I’m really delighted today (with apologies for being a little later than usual…) to be joining the blog tour for Love You From A-Z, the debut novel from Linda Corbett, and sharing my review. Published on 24th June by One More Chapter, this lovely book is now available as an ebook, with the paperback to follow on 15th September. My thanks to Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources for the invitation and support, and to the publishers for my advance reading copy (provided via netgalley).
There’s always something a little more special about reviewing a book by an author you’ve actually met, and I had the pleasure of being in Linda’s company at the RNA’s Awards party this year – and it was lovely to be able to share her excitement about the impending and long awaited publication of her first novel. I was interested to hear that Linda was a recipient of the RNA’s Katie Fforde Bursary – in Katie’s own words, it’s “for members of the RNA who have been trying a while and keep being nearly there, but still haven’t achieved publication”, and the prize is a place at the Conference and a year’s membership. Katie also mentions its “magic effect”, because people so often get published very soon after winning – well, it certainly worked for Linda! But this was a book that must have hardly needed a helping hand – let’s take a closer look…
Experience has told Jenna Oakhurst that Happy Ever After may happen in all the best stories, but Happy For Now is the best one ought to expect in real life. Yet lately even that isn’t quite enough, so when a strange set of circumstances leads her to discover a mysterious letter in an abandoned storage unit, she takes the chance to embark on a journey into the unknown…just like the heroines from the storybooks.
Reaching out to the letter’s author, Henry Somners, changes Jenna’s world irrevocably and she starts to realise that the magic she believed in as a child might not be such a fanciful notion after all…
There are times when a book’s heroine captures your heart – and Jenna certainly had a place in mine from the very beginning. Partner Matt – how on earth did those two get together in the first place? – has grabbed the redundancy money from his steady job and placed his trust in Parry’s money-making scheme of buying up storage units and selling their contents on eBay. That makes Jenna feel very uncomfortable – after the experiences of her childhood, she rather likes steadiness and stability, working in the financial sector where clear rules apply (although there are those who sometimes try to bend them).
So when Matt finds he can no longer pay the rent – or even worse, is unwilling to prioritise it, or her concerns – she decides enough is enough and moves out to live with her sister and partner at their guinea pig sanctuary. She has a lovely new friend in Henry – she met him after finding a letter in one of Matt’s consignments, restoring to him one of his treasured possessions – and his company keeps her going (and looks like it might have the potential to be something rather more) as she licks her personal wounds and joins the fight to save the sanctuary from the developers. But the course of love doesn’t flow smoothly, and it looks as if Henry might just be another of the men in Jenna’s life who have let her down.
I can honestly say that I loved everything about this book. Jenna herself is a wonderful character – feisty and funny, but vulnerable too for so many reasons. She lives with a significant disability – she’s frequently in pain, can’t walk quickly or stand for long, rough ground and steps are a no-no, and her balance sometimes leaves a lot to be desired. The way her disability is played into the story is just superb – never more of a big deal than her need for security after her childhood experiences or her disbelief that an attractive man might find her fanciable, never defining her but just part of her everyday reality. And it gives rise to some of the loveliest moments – Henry’s offer (and, I must say, he’s a wonderfully drawn character too) of the Jane Austen manoeuvre or the Charge of the Light Brigade had me in tears of sheer joy.
The conflict that stalls their nicely developing relationship is so well handled – and the race against time to put things right again had me on the edge of my seat, so hoping for that widescreen cinema climax. I adored and was totally invested in their developing romance, every awkward moment, all the moments of uncertainty – and the wonderfully witty exchanges between them both.
I must mention some of the supporting cast too, because the characterisation is just fantastic. I really liked her sister Evie, and the relationship between them – and Evie’s partner Kat is quite wonderful, with her absence of filter and foghorn voice. I enjoyed Jenna’s workplace relationships too – very real. And then, of course, there are the guinea pigs. Now I’ll admit I’ve never really seen their attraction – but by the end of this book I’d entirely fallen in love with Snickers and his friends, and (while I might still draw a line on adoption…) I’d certainly be first in line to buy a copy of their fundraising calendar. Snickers’ adventures after being returned to the wrong enclosure really made me laugh out loud – but I thought all the humour in this book was perfectly judged and quite beautifully done.
At the book’s end, there was an extract from the author’s next one – What Would Jane Austen Do? – and I’m already really looking forward to it (but what a place to end!). I very rarely add a brand new author to my “must read” list, but I’d urge everyone to keep an eye on Linda Corbett. This book was simply wonderful, and I’d recommend it without reservation – a perfect read.
About the author
Linda Corbett lives in Surrey with her husband Andrew and three permanently hungry guinea pigs. As well as being an author, Linda is treasurer for Shine Surrey – a volunteer-led charity that supports individuals and families living with spina bifida and hydrocephalus. For many years she also wrote a regular column for Link, a disability magazine, illustrating the humorous aspects of life with a complex disability and she is a passionate advocate of disability representation in fiction. When not writing, Linda can be found papercrafting, cross stitching, or cuddling guinea pigs. Love You From A-Z is her first published novel.