A pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for In Pursuit of Happiness by Freya Kennedy, and sharing my review: published today by Boldwood Books, it’s now available for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. Thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation to join the tour, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
I haven’t read a book from Freya Kennedy before – and I’m really not sure how I missed her last, The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn, because it received the most wonderful reviews. I expect many of you will know that Freya’s alter ego is Claire Allan, writer of psychological thrillers – I haven’t read her books written in that guise either (sorry Freya!), but I’ve certainly noticed how much readers have loved them. So I really was rather looking forward to this one, and discovering her writing at last…
‘A lovely escape that leaves you feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Just what’s needed at the moment’ No1 bestselling author Jane Fallon
The world is waiting…but just outside of your comfort zone.
Jo Campbell is perfectly content in a perfectly structured life.
Nothing ever changes in Jo’s life, and she likes it that way.
Or at least, she tells herself she does.
Most of the time, she manages to push down the tiny voice that tells her to chase her dream and maybe, just maybe, open her battered and bruised heart up to love.
But to chase her dreams she needs to take chances that are way out of her comfort zone and learn to not put other people’s happiness above her own.
Most of all she has to learn to trust her heart, which may just be the biggest challenge of all.
I’m really sorry I didn’t manage to read The Hopes and Dreams of Libby Quinn – not because it was in any way essential to my enjoyment of this one, but I think I’d have really liked the story of how Libby set up Once Upon A Book, and I’d certainly have liked to meet the residents of Ivy Lane rather sooner.
The focus of the story this time is Jo Campbell, and she’s written a book – and a book she’s rather proud of, but unless someone intervenes no-one will ever read it. She dreams of being a published author while pulling pints at the Ivy Inn, the bar she runs with foster brother Noah, but the prospect terrifies her – she’s happy with her simpler life and routine, surrounded by friends and family. But she finally shows her book to Libby – who shares it with the famous author about to host a sold-out event at the bookshop, and he’s particularly impressed by both the story and the quality of Jo’s writing.
Now, this is one of those books where I have an irresistible urge to tell you the story that ensues, but I really don’t want to spoil it for anyone – I’ll just say that it’s a quite wonderful story of following your dreams and taking chances, but with an edge and turn that really took me by surprise, and made me so angry that I wanted to swing for someone every bit as much as Noah did.
Just to stop me telling you more, let me tell you about some of the characters instead. Jo shares a flat with her friend Erin, the cook at the bar and a real character inclined to turn every small drama into a crisis, but she spends a lot of time with her (quite wonderful) mother and her much loved young foster sister Clara. You might already know about my aversion to children in books, but I have to say that I really loved little Clara – a total princess, secure and loved for the first time in her life – and the relationship between her and Jo, and the way she puts her worries to rest, are pure writing magic.
Then there’s the wider Ivy Lane community, particularly Harry at the shop with his wonderful diatribes about anything and everything (energy drinks, dishwater tablets, kitchen roll, brown bread – none of them stocked for his own good reasons): the community pulled together to keep an eye on him after his heart attack when his family failed to appear, but excitement is high about a long-awaited visit from his grandson Lorcan (who might just make Jo’s life a little more interesting too, if she’s able to forgive him for his absence).
And I’m slipping into telling the story again, and I really mustn’t – I want everyone to experience the same moments of joy, laughter, disappointment, love and anger that made this a book I so enjoyed. The characters are all beautifully drawn (and I really loved Jo – and that always helps, doesn’t it?), the relationships between them are perfectly handled (both family and friends), and the story-telling is of the highest possible quality.
And I haven’t even mentioned the book’s location – it’s set in Derry, has an exceptional sense of place, and there are plenty of opportunities to visit the surrounding area and all its beauty as the story unfolds. The whole book is just wonderfully uplifting, the ending quite perfect, but with plenty of conflict and shenanigans along the way that keep the pages turning – after reading the first few chapters in bed at night (and deciding I really, really liked it) I raced through the rest in a single lovely sitting.
Hopes, dreams, taking chances, finding what makes you happy… I loved this book, really look forward to another opportunity to visit Ivy Lane, and recommend it really highly.
About the author
Freya Kennedy lives in Derry, Northern Ireland, with her husband, two children, two cats and a mad dog called Izzy. She worked as a journalist for eighteen years before deciding to write full time. When not writing, she can be found reading, hanging out with her nieces and nephews, cleaning up after her children (a lot) and telling her dog that she loves her.
She has met Michael Buble and even kissed him. It was one of her best ever moments.
She believes in happy ever afters.
Freya Kennedy is a pen name for Claire Allan, who also writes psychological thrillers.