Sunday, 17 January 2010

If this is Paradise, I want my money back! by Claudia Carroll

**
Charlotte has a serious road accident and is lying in her hospital bed thinking over her life.  There's not a lot to say about it but she particularly regrets the five wasted years with James, her love rat boyfriend.  After a brief visit to the afterlife she decides to come back as a guardian angel, but the difficulty is she has to watch over her ex!  Being an angel isn't all it's cracked up to be and the ongoing sagas in the lives of her friends and family are increasingly difficult to manage.  James has already moved on but his professional life is crumbling; best friend Fiona is still searching for love on the internet and super efficient sister Kate with the ideal husband is having a less than perfect life!  Charlotte tries to help, but is she just imagining she can play God?

Oh dear, this is a difficult review to write...although I've really enjoyed previous books by Claudia Carroll, I didn't like this at all!  I've given it two stars, because it's not badly written, but I just hated the story and found it a really miserable read.
My main problem is that everyone in the book is having an awful time!  There's no joy and very little humour throughout.  Charlotte starts off in a coma and realises what a waste her life has been so far, she pops up to heaven before having minimal angel training and is sent back down to be her ex-boyfriend's guardian angel.  She also pops in on her best friend Fiona, sister Kate and her mum.  Frustratingly, she finds that only James can hear her and so she starts to settle a few scores with him...not that he needs it as his life is plummeting into a downward spiral.  Kate's perfect marriage is less so when seen at close quarters and Fiona had the potential to be a more interesting character but never developed very far.  The whole thing was thoroughly depressing - infidelity, bankruptcy, family difficulties, clinging ex boyfriends, death, problems conceiving, divorce...it's all in there but nothing is resolved until the last couple of chapters when the reader is promised that everything will be okay in the future but we never get to read that bit as the book ends.  Even heaven is beige - like the waiting room of a hospital!  The best character is Regina the high powered angel, who showed some humour and a sense of style, at least!  My final grip is the constant use of "em" during dialogue to show discomfort, lack of understanding- any pause in a conversation - I'm pretty sure all readers get it, without the over use!
In some ways it has shades of Cecelia Ahern and sadly she's also an author that I've recenty found depressing rather than the promised "life-enhancing" on the cover.  If this is paradise, I hope it doesn't exist!  I truly hope Claudia goes back to what she's done in the past and deals with the same trying issues with a lighter touch and a huge dollop of her previous fun.