Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Promises, Promises by Erica James

****         Maggie is the put upon wife of "Mr Blobby", aka Dave. She cleans other peoples' houses all day only to return home for more of the same for her unappreciative husband and son. The highlight of her week is the stolen afternoon reading romantic novels in the library. She dreams of a better life but her inability to stand up for herself means she probably faces only further drudgery and the occasional night at the bingo with her mum's cronies, unless she can change. An unexpected windfall and meeting the handsome Daryl, nephew of her elderly neighbour's new gentleman friend, might spur her into doing just that.
Ella is recovering from the end of a traumatic relationship with a widower and his hateful daughter. She's still angry by Lawrence's weakness and Alexia's machinations but her success as a specialist painter means she is commisioned by Ethan and his bitchy wife, Francine. Ethan's business is suffering in the recession but it's his home circumstances that are making him even more miserable. He sees Ella as a glimmer of hope and wants to get to know her better, but things are further complicated by Lawrence's sudden suggestion (with Alexia's blessing) that he and Ella try again.
Unhappy relationships and new beginnings for everyone in this novel!
I really like Erica James and have given her several 5 stars in the past! (Tell it to the Skies being one of my all time favourites!)  You pretty much know what you're going to get and again she's delivered a really good read.  It didn't quite make it to the full Monty for me, maybe because it was a bit "more domesticated" than some of her other books.  In retrospect, at times it read more as a Milly Johnson style story - which isn't a criticism (as I love Milly Johnson, too!) but just unexpected.
As usual, it's extremely well written and the character of Ella is particularly strong, the whole set up with Lawrence and Alexia was convincing and well written.  I think  Erica James comes into her own when writing about uncomfortable circumstances and the tension between the characters is really well done.  Ella is likable and a good heroine without being too perfect,  I too dance to Viva la Vida!  I couldn't see the attraction to Lawrence, who is a bit of a numpty all the way through and his only redeeming features seemed to be he looked a bit like Colin Firth and provided excellent wine!  Ethan is interesting, but not your usual romantic hero.  The back story of his childhood explained some of his situation, but at times he just seemed indecisive and weak.  I wasn't overly convinced that Ella was enough to make him change his sordid behaviour in the past either, but as it's romantic fiction, I'll just have to trust she was.
The Maggie plot wasn't as strong for me and this is the main reason why I've given the book 4 stars overall.  The whole domestic drudge to sex goddess didn't convince, even though I got that she was unhappy and taken for granted, I thought the stereotyped, nasty grasping family was overplayed and not necessary, although I did laugh at the barbecue debacle!  Is it likely that a thirty something could be such a drudge and have no friends of her own at all and have to rely on her tarty and downright horrible mother for what constitutes as a social life?  If Daryl was sooo amazing, why her? And why when she was married?  It all came too easily and tidily for her and I actually didn't want her to get her magical happy ending, I wanted her to become her own person by herself.
There's a huge cast of supporting characters and maybe due to this they are drawn as polarised love or hate types.  There's a lot of ground is covered in the book, it's well paced and I wanted to read on.
So, to sum up - it's a good, enjoyable read, just not quite up there with my favourites from this particular author.