It’s a delight today to be helping launch the blog tour for Judy Leigh’s latest book, Chasing the Sun, and to share my publication day review. Published today, 8th April, by Boldwood Books, it’s now available for kindle (free to read via Kindle Unlimited), in paperback, and as an audiobook. As always, my thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading e-copy (provided via netgalley).
When I first discovered Judy’s wonderful books – way back, with A Grand Old Time (review here) – I knew I’d found an author who understood exactly what I was looking for in a book. When I read and reviewed The Old Girls’ Network (you’ll find that review here), I just wanted to go on and read everything else that Judy had ever written. And then came Heading Over the Hill (review here), and it only made me love her even more. Her focus on older characters, real people just like me, was something I was thrilled to find, and her writing is simply wonderful – thank you, Judy, on behalf of a whole generation of readers. And now, another new one – I was looking forward to it from the moment I saw the lovely cover…
Sun, Sangria and new starts, from the author of the bestselling Five French Hens.
Molly’s seventieth birthday comes as something of a shock. The woman in the mirror certainly looks every day of those seventy years, but inside Molly feels she still has so much more living left to do. Widowed and living alone with her cat Crumper, Molly fears she is slipping into a cliché of old age.
When Molly’s sister Nell appears on her doorstep, distraught that her husband of more than forty years, Phil, has left her for a younger lover, the women decide to seize the day. By the morning, flights are booked, bags are packed, and off they go for an adventure in Spain.
The sun, the sea, the new friends and the freedom are just the tonic for broken hearts and flagging souls. But even Spain isn’t enough to revive Molly’s spirit. A solo journey to Mexico is booked as Molly continues to chase the sun and to chase happiness. Will she find what she’s looking for in Mexico, or will she discover that true contentment can’t be found on a map, but it might just be found in a new flame.
Judy Leigh is back, with her trademark spirit of joie de vivre, fun, warmth and timeless lessons in how to live.
I’m not yet 70 – although I’m hurtling towards it at frightening speed – but I can’t begin to tell you how strongly I identified with Molly when she caught sight of herself in the full length bedroom mirror and wanted to attack it with a cricket bat. I’ve never tried wrapping myself in clingfilm and rolling in paint to create a self portrait yet – I might try that next time the fear strikes.
She’s become officially “old” – she looks at her life, her cat companion Crumper, her neglected home and garden with all their memories, and doesn’t like what it has become. She has a good neighbour – perhaps in rather a rut of her own – and they both visit the curmudgeonly old Colonel who lives on the hill and provides a bit of a vision of what lonely old age might have in store. But when her half sister Nell appears on her doorstep with a large suitcase – she’s the one with the apparently perfect life – telling her that she’s left her husband Phil, and that he’s shacked up with a waitress from the local coffee shop, Molly decides that they could both really do with getting away for a while.
And that’s how they find themselves in the peach coloured apartment in Spain, and Molly embraces the fact that life is there for the living. The Swedish couple who share their roof terrace and hot tub provide an interesting diversion, and then Molly meets Ronnie – he has a boat, is looking for customers for his day trips, and Molly enthusiastically dresses up as a giant carp (yes, really…) to help him drum them up. But a relationship with Ronnie isn’t really what she’s looking for – she desperately misses her husband, who died suddenly five years ago, and it’ll take someone very special to match up to his memory. But it’s the quieter and more strait-laced Nell who rather surprises, and leaves Molly free to pursue her next adventure, flying off on her own to house-sit in Mexico.
There are a few surprises in store there – not least an unexpectedly hairy and amorous lodger – but Molly embraces every adventure that crosses her path. I’m in severe danger of telling you the whole story, and I really mustn’t, but her time in Mexico is full of moments and encounters that made me laugh, made me feel, and made me love the wonderful Molly even more than I already did. Ok, so the horse riding on the beach might not have been her finest moment (but it had me in tears of laughter), but when she danced the bachata with new friend Betty it made my heart sing with joy. There were moments that really made me emotional – Santana’s Samba Pa Ti playing on the beach, the sunrise at Chichén Itzá (that’s definitely one for the bucket list), the offerings to the altar on the Day of the Dead – and it slowly dawns on Molly that after having tasted champagne, she just might not need to settle for flat lemonade after all.
There are a few slips and reversals on the way to the gloriously uplifting ending – and one of the best pursuit scenes ever, hilariously funny, but incredibly emotional too, and I thoroughly loved it. But then I loved the whole book – the most wonderful characters, superbly drawn situations and settings, that taste of travel and adventure that we all need so much at the moment, a quite perfect romance, plenty of laughs but with moments that entirely capture your heart. Oh Molly, I do so hope your future will be a happy one – and Judy Leigh, I love your writing more than I can say. Highly recommended, and without question one of my books of the year.
About the author
Judy Leigh is the bestselling author of Five French Hens, A Grand Old Time and The Age of Misadventure, and the doyenne of the ‘it’s never too late’ genre of women’s fiction. She has lived all over the UK from Liverpool to Cornwall, but currently resides in Somerset.