It’s such a pleasure today to be helping launch the blog tour for Caroline James’ latest romantic comedy, The Spa Break, and to share my publication day review. Published today by One More Chapter, it’s now available as an e-book – for kindle, Kobo, Googleplay and Nook – with the paperback to follow (and now available for pre-order) on 7th July. 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).
I’m a great fan of Caroline’s writing – she was writing the most wonderful books about women of a certain age and their fresh starts and friendships when they were still quite difficult to find. You’ll find reviews here on Being Anne of some of her early books like Coffee Tea The Caribbean & Me and Jungle Rock (links are to my reviews), and also the more recent (and quite wonderful) The Best Boomerville Hotel (you’ll find my review of that one here). Its sequel, Boomerville at Ballymegille, was perhaps my favourite so far, and one of my Books of the Year in 2020 – a wonderful story of friendship and support and pulling together, the very definition of heartwarming and feel good, and I loved every single moment (you’ll find my review here). I was so delighted when I heard she’d signed with One More Chapter, and really excited when I heard there was a new book on its way at last – and I was really looking forward to another read from a lovely lady who’s always been a personal favourite, and who unfailingly writes the kind of books I enjoy.
A weekend at the spa will leave four old friends with a whole lot more than they’d bargained for…
The glossy brochure promised a serene experience of total tranquillity and rejuvenation, but what best friends Bridgette, Emily, Serena and Marjory get is a weekend that upends their lives!
There for a girls’ weekend to celebrate Bridgette’s impending seventieth birthday, the spa soon has these spicy sexagenarians realising that there are unexpected benefits to age and experience, and that over the hill certainly doesn’t mean out of the game…in any respect…
Just sometimes, I pick up a new book and know from its opening pages that it’s one I’m going to really enjoy – this book really is sheer fun from beginning to end, but there’s also plenty of meat to the storylines at times to make it rather more than simply a laugh-a-minute read.
Four female friends, all in their sixties, are on their way for a weekend break at the Sparadise luxury resort to celebrate Bridgette’s seventieth birthday – what happens there (allegedly) takes you to paradise, they’re all very familiar with the enticing images in the glossy brochure (particularly the stunning yoga instructor), and they certainly intend to make the most they possibly can of their weekend of freedom.
Things don’t start well for Bridgette herself – she’d treated herself to a stay in the penthouse suite, but as other regular guests took it at short notice, she’s been relegated to a tent in the gardens (not a bivouac – she’s “glamping”!). And she eventually resigns herself to her lot, until she notices the naked man in the next tent – things were never like this when showing guests around her pristine gardens at Flaxby Manor. Marjory’s life revolves around her pigeon-fancying husband (sadly, he doesn’t seem to fancy her as much any more) – she’s looking to let her (cornflower blue) hair down a little (and my goodness, she most certainly does). Emily’s life is centred on her two adult sponging sons, and she’s become largely invisible (and, if truth be told, a little boring) – there really must be more to life that that. Perhaps the most exotic of the four is Serena – but she’s been supplanted as the nation’s favourite TV cook by a younger model, and she’s desperate to use all the social media tools at her disposal to draw herself to public attention again.
That’s where everything starts – and suffice to say that by the end of their glorious weekend they’ve all been very much transformed by their various adventures and experiences. I’m guessing we’ve all read the books about a group of twenty-something friends taking a break and finding it life-changing – it’s so much more fun with these rather more mature ladies, who throw themselves into their stay with total abandon and a loud whoop of sheer joy. They decided before arriving that they’d each do their own thing, meeting to catch up now and again – and by the time they all come together at Bridgette’s spectacular last night party, they’ve all changed beyond recognition, and only for the better in so many ways.
I must say that the whole supporting cast in this lovely book is wonderfully drawn too – the staff at the spa, the guests they get along with and who enhance their stay, and the miserable or antagonistic ones who feel that women of their age should be confined to a nursing home – every one of them a distinctly drawn individual playing their part in the story.
This is a book you read with a constant smile on your face – and when you’re not smiling, it’s only because you’re caring so deeply for each of these wonderful women that you want every one of them to achieve the happiness they deserve, even when it may not lie in the direction they expect. And I guarantee that you won’t just smile – there were so many moments in this book that made me laugh out loud, sometimes gently, sometimes a roar at the most over-the-top piece of slapstick. But there were plenty of moments that brought a small tear to my eye too – I really loved these women, and as an older woman myself it was never difficult to identify with those occasional times of introspection or regret. I loved the female friendship, and their sheer bravery in taking the opportunities and chances they were offered as they each gained a different perspective on their lives and realised what they had been missing.
Do you know, I always thought I’d really enjoy a stay at the Boomerville resorts of the author’s earlier books – but I think I might abandon my attempts to make a booking and head for Sparadise instead. This was a totally fabulous read, I enjoyed every moment, and recommend it really highly.
With thanks to Caroline and Rachel, I’m delighted to offer the chance to win a Fred the Westie soft toy and a personalised box of chocolates (UK Only). Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions UK entries welcome. The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then Rachel’s Random Resources reserves the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time Rachel’s Random Resources will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Best-selling author of women’s fiction, Caroline James, has owned and run businesses encompassing all aspects of the hospitality industry, a subject that often features in her novels. She is based in the UK but escapes whenever lockdown allows. A public speaker, which has included talks and lectures on cruise ships worldwide, Caroline is also a consultant and food writer. Caroline writes articles and runs writing workshops, is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, the Society of Women’s Writer & Journalists and the Society of Authors. In her spare time, Caroline can be found walking with Fred, her Westie and in summer, wild water swimming. In winter, when not working, she relaxes with her head in a book and hand in a box of chocolates.