It’s a pleasure today to be joining the blog tour for The Old Ducks’ Club by Maddie Please: published by Boldwood Books on 18th May, it’s now available for kindle (free via 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 e-copy (provided via netgalley).
Do you know, there was a time when I found it really difficult to find books featuring older characters. I’m increasingly thrilled to see that publishers finally seem to be realising the appeal to older readers in reading about women they can identify with, breaking free of the old chick lit and romcom tendency to focus on twenty and thirty-somethings. You’ll already know how much I’ve enjoyed Judy Leigh’s writing – and when I spotted the premise for this book from Maddie, I could see that she might just be another author I could love. I initially thought this was a debut novel, but I see it isn’t – it’s her fifth, but her first to be published by Boldwood, and a bit of a change of direction for her (but it is always nice to see a backlist I might like to catch up with!).
Let’s take a closer look…
Sophia Gregory is fading away…
Recently split from her married lover and about to turn sixty, Sophia doesn’t recognise the old woman staring back at her in the mirror. Where has her life gone so wrong? How has it come to this? A quiet holiday in beautiful Rhodes is the perfect chance for her to find herself again. Until she meets the Old Ducks!
Bold and brash, Juliette, Kim and Anita are three friends who are determined not to grow old gracefully – and they are Sophia’s worse nightmare! But when Sophia is made an honorary member of The Old Ducks’ Club, she begins to discover a new side to life. Dancing and drinking till dawn Sophia starts to shake off her grey, drab old life and finds the fun side to living again!
And when she meets her gorgeous Greek neighbour, Theo, she thinks that maybe, if she’s just a little braver, she can learn to spread her wings again…. It’s never too late to teach an Old Duck new tricks!
A rip-roaring, laugh out loud story about the importance of friendship and always, always having fun! Perfect for fans of Judy Leigh and Dee Macdonald.
One of the joys about books featuring older characters is that ability to identify with their lives – but I must confess that, at least at the start, the only thing I felt I had in common with Sophia was my age. Actually, she was younger than me – approaching her 60th birthday – and I did find her rather difficult to love. When we first meet her, she’s had a particularly rough time – her married lover, who’s never shown any sign of being ready to commit (he’s waiting for their children not to need them any more – they’re in their 30s, and that did make me smile!), has had a fling with a young student, and she’s taking a holiday in Rhodes to lick her wounds. She’s hurting, she’s spiky, and just a little bit whingy – and seriously, planning to edit her lover’s book while on her break, after everything he’d done?
I did start to sympathise though when she found her peace disturbed by the three 60-something women next door having a riotous time in their hot tub in the early hours of the morning. She’s justifiably grumpy about that – but, instead of immediately looking for somewhere else to stay (which is what I think I’d’ve done!), they become firm friends (the Old Ducks’ Club of the title) and go on to lead her on a series of madcap and out-of-comfort-zone adventures. She does become far more likeable when she loosens her stays a little, and begins to gain in self-confidence – there’s some good character development, some interesting and well-told back stories, and a satisfying portrayal of female friendship and the difference it can make.
And then there’s the romance – and it’s surprising how that can make your sense of self-worth blossom too. Theo – who owns the houses the women are staying in – is an all-round nice guy, family-orientated, with an edge of sadness about him. He’s wonderfully persistent too, and won’t be rebuffed however hard she might try. I thought the developing relationship and the chemistry between them worked really well – until it’s approaching the end of her stay in paradise, the other three Old Ducks have returned home, and Sophia has a badly-timed and particularly unwelcome visitor.
I didn’t really find the book “laugh out loud”, but there was certainly a lot that made me smile – and I particularly enjoyed the book’s conclusion, tying up a few loose ends, and finding Sophia a very much changed person from the woman we’d first met. The “adventures” delighted me rather less – they did make me cringe a little at times, particularly the one big moment of drama (at their age they really should have known better – but that perhaps says more about me being particularly po-faced and lacking a sense of fun!).
One thing I did enjoy very much was the book’s sense of place – whether walking by the harbour or visiting the bakery on the corner, sailing to a nearby bay, visiting a beach or eating at a taverna with a particularly perfect view, the author does a lovely job of bring Rhodes to life, and you can really feel the warmth of the sun. And there’s a lot of lovely eating and drinking – that’s something I always rather enjoy on holiday too!
So I will admit it was a bit of a mixed bag for me – but full kudos to the author for showing that age is no barrier to fun in the sun, and that it’s never too late to make changes in your life and think about a fresh start. The book might have worked rather better as a beach read (I read it with the heating cranked up, as the rain pounded the windows…), one you could happily pick up and put down between liberal applications of suntan lotion – there are certainly a good number of Shirley Valentine moments, and the whole book has a real sense of fun, balanced with just enough reflection about age not being the barrier older women can sometimes make it. I’ll be looking forward to seeing what the author does next, with every confidence that she’ll successfully iron out the few tiny niggles that prevented me from entirely loving this one.
About the author
Maddie Please is the author of four bestselling romantic comedies, having had a career as a dentist and now lives in rural Devon where she enjoys box sets, red wine and Christmas. She will be taking a new direction in her writing for Boldwood with joyous tales of older women – the first of which, The Old Ducks’ Club, is published in May 2021.