Audio Book: The Silent Wife by Kerry Fisher

the-silent-wife

I so loved The Island Escape by Kerry Fisher, my review of which you can read here, that I was thrilled to win an audio version of The Silent Wife on Facebook.

I have also been lucky enough to interview Kerry about The Silent Wife and you can read that interview here.

The Silent Wife was published on February 2017 by Bookouture and is available for purchase in e-book, audio and paperback here.

The Silent Wife

the-silent-wife

Lara’s life looks perfect on the surface. Gorgeous doting husband Massimo, sweet little son Sandro and the perfect home. Lara knows something about Massimo. Something she can’t tell anyone else or everything Massimo has worked so hard for will be destroyed: his job, their reputation, their son. This secret is keeping Lara a prisoner in her marriage.

Maggie is married to Massimo’s brother Nico and lives with him and her troubled stepdaughter. She knows all of Nico’s darkest secrets – or so she thinks. The one day she discovers a letter in the attic which reveals a shocking secret about Nico’s first wife Caitlin. Will Maggie set the record straight or keep silent to protect those she loves?

For a family held together by lies, the truth will come at a devastating price…

My Review of The Silent Wife

In perfect families, there are secrets that can change all their lives.

Having so enjoyed reading The Island Escape I wasn’t sure if I would enjoy an audio book as much, but I needn’t have worried because the only aspect I didn’t much like was the Italian accent employed by the narrator for Anna. Kerry Fisher’s storytelling shone through so that it was impossible not to want to listen to the next bit. Having been ill over the period when I was listening to The Silent Wife, I listened to it in quite a fragmented way and I think it shows how brilliantly Kerry Fisher writes that as soon as I returned to the story it was as if I’d never been away.

The plot actually felt quite incidental to me even though it deals with issues that are shocking, because the real strength of Kerry Fisher’s writing in The Silent Wife is her wonderful characterisation. Every one of the cast in The Secret Wife felt like a real person so that I cared about what happened to them – even when I was hoping for the worst for them! I liked the way the narrative is told from the perspectives of Lara and Maggie, although my preference was for Maggie.

Although there are many details in The Secret Wife that seem quite everyday and fairly unimportant I felt they were crucial in conveying how life can impact on the ordinary person so that we never really know what happens in others’ lives. Reading this book might just help others in similar situations, although I don’t want to say too much as I don’t want to spoil the story. Kerry Fisher knows exactly how women think and feel and she manages to convey humour, sadness and real emotion so effortlessly. What I so enjoyed was the way I had to keep asking myself what I would do if I found myself in similar situations to Lara and Maggie.

I really enjoyed listening to The Silent Wife. I think it would be perfect for taking on holiday and immersing yourself into the close-knit world of a family with secrets.

About Kerry Fisher

Kerry Fisher Author image

Born in Peterborough, Kerry Fisher studied French and Italian at Bath University, followed by several years working as an English teacher in Corsica and Spain before topping the dizzying heights of holiday rep and grape picker in Tuscany. She eventually succumbed to ‘getting a proper job’ and returned to England to study Periodical Journalism at City University. After two years working in the features department at Essentials magazine in London, love carried her off to the wilds of the West Pennine moors near Bolton. She now lives in Surrey with her husband (of whisking off to Bolton fame), two teenagers and a very naughty lab/schnauzer called Poppy. Kerry can often be seen trailing across the Surrey Hills whistling and waving pieces of chicken while the dog practises her ‘talk to the tail’.

Kerry has spent half her life talking about writing a novel, then several years at Candis magazine reviewing other people’s but it wasn’t until she took some online courses with the UCLA (University of California) that the dream started to morph into reality, culminating in the publishing of The Class Ceiling. The Avon imprint of HarperCollins picked it up and retitled it The School Gate Survival Guide, published summer 2014. Her second book, The Island Escape, came out in May 2015. It won first prize at the York Festival of Writing for the opening line: ‘I was wearing the wrong bra for sitting in a police cell’.

