A pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for This Changes Everything by Helen McGinn, and sharing my publication day review: published by Boldwood Books, it’s now available for kindle (free with Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. 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).
Should first love be left in the past, or is first love, forever love…
Sisters Annie and Jess are used to their mother Julia being spontaneous. But when Julia announces she’s flying off to Rome to meet her first love Patrick, whom she hasn’t seen for fifty years, it’s an adventure too far. So, her daughters decide the only way to keep Julia safe, is to go too – without actually telling their mother she has chaperones!
Julia and Patrick’s love story was everything – epic, once-in-a-lifetime, with a tragic ending and life-long consequences. First love is hard to forget, but sometimes, just sometimes, life delivers a chance to rewrite your story.
As the eternal city of Rome works its magic, old secrets, old friends and old loves become new possibilities and new dreams. And when the four travellers return home, nothing will ever be the same again.
Join Helen McGinn for a timeless, joyous, unforgettable journey through love, family, and long-forgotten dreams. A novel to hold to your heart and treasure, perfect for fans of Elizabeth Noble, Cathy Kelly and JoJo Moyes.
There were two things that particularly drew me to this book. The first was the promise of spending time in Rome – I haven’t visited in a very long time, and the chance to do so from the comfort of my armchair at a time when lounge-to-kitchen is the current limit was irresistible. The second was the focus on an older character in Julia, mother to Annie and Jess – something I always enjoy, although I did worry a little that her daughters felt she (in her 70s) needed to be kept an eye on.
The time in Rome was everything I wanted it to be. The writing allows you to fully experience it along with the characters – the views, the food and drink, the sunshine, all the lesser known sights that I’ve made a note of so I can experience them for real on my next visit. I must admit though, it did take me a while to warm to my travelling companions. I did rather like Annie, although it frustrated me that she’d allowed her artistic ambitions to become buried under the weight of caring for her family: Jess was less easy to like, self-centred, spiky, with sharp edges that made her rather a challenge to sympathise or engage with.
At first, I did find it a bit difficult to get a fix on Julia’s character, but I really enjoyed the exploration of her back story that rather explained the totally understandable reasons why her daughters felt it necessary to make sure she didn’t make any rash decisions (she did have a bit of a track record…) when meeting up with a man she hadn’t been in touch with for 50 years. The family dynamics are well explored – and that’s a theme developed further in the second half of the book, where the focus changes to the journey through the past triggered by the uncovering of some long-hidden secrets during their time in Rome.
I’ve found this quite a difficult book to review – it’s very much a book of two halves, and from the midpoint travels in a direction I really hadn’t expected. It would be wrong of me to say more, but the content is emotional and a little different, an intriguing journey through the past with considerable impact on the present.
I’ll admit it perhaps wasn’t 100% the book for me – but none of us can unreservedly love every book we read (sometimes it’s just wrong time/wrong book). I really do think it would be enjoyed more by a younger reader who could identify more closely with Annie and Jess and their lives. I’d hoped that I’d be able to engage more closely with Julia but, in the present day, she didn’t quite manage to capture my heart – although I was certainly emotionally caught up by her story, and particularly enjoyed her rekindled relationship with Patrick.
The issues raised in that second half of the book were particularly well handled, there were quite a few unexpected twists and turns that kept the pages turning, and I really liked the exploration of those links between past and present. And again, the author shows a really deft touch in capturing location when a large part of the action moves to Cornwall, with the introduction of a few new characters that I really enjoyed. Helen McGinn can certainly tell a good story, and I’d be very happy to try her writing again.
About the author
Helen McGinn is a much-loved wine expert on TV and in print and an international wine judge. She spent ten years as a supermarket buyer sourcing wines around the world before setting up her award-winning blog (and best-selling wine book) The Knackered Mother’s Wine Club. She is the drinks writer for the Daily Mail and regularly appears on TV’s Saturday Kitchen and This Morning. Helen lives in the New Forest and Boldwood are publishing her debut women’s fiction title in Spring 2021.