I’m delighted today to be helping launch the blog tour for Annie’s Autumn Escape by Debbie Viggiano, and to share my publication day review. This lovely book is now available for kindle via Amazon in the UK and US – and it’s also available free via Kindle Unlimited. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the author for my advance reading copy.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that I haven’t read one of Debbie’s books before – in fact, I was doubly ashamed when I took a look at her Amazon author page and saw how many there were to choose from. But when Rachel’s invitation to review this one dropped into my inbox, I really couldn’t resist – a sixty year old heroine, the possibility of a second chance romance, a bit of armchair travel to Dubai. Goodness, the heroine even (almost) has the same name as me – I really had to read this one, didn’t I?
Annie’s big birthday is looming. Sixty! She feels half that age, even if the mirror tells her otherwise. Hubby Keith promises her a birthday to remember, and doesn’t let her down, but packing his suitcase to shack up with a forty-something isn’t quite the memory Annie wants to make. Suddenly she’s single and – as an empty nester – very, very alone.
The Bucket List she and Keith had promised to work their way through is but a dream, until besties Bella and Caz rally around Annie and whisk her away for a trip that will be remembered for ever. Dubai. But it’s not all skyscrapers, bling, sand dunes and sheiks. As the sun sinks over the horizon of Jumeirah Beach… might there also be love?
Annie’s rather looking forward to her sixtieth birthday, and wondering which bucket list destination her husband’s booked to celebrate. When he asks her to sit down because he has something important to tell her, she hopes she’s going to find out – instead she discovers just why he’s been spending so much time down at the garden centre, that’s he’s found a younger model, and is leaving her. Having neglected herself for years, a makeover makes her feel considerably better – but thank goodness for the best of friends, when Bella and Caz decide that a holiday’s what she really needs and whisk her away on a break in Dubai.
Things start to go wrong on the plane – a man in the next seat who might look like Gerard Butler but proves to be entirely objectionable, makes it amply clear he’s not up for conversation, and turns distinctly frosty when she keeps disturbing him for visits to the loo. And that’s just the start of things going rather awry, with their arrival at the hotel bringing a surprise they’re really not expecting (and marked by a superb set piece with a banana that had me laughing out loud – the humour in this book, sometimes slapstick but at other times quite gentle, was right up my street!).
I won’t tell you all the twists and turns of the story, other than that it has more than a few other surprises along the way – and Annie certainly manages to put her sadness behind her and begin to move on. Dubai itself is most definitely one of the stars of the story – it’s somewhere that’s always been on my bucket list too, and when I set aside this book I really felt like I’d been there, its many attractions so superbly described and brought to life. I just loved the friendship between the three women – the love and support, the tears and laughter – but there’s also a quite wonderful supporting cast, from the jobsworth server in the restaurant to the surgically enhanced Towie girls who home in on “Mr Butler”. And then there’s the very unexpected romance – quite beautifully done, moving from real discomfort and mild aggression into a relationship that was entirely believable and really warmed the heart.
I loved Annie beyond measure – she’s treated quite atrociously by her husband (and he’s not quite done yet – men, eh?) but manages to pick up the pieces and grasp her second chances with tremendous style and aplomb. The emotional impact of her husband’s departure is very real and particularly well handled – there can’t be any woman of a similar age who wouldn’t recognise everything she feels, and I really loved the way her humour (and her friends) carried her through. While her Dubai experience is very much the focus of the story, there was a lot I recognised about her life at home too – her mother, cared for by her long-suffering but uncomplaining father, has dementia. At first, I did wonder whether the humour the author injected into the situation was appropriate, but was entirely won over by the sensitivity with which it’s handled, all those difficult and very familiar moments when it’s so much better to laugh rather than cry.
I absolutely adored this book – while it’s certainly madcap fun at times, it also had a depth I really wasn’t expecting, and the story and the writing were quite wonderful. This is the first book I’ve read from Debbie Viggiano – and it certainly made me want to read more. Highly recommended by me!
About the author
Prior to turning her attention to writing, Debbie Viggiano was, for more years than she cares to remember, a legal secretary. She lives with her Italian husband, a rescued pooch from Crete, and a very disgruntled cat. Occasionally her adult children return home bringing her much joy… apart from when they want to raid the fridge or eat her secret stash of chocolate.