There’s more about Kerry on her website or Facebook page. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Cover Reveal: A Taste of Death by H.V Coombs

a taste of death

I’m delighted to be helping to reveal the first book in the The Old Forge Cafe series, A Taste of Death by H.V.Coombs.

A Taste of Death will be published by Maze, a Harper Collins imprint, on 24th July 2017 and is available for pre-order here.

A Taste of Death

a taste of death

Midsomer Murders meets The Great British Bake-Off in this foodie delight with murder at its heart.

The first murder happened while I was making meringues…

When Ben Hunter moves to become head chef at the Old Forge Café in the quiet village of Hampden Green, a tricky recipe for egg-based desserts isn’t the only thing he gets embroiled in. As he struggles with a whisk in his first week , he gets an unexpected visit from DI Slattery – there’s been a murder and he’s a suspect. Ben resolves to get to the bottom of the mystery, and he soon discovers that this sleepy Chilterns village is covering up a whole lot more than an appetite for sweet treats…

An Act of Silence by Colette McBeth

An Act of Silence

I was extremely fortunate to meet Colette McBeth at a blogger and author event where An Act of Silence was a book in the goody bag so I am extremely grateful to the team at Carmelite House!

An Act of Silence will be published by Wildfire, an imprint of Headline, on 29th June 2017 and is available for purchase through the links here.

An Act of Silence

An Act of Silence

These are the facts I collect. My son Gabriel met a woman called Mariela in a bar. She went home with him. They next morning she was found in an allotment. Mariela is dead. Gabriel has been asked to report to Camden Police station in six hours for questioning.

Linda Moscow loves her son; it’s her biological instinct to keep him safe. But if she’s not sure of his innocence, how can she stand by him? Should she go against everything she believes in to protect him? She’s done it before, and the guilt nearly killed her.

Now, the past is catching up with them. As old secrets resurface, Lind is faced with another impossible choice. Only this time, it’s her life on the line…

My Review of An Act of Silence

With a highly troubled relationship between them, mother Linda and son Gabriel need each other more than they can know.

I thought An Act of Silence was utterly brilliant. I genuinely couldn’t tear myself away from it and resented every moment when I couldn’t read it. I had a real dilemma. I wanted to read quickly to see what happened next, whilst simultaneously wanting to read slowly to savour every word. I think it was the wonderful overall quality of the writing that so captivated me. The variety of sentence structure adds to the tension and the overall plotting is sublime. An Act of Silence is twisty, creepy and actually quite sad, with occasional humour that serves to enhance and underline the dramatic elements of the narrative. I have become quite bored of books with multiple viewpoints of late but An Act of Silence is multi-layered, fascinating and magnificent. It made me think of those coloured translucent shapes children have that slot together – the plot has different prisms of light and different shapes and perspectives but they all fit together into one hugely satisfying read that has fabulous resolution. I really enjoyed the contrast of first and third person perspectives too.

I found the relationship between Linda and Gabriel heart-breaking and became so enmeshed in their lives that I couldn’t avoid an emotional interest in what happened to them. Colette McBeth is so skilled in exploring relationships and why we behave as we do that I defy anyone reading An Act of Silence not to look at those around them and wonder what is really going on in their lives.

An Act of Silence reverberated with so much significance to today’s society. I kept thinking of Joseph Conrad’s ‘thin veneer of civilisation’ and how we often don’t know, or don’t care to know, the truth staring us in the face. Reading An Act of Silence made me feel almost as guilty as those who maintain an act of silence in the story. This is such clever writing that upends the reader’s morality and makes them ask, ‘What would I do?’. This was a very disturbing aspect so that I felt almost as tainted as some of the characters when I realised I would probably behave the same way as Linda.

If you want a book to thoroughly entertain you, then Colette McBeth’s An Act of Silence is for you. If, however, you want a book that is highly entertaining, skilfully plotted, interesting, beautifully written and completely compelling so that it really makes you think, then An Act of Silence is even more for you. It is brilliant and I loved it.

