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  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist

From the blurb:

When Ella married the handsome, celebrated artist Sebastian Montclair at just nineteen she was madly in love. Now, those blissful years of marriage have turned into the very definition of an unconventional set-up. Separated in every way but distance, Sebastian resides in an outhouse across the lawn from Ella’s ramshackle farmhouse.

With an ex-husband living under her nose and a home crowded by hostile teenaged children, gender-confused chickens – not to mention her hyper critical mother whose own marriage slips spectacularly off the rails – Ella finds comfort in the company of the very charming gardener, Ludo. Then out of the blue Sebastian decides to move on, catching Ella horribly unawares. How much longer can she hide from what really destroyed her marriage . . . and the secret she continues to keep?

When I’m in the mood for a light, witty romance in the women’s fiction genre (dare I call it chicklit?), I have long enjoyed a Catherine Alliott. Her style is warm and funny, and I love her characterisation. So I was keen to read this, her latest novel.

As always, I loved the writing style in the book. So much to make you smile; she’s a wonderfully observant writer, and I enjoyed the conversational tone in the book. It’s easy reading, and when I pick up a book like this, that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

The story was certainly engaging – and unusual, because the husband is lurking at the periphery throughout the book. I really loved the content on Ella and her husband’s art, and how central this becomes to the story: as a writer, I found the vein of art running through the book, and the exploration of how being creative affects a relationship, fascinating. I especially enjoyed the description of Ella and Sebastian’s early, somewhat bohemian relationship.

The setting, on a ramshackle farm, is perfect for the book, and for any reader who enjoys stories set in rural settings where you’d best check there’s no chicken roosting on a chair before sitting down. Even though the book is set in the countryside, it reminded me of light romances whose protagonists are struggling among the yummy mummy set in the suburbs – such as the local ladies who are pedantic about how exactly to arrange flowers in the local church.

Ella is interesting as a main character, though for me she’s not always easy to root for. She’s up against it, that’s certain, but as she discovers herself during the course of the book, she’s become something of a ghost without a lot of gumption and passion. She lets her children walk over her. She lets her husband walk all over her. She lets her mother move to her farm, though she doesn’t want her to. She does a job she doesn’t enjoy while ignoring what she really wants to do. She’s passive, and I found myself thinking often, ‘Come on, Ella. Get some steel!’ The ending goes some way to remedy this, and I loved the twist.

Overall, this is a book to pick up for sheer escapism, for those who like a story in which a character goes on an emotional journey and blossoms, and for those who like a more unconventional love story. But don’t expect high romance – lots of passion and moments that make you sigh. It’s more of a family story, I think, than pure romance.

My Husband Next Door is available now from Amazon; click on the book cover below to visit the store.

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