I’m ever so late to the party, but today it’s an absolute delight to share my review of Art and Soul, the debut novel from Claire Huston: published by Goldcrest Books in April 2020 (I told you I was late…!), it’s now available for kindle (free via Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback. My thanks to the author for sending me an e-copy to review.
Claire’s been blogging about books for almost as long as I have, and writes excellent reviews – but I first noticed this book because of the blog tour in April last year with Rachel’s Random Resources. It was another one I just couldn’t sign up for because there were too many books waiting, but I certainly did notice the excellent reviews. And I loved what Claire told me about it – a heart-warming, uplifting romance served with a generous slice of cake, the lead characters a little older than the norm – so I was really delighted when it finally rose to the top of my reading pile…
There’s no problem Becky Watson can’t fix. Except her own love life…
Struggling single mother Becky Watson longs to revive her career as a life-fixer, working miracles to solve her clients’ problems, no matter how big or small. Since the birth of her two-year-old son she has been stuck preventing wedding fiascos for the richest and rudest residents of the Comptons, a charming, leafy area of southern England known for its artistic heritage.
So when semi-reclusive local artist Charlie Handren reluctantly hires Becky to fix his six-year creative slump, she’s delighted to set him up with a come-back exhibition and Rachel Stone, the woman of his dreams.
Though they get off to a rocky start, Becky and Charlie soon become close. But as the beautiful Rachel becomes Charlie’s muse, Becky is forced to wonder: will giving Charlie everything he wants mean giving up her own happily ever after?
A heart-warming romance about second chances perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Phillipa Ashley and Cathy Kelly.
Do you know, there are times when all you really want or need to say about a book is “just read it” – I entirely loved this book from its opening pages, and just didn’t want it to end. And when it did, and I reluctantly set it aside for the last time, my first thought was “this is the best romance I’ve read in ages”.
The whole premise of the book is something really different – Becky is single mother and a “life fixer” (a tad more than a life coach, paid to intervene in people’s lives rather than simply “recommend” – and what a fantastic idea!), returning to work after a break following the birth of her son Dylan, using her fixer skills supporting weddings while her main business picks up again. Her first major new client is Charlie, a renowned artist whose career has hit a new low after some savage magazine reviews, and whose professional and personal life has rather fallen apart.
Their first meeting is – to put it mildly – less than promising, but Becky slowly wins him over and sets about helping him restore his reputation, regain his confidence, find some personal happiness, and to turn him from a grizzled wreck of a man into someone who she’s happy to allow become part of her life. And over time, her endeavours (every single clever solution is superb, and I just loved the way they were all executed…) achieve a lot – but then there are times when you start to wonder who’s the support and who’s the one most in need of it.
The characters in this book are quite wonderful – of course Becky and Charlie themselves, and their respective children (Charlie’s daughter Phoebe is one of those savvy 17-going-on-37 teens, but with a lovely edge of vulnerability), but also the diverse and well-drawn cast who Becky turns to for help in achieving her rather special magic. I particularly loved her supportive and straight-talking cake-making friend Ronnie, a pretty impressive creative artist in her own right, and the enigmatic and flamboyant Lloyd. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole art world backdrop – and some of the book’s set pieces (the weddings where Becky remains in the shadows, the gallery opening night, the New Year ball) were totally inspired.
The whole book is one of those perfect balances between humour and poignancy – there’s a real warmth about the writing, and the developing romance was both exceptionally authentic and had a particular kind of magic. I read it with a smile on my face (but sometimes a tear in my eye…), raced through it, and felt entirely invested in the characters’ hoped-for happy ending – and the writing itself is really excellent, incredibly accomplished, particularly the many emotional touches and the wonderfully realistic and sparky dialogue. I really loved this book – Claire Huston is a new author to watch, and I can’t wait to see what she does next.
About the author
Claire Huston lives in Warwickshire with her husband and two children. Art and Soul is her first novel.
A keen amateur baker, she enjoys making cakes, biscuits and brownies almost as much as eating them. You can find recipes for all the cakes mentioned in Art and Soul on her website along with over 100 other recipes. This is also where she talks about and reviews books.
As well as her website, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Goodreads – you’ll find all the links here.