About Colette McBeth

Colette-McBeth

Colette McBeth is the critically acclaimed author of psychological thrillers Precious Thing and The Life I Left Behind.

Colette was a BBC TV News television correspondent for ten years, during which time she covered many major crime stories and worked out of Westminster as a political reporter.

She lives on the South Coast with her husband and three children.

You can follow Colette on Twitter, find her on Facebook and visit her website.

An Extract from Always In My Heart, by Pam Weaver

Always in my heart cover.jpg

I love historical fiction so I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for Always In My Heart by Pam Weaver. Not only do I have an extract to share, but I also have an answer to a question I posed to Pam!

Always In My Heart was published by Pan on 15th June and is available for purchase in e-book and paperback through the publisher links here.

Always In My Heart

Always in my heart cover.jpg

1939. When war is declared, twins Shirley and Tom are evacuated to the coastal town of Worthing. Almost fourteen, they are very close to their mother, but leaving London is the only way to keep them safe. Shirley is the bright one of the pair, whereas Tom is sometimes slow to understand the world around him. But Shirley helps him get by and is his best friend and ally.

The twins are taken in by a local farmer, but their new home quickly proves to be far from a rural dream. Tom is forced to do back-breaking work and sleep under the stairs each night. The farmer’s wife is heavily pregnant, and seems to live in fear of him. She’s refusing all midwives, so it will be up to Shirley, with no experience in the matter, to help her deliver her baby.

Their new teacher at the local school notices that something is not right with the children, but the farmer keeps the twins from seeing anyone, even their own mother. As the cold weather sets in and Tom falls ill, will Shirley be able to find a way out for them both?

An Extract from Always In My Heart

Shirley and her brother Tom are on a school trip

Before long, someone spotted the sea and the excitement in the coach reached its peak.

‘I wish we had time to go round the shops when we get there,’ Helen whispered. ‘I wanted to buy a lipstick.’

Ann’s eyes grew wide. ‘Will your mum let you wear lipstick?’

‘Of course not,’ said Helen. ‘I’d only put it on when she’s not around.’

‘They’re very expensive,’ Shirley remarked.

‘Well, I’ve seen them in Woolworths for one and eleven,’ said Helen with a defiant shrug of her shoulder. Shirley was suddenly tempted to buy one herself. Everybody said she looked more like seventeen than fifteen. If she wore lipstick, she might even get into the pictures to see an X-film on her own. They said Edward G. Robinson was very good. She’d always wanted to see him.

‘Why don’t we go to Woolworths?’ she said, feeling deliciously naughty. ‘If we get caught, we could always pretend we got lost trying to find the toilets.’ The three of them looked at each other with sparkling eyes as they savoured the idea of their own wickedness.

Ann took in a breath. ‘Go on, then. Let’s do it.’

‘Can I come too?’ Tom’s voice boomed through the coach and several people turned round. Shirley jumped. Her brother been so quiet since they’d all got back in the coach she’d almost forgotten he was there. Helen and Ann sat up straight and gazed out of their window, doing their best to pretend they didn’t know what he was talking about.

‘Shh,’ Shirley said, elbowing him as she looked around nervously. ‘And no, you can’t.’

Tom was puzzled. ‘Why not? I’d like to go to Woolworths. I could get a lipstick too. Mum said I should stay with you all the time.’

Listening to the stifled giggles all around her, Shirley felt her heart sink. Now she was torn. She desperately wanted to be with her friends, but it would be no fun at all with Tom tagging along, and besides, he was bound to give the game away.

‘Let me come, Shirl. Please. I want to go to Woolworths.’

‘All right, all right,’ said Shirley. ‘Just keep your voice down, will you?’ He stayed silent for about thirty seconds and then said in a voice just as loud as before, ‘Why do I have to keep my voice down? Is it a secret, Shirl?’

