us (review here) and The Winter That Made Us (you’ll find my review of that one here), and I’ve really enjoyed the stories she’s written for the wonderful Miss Moonshine anthologies. But my favourite so far was her last, The Man I Fell In Love With, and you can read my review again here – it entirely captured my heart, and thoroughly deserved its place in my 2019 Books of the Year list. So I’d been rather looking forward to seeing what Kate did next…
What are the chances that twelve little tokens could change a life?
Seventeen years ago, Eve Roberts had the wonderful life she’d always dreamed of: a degree in archaeology, a gorgeous boyfriend, and exciting plans to travel the world with him, working on digs. But when her sister Faye died, the life Eve knew ended too. Faye’s daughter Caitlyn came to live with Eve, her boyfriend left, and she quickly gave up on her dreams.
Now approaching her fortieth birthday, Eve faces the prospect of an empty nest as Caitlyn is leaving home. Caitlyn gives Eve a set of twelve ‘Be Kind to Yourself’ vouchers, telling her that she has to start living for herself again, and that she should fill one in every time she does something to treat herself.
With her very first voucher, Eve’s life will change its course. But with eleven more vouchers to go, can Eve learn to put herself first and follow the dreams she’s kept secret for so long? Because life is for living – and as she well knows, it’s too short to waste even a moment…
What a thoroughly lovely read, and with some really original ideas that I loved. Stories about fresh starts and second chances are always personal favourites of mine, but the idea of the vouchers provided a lovely framework and motif to the story – because when the only thing standing in the way of future happiness is yourself, it’s often good to have a helping hand along the way.
One of the author’s greatest strengths is in the creation of her characters – never anything less than real, with depth and emotional authenticity – and I think Eve might just be her best yet. Having given up her own dreams and ambitions to bring up Caitlyn, her sister’s daughter, she now finds herself in an empty nest, unsure about the direction in which she might fly. The ensuing story is full of all those moments of doubt and uncertainly you might expect, the reluctance to be anything other than “safe”, the barriers sometimes real but more often of her own creation. The way she blossoms and finds her future path is quite perfectly handled, the obstacles (some unexpected, and laced with long-held secrets) steadily overcome, and the sometimes unlikely love story that develops was everything I wanted it to be.
Eve might be the story’s focus, and the character that draws your eye and engages your heart, but the supporting characters are excellent too. Although absent for much of the story, I really liked the portrayal of Caitlyn, the relationship with Eve as she moves into adulthood herself captured with real warmth and believability. Paddy is a perfect foil for Eve – at first you might share Eve’s own doubts about him, but his character slowly unfurls, revealing depths that are wholly unexpected. (And if things don’t work out, could you pass him in my direction please?) I must mention too Eve’s grandmother Phyllis, because I thought she was simply wonderful – while she’s the source of much of the book’s funniest moments, she’s also so realistically and sympathetically drawn, and (I’ll admit) rather made the book for me.
The story-telling is perfectly paced – this is one of those lovely books that you get totally immersed in, living the story with its characters. I really enjoyed some of the set pieces too – Eve’s first encounter with Paddy is just perfect, when you feel everything she does, the dread and fear and excruciating embarrassment – and also the touches of detail about archaeology and Eve’s life at the school where she works (with more of those really well-drawn characters). I also really liked the way the idealised memories of her sister and Eve’s relationship with her mother were handled – but to explore that one a little more I might reveal rather too much of the story.
There’s a real depth of emotion in this book, Eve’s small steps forward – often followed by the same steps backwards – sometimes frustrating but always relatable. And the book’s whole leaves you with a tremendous sense of warmth and satisfaction, a journey accomplished – and with an enormous smile on your face. I really loved this one.
About the author
Kate Field writes contemporary women’s fiction, mainly set in her favourite county of Lancashire where she lives on the edge of the moors with her husband, daughter and cat. Her debut novel won the Romantic Novelists’ Association Joan Hessayon Award for new writers.