It’s a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for Staying Out for the Summer by Mandy Baggot, and sharing my review: published yesterday (1st April) by Aria, it’s now available for kindle, Kobo and via Google Play. The paperback will be available from 10th June, available for pre-order via bookshop.org or through your favourite online or high street retailer. My thanks to Vicky from Aria for the invitation and support, and for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
While I love Mandy’s Christmas books – the last one I reviewed (and loved) was A Perfect Paris Christmas in September last year, and you can find my review here – she also writes the most wonderful summer books based in her much-loved Corfu. Last year I read and reviewed My Greek Island Summer (you’ll find my review here) and entirely loved it. And as if the weather knew I was reading one of Mandy’s lovely books, the sun came out, the temperature topped 20 degrees, and I could read it – as I really felt I should do – in a deckchair in the garden…
After a summer of staying in, it’s time to let your hair down and escape to Greece!
For Lucie Burrows, it’s time to embrace Greek life and put the past behind her! Having spent the summer of 2020 battling a global health crisis, Lucie Burrows is looking forward to a summer out of lockdown.
When best friend, Gavin, finds them the perfect Greek escape Lucie finally starts to think this summer might just go without a hitch.
But after a landslide puts the village into a local lockdown, Lucie is thrown together with Michalis Andino, the super sexy village doctor. It’s not quite the holiday she had planned, but things could certainly be worse.
As Lucie relaxes into the Greek way of life, she begins to wonder whether this lockdown might just end in a new life, a new love…
Before I tell you how very much I enjoyed this lovely read, I think I really must talk about the elephant in the room (as opposed to one of the many turtles…) – because I’m sure you can’t have failed to notice the mention of “battling a global health crisis”. Lucie and Gavin are nurses who spent 2020 caring for patients on a covid ward, and I really wasn’t at all sure that I wanted to be reading about the pandemic while we’re still living through it. And it is more than just a mention – they reflect on the saddest moments, the problems of keeping going – and it was particularly brave of the author to take the risk, when so many readers are vehement that they read for an escape from reality.
For the first quarter of the book, every mention did disturb me, and tended to wrench me back into the real world – and I really wasn’t convinced that I was ready for comedy juxtaposed with a period that’s been a living hell for so many, particularly when we’re not yet at the end of it all and actually able to travel. But I have to say that it’s extremely well handled – and although I’d never have chosen it as a theme to read about, I did find that I stopped noticing every mention of masks, testing and lockdown and was drawn in by the characters I loved from the very beginning and their much needed escape to Corfu. On arrival, after a rather uncomfortable transfer in a fruit van along with the remaining watermelons, there’s a quite wonderful – and extremely funny – scene where the visitors to Sortilas are “processed” in a particularly unconventional way, and we meet some of the local characters who make this book the absolute joy that the author’s books unfailingly are.
Lucie is the loveliest focus for the story – brought up by her Aunt Meg (and fiercely protected) after the loss of her mum, she has a nice edge of sadness combined with an infectious sense of fun and capacity for happiness and laughter. And she couldn’t have a more entertaining companion than Gavin, her gay friend, who’s a wonderful mix of flamboyance and devil-may-care in his sparkly shorts while singing Cher’s greatest hits but shy and uncertain when things get a little more personal. Lucie’s love interest is Michalis (mmm, yes, he certainly pressed the right buttons for me too…), the village doctor who opens his surgery in the annex to the villa, just across the pool – we find out that his former life has had its moments too, and there’s one big issue, slowly revealed, that continues to plague him.
One of the very loveliest things about this book is the Corfiot community, the most wonderful collection of eccentric individuals all quite superbly drawn. I was a particular fan of Michalis’ sister Nyx, a little fierce as she wields her knives and machetes behind the counter of their father’s butcher’s shop, terrifying the poor customers who come in for their pork chops and rabbit, but who has a heart of gold along with a complete absence of any filter. And Miltos, who drives that fruit van like a Formula One car, refuses to believe that a man can be a nurse, and ensures Lucie becomes “Loosely” for the duration of their stay. And then there’s the centenarian twins who make elaborate wedding dresses, whether people need them or not – and perhaps the greatest tour-de-force of all, Melina, wielding her staff as organiser extraordinaire of the forthcoming festival of the Day of the Not Dead. And actually, I shouldn’t confine “wonderful characters” to the Corfiots – Gavin’s crush Simon, barista at the hospital coffee bar, is a great character too, and I just loved The Other Sharon Osbourne, the gobby nurse colleague who plays a great part in the story at a particularly critical point.
It’s a great story, with a few excellent moments of drama, plenty of poignancy, but with the next laugh never too far away. There’s a lovely attention to detail with the vivid settings and the delicious food (goodness, I could actually taste those kataifi…). The romantic content is perfectly done, strong and convincing, just right at an emotional level – and there’s a nice focus on family too, both Michalis’ and Lucie’s, bringing a tear to your eye amid the surrounding hilarity.
I will admit I had my doubts at the beginning – I thought the covid cloud was going to be inescapable – but this really was a book I thoroughly enjoyed. And the content I initially found less than comfortable? I’m more than happy to accept that it was a timely and appropriate tribute to those who worked on the front line, and not at all out of place in a romantic comedy. Do give this one a try – I thought it was wonderful.
About the author
Mandy Baggot is an international bestselling and award-winning romance writer. The winner of the Innovation in Romantic Fiction award at the UK’s Festival of Romance, her romantic comedy novel, One Wish in Manhattan, was also shortlisted for the Romantic Novelists’ Association Romantic Comedy Novel of the Year award in 2016. Mandy’s books have so far been translated into German, Italian, Czech and Hungarian.
Mandy loves the Greek island of Corfu, white wine, country music and handbags. Also a singer, she has taken part in ITV1’s Who Dares Sings and The X-Factor. Mandy is a member of the Society of Authors and lives near Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK with her husband and two daughters.
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