‘We’re not taking him, Shirley,’ Helen hissed when Shirley glanced at her, and rolled her eyes.

Shirley looked at them helplessly, but Helen and Ann just glared at her and she knew then that she wouldn’t be going to buy lipsticks with them. Now she was annoyed with Tom. His crass behaviour had spoiled something that promised to be a little bit exciting, but at the same time, she knew she wouldn’t be angry for long. Her brother couldn’t help the way he was.

‘I’m not going anywhere without you, Tom,’ she said. ‘All right?’ He nodded cheerfully.

‘All right, Shirl.’ When she turned her attention back to her friends.

Helen and Ann had their heads together and were whispering. Shirley felt her stomach tighten with disappointment. She loved her brother, but because of him, she was often left out of things. Helen and Ann were busy planning, and once again Shirley wasn’t included.

Home

A Guest Response by Pam Weaver

I’m thrilled that I was also able to ask Pam what home means to her and this is what she told me:

What is home?

Home is where I can undo my bra and relax in front of the telly. It’s where I can leave the messy kitchen until I’m ready to clear up. It’s where my husband is and the place where my kids and grandkids love to come for Sunday lunch. Home is where my friends have shared their joys and sorrows at my kitchen table over a cup of tea.

As Dorothy once said, ‘There’s no place like home.’

(You’re absolutely right Pam!)

About Pam Weaver

Pam Weaver

Pam Weaver is a bestselling author of saga novels set in Worthing, including There’s Always Tomorrow, Better Days Will Come, Pack Up Your Troubles, For Better For Worse, Blue Moon and Love Walked Right In. Pam’s inspiration comes from her love of people and their stories and her passion for the town where her novels are set. She is married with two grown-up daughters and lives in Worthing.

You can find Pam on Facebook and Twitter.

An Extract From The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land, by Isabella Davidson

beta mum

As someone who’s always been a bit of a Beta rather than an Alpha person, it gives me very great pleasure to host an extract from Isabella Davidson’s novel The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land.

The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land is out today from Silverwood and is available for purchase in paperback here.

The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land

beta mum

When Sophie Bennett moves from a quiet sleepy suburb of Toronto to glitzy west London, she doesn’t know where she has landed: Venus or Mars. Her three-year-old daughter Kaya attends Cherry Blossoms, the most exclusive nursery in London, where Sophie finds herself adrift in a sea of Alpha Mums. These mothers are glamorous, gorgeous, competitive and super rich, especially Kelly, the blonde, beautiful and bitchy class rep.

Struggling to fit in and feeling increasingly isolated, Sophie starts The Beta Mum, an anonymous blog describing her struggles with the Alpha Mums. But when her blog goes viral, she risks ruining everything for herself and her daughter. How long will it be until they discover her true identity? Is her marriage strong enough to survive one of her follower’s advances? And will she ever fit in with the Alpha Mums?

An Extract from The Beta Mum: Adventures in Alpha Land

From Chapter 11

A huge life-sized, plush, golden giraffe with scattered spots stared at me giving me the eye, as if to say ‘I know who you are, Sophie Bennett, you’re not one of them. You’re one of us. You’re an onlooker.’ The winding staircase of Serafina’s member’s club had led me down into Serafina’s nightclub where I had found myself face to face with the giant giraffe.

I had read up on (googled) Serafina’s before coming; it was an exclusive member’s club costing £3,000 a year for a membership and had welcomed everyone from Tom Cruise to Prince William through its doors with three bar areas, two restaurants, one nightclub and 16 hotel rooms. The restaurant had poached a chef from Nobu and served fusion-food classics including tuna tartare, lobster tempura and black miso cod. The bar areas channelled the Dolce Vita vibe, with white-uniformed barmen, serving Martinis to show off their mixology skills and drinks made with absinthe.

