It’s a real pleasure today to be joining the blog tour and sharing my review of the latest book from Beth Moran, Just The Way You Are: published by Boldwood Books on 17th February, it’s now available as an e-book and in paperback, with the audiobook to follow on 24th February. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance e-copy (provided via netgalley).
I unfortunately missed out on reading Beth’s first book for Boldwood, Christmas Every Day – but a quick glance at the Amazon page will show you how many people really loved it. And having discovered her lovely writing with Take a Chance on Me (you’ll find my review here), she’s most definitely become one of my “must read” authors. We Belong Together was every bit as wonderful – you can read my full review here, but it made me laugh, it made me cry, I fell in love with the characters, and the whole story was exceptionally original and so well handled. I was so looking forward to seeing what she came up with next…
A novel about friendship, romance and learning to love yourself – just the way you are.
When Olivia Tennyson – or Ollie to her friends – was sixteen, she wrote a Dream List of all the things she wanted for her life, including a happy marriage and a family. But at twenty-nine, Ollie is single, living at home with her over-protective and manipulative mother, and is feeling like her dreams are getting further out of reach.
It’s time for a change.
It’s time to take matters into her own hands.
Without telling her mum, or more importantly, asking her permission, Ollie finds the perfect place to start her new life. End Cottage has a duck-egg blue front door, a garden that leads to acres of forest, and definitely counts as her dream home.
Now all Ollie has to do is complete the rest of her list and find out who she really is, before she can imagine any romance coming into her life. After all, how is she going to find her dream man in the middle of a forest…
This book really was an absolute delight – heart-warming and uplifting, with the most wonderful well-developed characters, and a story I engaged with from the very beginning. As Ollie’s thirtieth birthday approaches, she decides it’s time to break free – she’s been smothered and manipulated by her self-centred mother for far too long. She has a dream list of things she wants to accomplish, written when she was sixteen – she’d hoped to complete the list together with her dream man, but that hasn’t happened either. So she breaks the ties with her mother and moves to a cottage on the edge of Sherwood Forest – one that shares a garden with two others, close to the library where she delivers her adult literacy classes – and, supported by her closest friend Steph, sets about living her own life, completing her list, and discovering what her future might hold. And the idea of doing it all with a significant other? That’s firmly on the back burner for a while – a no-man mandate until her list has been completed.
She develops a very special friendship with 11-year-old Joan who lives in one of the other cottages with her struggling single mother, tries to get to know her reclusive next-door neighbour Ebenezer, unexpectedly acquires a dog (Nesbit – he’s quite a character!), finds a friend in Sam the forest ranger – and at the classes she teaches, crosses the path of a whole range of quirky and intriguing characters while managing her relationship with stiff and formal library lady Irene. And while getting increasingly involved in everyone else’s lives, her dream list isn’t forgotten – she slowly ticks off each item, knowing that when it’s completed she can be ready to start afresh, abandon her no-man mandate, and see whether anything might develop with the lovely Sam.
It might just all sound rather light and lovely, but this is a book that tackles quite a few serious issues, every one handled with exceptional sensitivity – Ollie’s journey is a particularly emotional one, and she had a firm hold on my heart from the moment she stood up to her mother and decided to follow her own path to happiness. And while this is very much Ollie’s story – of fresh starts and new beginnings, and of finding her courage and learning to love herself – one of the real strengths of this book is most definitely the wider characterisation with the whole cast just wonderfully drawn, the relationships between them, and every one of them very real with their own unfolding and very engaging stories. And along with the rich emotional content, there’s plenty of laughter – the humour gentle and perfectly judged, moments that can’t help but bring a smile to your face.
I really loved this one – it’s gloriously life-affirming, escapist but rooted in life’s realities, with far more depth than the cover might lead you to expect, filled with exceptional warmth, and quite beautifully written. Totally lovely – and very much recommended.
About the author
Beth Moran is the author of four novels, including the bestselling Christmas Every Day. She regularly features on BBC Radio Nottingham and is a trustee of the national women’s network Free Range Chicks. She lives on the outskirts of Sherwood Forest.