Bonnier publishing sent me this short, sweet novel in exchange for an honest review.
Dreams, books and vintage fashion – the second book in the bestselling ebook series by Sophie Nicholls, author of The Dress.
In historic York, Ella seems to have the perfect life. She’s a published author, her bookshop is thriving, she’s married to the man of her dreams and they’ve started a family of their own.
But Ella is struggling. Motherhood isn’t quite everything she imagined it to be, and she’s worried that there may be cracks in her marriage.
On the other side of the Atlantic, despite endless blue skies and a stream of eager customers in her vintage dress shop, Ella’s mother Fabia finds that life in San Diego is not enough for her. She misses York, and can sense that Ella needs her, so she flies home.
And this is when they meet Bryony. With a complicated life and secrets of her own, Bryony may have some of the answers they’re looking for.
Can Ella and Fabia help her find her way, whilst also working out how to find their own happily ever after?
‘A delightful, uplifting novel that, while unashamedly romantic and feel-good, nevertheless ponders some deeper questions.’ Yorkshire Post on The Dress.
I didn’t realise until I got the actual copy of this book that it was a sequel. Not having read the first really affected my enjoyment of it as while the main characters of Ella and her husband were fleshed out, a lot of Ella’s mother Fabia’s tale seemed to have taken place in The Dress and so was only briefly alluded to in this follow-up. There also was something of a lack of explanation of the more fantastical elements of the story, but again, probably my own fault for not reading the prequel.
Despite my picking fault with this from the beginning, this was actually a sweet and sometimes insightful tale set in a beautifully depicted York. I realised after finishing the book that the author lives in York and you can really tell that she loves it there – it comes right through the page.
Most of the adult fiction I read is women’s lit or crime/thrillers. It’s rare that I read a magical realism like this, but the more fantastical elements were nicely woven throughout the story although, as I mentioned, I did feel like it lacked a little exposition.
The main characters, Ella and Bryony, both felt very real to me. I empathised with their struggles, Ella’s with motherhood and feeling stuck, while Bryony needed to learn to stand up for herself. I had every sympathy for both of them.
The wider cast, though, felt a bit thin. Perhaps they were developed in the first book, so I was missing that foundation. Bryony’s sister, however, whose name I’ve forgotten already, was a paper thin villain, with nothing substantial behind her at all. I couldn’t even bring myself to hate her – she was just too forgettable.
Overall, this was a relatively solid story of York women finding their way, and the strength or weakness of family ties. Some weak spots, which may have been my own fault for not reading the first book first, so I wouldn’t hesitate to read another Sophie Nicholls book.
Three Stars ***