The nightclub had an upscale, louche, bordello-like feel to it, in keeping with its location, the old respectable (or rather unrespectable) red light district in Mayfair. It was dark and windowless, with its burgundy walls draped with red velvet curtains. On my left stood a glittering bar where late twenty-somethings with youthful aspirations were dressed to impress and stood drinking champagne and colourful cocktails adorned with edible flowers. On my right, I saw some familiar faces from the nursery pick-ups and drop-offs heading towards the direction of a private room.

I squeezed Michael’s hand as we walked in their direction. My heart pounded just a bit faster than I wanted it to and my social anxiety increased with every step I made towards the private room. I wanted to be anywhere but here, ideally sitting in front of our TV with my Roots sweatshirt/sweatpants combo or in front of my laptop, hiding behind a screen rather than exposing my vulnerabilities to the Alphas. This was not the usual parents’ evening in the school gym with soft-drinks-and-pizza-slices.

That night, Kelly wore a tight, cerulean, asymmetrical, skin-tight dress, and Becky wore a wrap dress with what looked like a flowery red, pink and purple print. I sidled up to them, seeing no other familiar faces and since they were standing next to Michael.

‘Hi, it’s nice to see both of you again. I wanted to ask you about the winter fair and how I could volunteer,’ I said to both of them.

Kelly’s face looked blank, not registering who I was, despite having met numerous times.

‘Hi Sophie,’ Becky said. ‘We are planning on sending out an email about the winter fair in the next few days,’

‘Oh, I didn’t recognise you at all, Sophie darling.’ Kelly’s face now showed some recognition. ‘You look completely different in a dress and heels. You look … taller … and prettier. Don’t you usually always wear jeans and converse?’

‘Yes … but I thought I should try to “Keep up with the Cherry Blossoms Mums” tonight.’ I tried to crack a joke, which clearly went over their heads, as they continued to look at me as if I were commenting on the weather.

‘You should dress up more often, Sophie, you look so much better in a dress. And you should wear make-up. It really brings out your eyes,’ Kelly went on. ‘And it’s nice to see you wearing proper shoes. We’re a bit too old to be wearing Converse, don’t you think?’ She gave me her pursed, condescending smile.

What I really wanted to do was roll my eyes at her, but I decided that it was too early in the night to start making enemies. Instead, I gulped down my champagne and took another one from a passing waitress.

‘Kelly, I love your shoes!’ Becky exclaimed, looking down at Kelly’s shoes as if they were made of gold, diverting the conversation away from my apparently underachieving daily dress sense.

‘Oh, thanks, Becky,’ Kelly contently smiled. ‘They’re Zoe Phillips.

‘Who’s Zoe Phillips?’ I shyly asked, feeling ignorant.

‘You don’t know Zoe Phillips?’ Kelly looked at me incredulously and patronisingly, wide-eyed, with faint disdain as if I had admitted to never having heard of Nelson Mandela or Martin Luther King. ‘They’re Jimmy Choos but better. And much more exclusive. She’s the hottest shoe designer right now. I had to wait four weeks for them to be made – bespoke – and to have my initials inscribed in the sole. Just in case I lose them.’ She laughed. ‘Do you know she’s going to be a Cherry Blossoms mum soon? She has a 1-year-old and lives in Notting Hill, so it’s really close to her.’

‘I live in Notting Hill.’ I said, trying to make up for my embarrassment.

‘Oh, I lived in Notting Hill once, but it was too dodgy. I realised that I am an Upper East Side girl at heart,’ Kelly said. ‘So now I live in Kensington and I feel much safer.’

Kelly couldn’t help herself but to criticise every word I uttered. I took another sip of my champagne and then moved on to a Martini to assuage Kelly’s criticisms…

About Isabella Davidson

beta mum

Isabella Davidson is the author of the popular blog, Notting Hill Yummy Mummy, which chronicles the entertaining lives of west London residents. Through the blog, she has written features for the Times, the Saturday Times Magazine, Corner Magazine, efinancial and has been interviewed by the Times, Financial Times, Harper’s Bazaar, Spectator magazine, the Saturday Times Magazine and many more.

She wrote The Beta Mum, Adventures in Alpha Land during a Faber Academy Novel Writing course. Prior to starting her writing career, she worked for a Nobel Prize winning humanitarian organization and as a doctor for the National Health Service in the UK. She grew up living in four different continents before settling down in London fifteen years ago. She currently lives in west London with her husband and her two small children.

You can follow Isabella on Twitter and visit her blog.

UK Giveaway: The Lying Game by Ruth Ware

the lying game

Having previously loved reading Ruth Ware (you can read my review of In a Dark, Dark Wood here), I’m thrilled to be part of the launch celebrations for her latest novel The Lying Game.

Published on 15th June 2017, by Vintage Books, an imprint of Penguin, The Lying Game is available for purchase in ebook and hardback, with paperback pre-order, here.

However, if you live in the UK you could win a signed copy of The Lying Game by taking part in the giveaway at the bottom of this blog post. It’s a little bit different to the usual ones!

The Lying Game

the lying game

Four friends. One promise. But someone isn’t telling the truth. The twisting new mystery from bestselling phenomenon Ruth Ware.

The text message arrives in the small hours of the night. It’s just three words: I need you.

Isa drops everything, takes her baby daughter and heads straight to Salten. She spent the most significant days of her life at boarding school on the marshes there, days which still cast their shadow over her.

At school Isa and her three best friends used to play the Lying Game. They competed to convince people of the most outrageous stories. Now, after seventeen years of secrets, something terrible has been found on the beach. Something which will force Isa to confront her past, together with the three women she hasn’t seen for years, but has never forgotten.

Theirs is no cosy reunion: Salten isn’t a safe place for them, not after what they did. It’s time for the women to get their story straight…

About Ruth Ware

ruth ware

Ruth Ware’s first two thrillers, In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10, were international smash-hits, and appeared on bestseller list around the world, including the Sunday Times and New York Times. The film rights to her debut were snapped up by New Line Cinema, and her books are published in more than 40 languages.

Ruth lives near Brighton with her family.

You can follow Ruth on Twitter @RuthWareWriter and visit her website.

Giveaway of The Lying Game

the lying game

To be added into the names pulled out of the hat, all you need to do is choose which of the following facts about me is a lie! UK only I’m afraid.

#TheLyingGame poster

The winner will receive a signed copy of The Lying Game. To enter simply leave a blog post comment and/or tweet your response using the #TheLyingGame to @Lindahill50Hill by UK midnight on Sunday 18th June 2017. If you include @RuthWareWriter, @vintagebooks or @DeadGoodBooks in your tweet you’ll be given an extra entry for each one! Good luck and don’t forget the hashtag #TheLyingGame!

Young Lovers, A Guest Post by Katarina West, Author of The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice

1000 cover

I’m delighted to welcome Katarina West, author of The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice to Linda’s Book Bag today. Being of a certain age, I found Katerina’s guest post today highly relevant!

The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice is available for purchase here. As part of the celebrations, Katerina is also running a giveaway which you can enter at the bottom of this blog post.

The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice

1000 cover

Meet Irene Nylander, a frumpy housewife from Finland … and a yo-yo dieter. She feels trapped in an unhappy marriage, looking after her domineering mother-in-law and living vicariously through romantic movies.

Meanwhile, in Florence, Mimi Kavanough’s star is rising. She has the body of a Barbie princess, the iron will of an army sergeant – and Hollywood in her sights.

On her fiftieth birthday, Irene discovers her husband is having an affair. Devastated, she prays for a way out: she wants to die.

In heaven, a mischievous angel called Aaron hears her prayers. He decides to make Irene and Mimi swap bodies.

How will the two women cope with their unexpected, and very different, second lives? And will Aaron’s meddling get him evicted from heaven? What will happen if he has to transform into a human being and live on Earth?

Four Weddings and a Funeral and Young Lovers:

can middle-aged women have boyfriends half their age?

A Guest Post by Katarina West

Last summer was a hectic wedding season in Florence, where I live with my husband and ten-year-old son: four couples got married under the relentless glare of the Tuscan sun.

And mind you, weddings in Italy are a serious affair… Oh yes, they are. Foreigners think that all Mediterranean weddings are carefree, cheerful affairs, the equivalents of a lively country-dance or a tarantella, but this couldn’t be further from the truth in the elegant and stiff Florence, where centuries of socializing have transformed weddings and other gatherings into elaborate minuets with eight-course lunches or dinners. So not exactly your big, fat Greek wedding – except that the calorie consumption is the same, which means that after four weddings in one summer you’ve got a serious bikini crisis going on for the rest of the season.

Anyhow. What made last summer’s weddings even more delicate was the fact that I was still writing my latest novel, The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice.

A mixture of chick lit and fantasy, it tells the story of a frumpy, middle-aged housewife from Finland who changes bodies with an oh-ah gorgeous Hollywood celebrity… And obviously, the latter is aged twenty-five. And obviously, the fifty-something housewife, now possessing the body of the likes of – say – Kim Kardashian, falls in love with a Justin Timberlake lookalike, who (obviously) is not many years older than thirty.

So, let’s recap: a frumpy housewife, going on fifty-one. Dating a Justin Timberlake clone, and looking like Kim Kardashian. Except no one knows that it’s not her body.

How’s that for a relationship crisis?

But the curious thing was that all of my girlfriends (who, just like me, are closer to the Finnish housewife’s age, rather than Kim Kardashian’s) were passionate about my heroine’s fate in a way that they’d never been with my previous fictional protagonists.

Yes, you heard me. With The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, things were different. This wasn’t just a chick lit novel. No, this was personal. This was a fifty-something woman with cellulite and varicose veins. Snatching a thirty-something hunk.

This was… oh my God… political.

Yes, that’s it. Talking with my girlfriends I sometimes felt that I’d got a promotion. I was no longer a mere novelist penning down their next beach read. No, I was nothing more and nothing less than the Instagram age’s Karl Marx and Joseph Engels, breathing life into a new political manifesto. Everywoman’s manifesto.

A manifesto about middle-aged woman and thirty-something men.

And obviously, the men look exactly like Justin Timberlake.

Can you now understand my delicate position last summer, especially as we all met regularly at those long and calorie-rich weddings? We all sat at the same table. We rarely talked about kids, work, hobbies or summer plans.

No, for all they wanted to know was how my novel was coming along. And whether that frumpy housewife was still dating the Justin Timberlake doppelganger.

And if that could truly happen in real life.

‘Girls,’ said a forty-something stay-at-home mum during the first wedding. ‘Listen to me. It’s a question of a car. I mean, it’s a statistical fact that when men have a midlife crisis, they get rid of their first wives and buy a Porsche. That’s how they get that gorgeous twenty-something girlfriend.’

I looked at her, understanding. Her husband, a lawyer, drove a shiny Audi SUV so big that whenever she borrowed her husband’s car to do the school run the access road to the school was blocked for a good twenty minutes.

Her car, on the other hand, was a run-down Nissan the license plates of which had been registered in the last millennium. Not to mention that the inside had a wonderful patina of ice cream stains and candy wrappers. And dog and child vomit.

Though maybe she had a point. Because would Justin Timberlake ever sit in a car like that?

Our conversation evolved a few weeks later, when we met at the second wedding. It was the height of the presidential primaries in the United States, and all my girlfriends talked about was Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Or, no. Correct that. Because there was someone still more interesting than Donald and Hillary.

It was my middle-aged Finnish housewife. And the question if she could keep on dating that thirty-something hunk.

‘Politics,’ one of my best friends said. She was a university researcher – she should know. ‘Girls – study men in politics. Look what happens to them when they gain even a modicum of power. Look at Trump. Or Hollande. Or Clinton… I mean, Bill Clinton. Or even the goddam JFK. What unites all these men?’

A subdued silence settled into our table. ‘I know,’ someone sighed. ‘It is just so unfair.’

Someone laughed humourlessly. ‘Of course, we Italians are leading in this field,’ she said. ‘After all, Berlusconi outwitted everyone with his harem of showgirls.’

‘Bunga bunga,’ a fifty-two-year-old brunette added, in a rather bleak tone.

Another silence. ‘Even so,’ my researcher friend continued, ‘could you imagine women doing anything similar? Imagine Angela Merkel boasting in a video clip that she can grab any private parts of her male assistants… and then later on dismissing it all as aerobics lesson locker-room talk? Or Theresa May having her very own Lewinsky affair in Downing Street?’

Everyone turned to look at me. ‘Don’t you dare let that Justin Timberlake dump the Finnish housewife,’ the stay-at-home mum said to me. ‘This is a question of rights. Human rights.’

Ouch. Suddenly I felt that if I made the wrong plot move, half of my girlfriends would never speak to me again.

The discussion was more pragmatic – even cynical – at the third wedding, and this was simply because we had a new woman sitting at our table. A boutique owner in the chic parts of Florence, she was a bona fide fashionista. And was dating a man eight years her junior.

‘Oh, come on, girls,’ she said. ‘You really think a frumpy housewife could date a Justin Timberlake lookalike? Give me a break!’

‘Men do it,’ someone said stubbornly.

‘And Madonna did it,’ the fashionista replied. ‘And Demi Moore. But you know what Madonna and Demi possess, apart from money and fame?’

No one said anything.

‘They both have bodies most twenty-somethings would die to have,’ she continued. ‘And it takes an entire war of attrition to get a body like that. You must suffer. You must sweat. You must starve.’

Suddenly none of us was hungry any more.

‘Anyone care to have my dessert?’ my researcher friend asked in a tiny voice. ‘I’m… er… on a diet.’

The Madonna-cum-Demi talk was a game changer, and during the fourth and the final wedding our attitude was hardened to say the least.

‘Money talks,’ the fashionista said. ‘If you’ve got money, you can have all the Justin Timberlakes you want. Even if you look like a walking, Botox-ed zombie. With liver stains on your hands.’

‘Who was that superbly rich woman who died some ten years ago?’ the stay-at-home mum asked apropos of nothing. ‘That New York based hotel billionaire?  The one who was notorious for her meanness?’

‘Ah, yes. The Queen of Mean. Leona Helmsley.’

‘So, did she look like Demi Moore?’

Silence. ‘No,’ someone finally says. Slowly. ‘She actually looked rather nasty.’

Another silence. Everyone’s thinking.

‘And did she, you know… date younger men?’

There is unmistakable hopefulness in the stay-at-mum’s voice as she utters these words. We all turn to look at an American expat married to an Italian.

She looks at us. She smiles apologetically. Then, eventually, she shrugs.

‘Sorry, girls,’ she says. ‘But Leona Helmsley was into… lapdogs. And when she died, her Maltese became the richest dog in the world.’

None of us know what to say.

‘And the most hated, too,’ the American woman continues. ‘Trouble was the dog’s name.’

When we are back home from the fourth and the last wedding, I look at my Bergamasco shepherd dog with new, fresh eyes. For, let’s face it, that dog has never asked for much.

All he wants is a little bit of kibbles and affection.

Plus, after a handful of dog obedience lessons, he comes to me when he must come to me, and he stops barking when he must stop barking.

And… He is four years old.

Which converted to human years means that he is exactly the same age as my Justin Timberlake lookalike in The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice.

It is then that the truth hits me.

I’m middle-aged. I’m no Demi Moore.

I drive a car that is a far cry from your average shiny Porsche.

But still, there is a thirty-something male who follows my each and every step.

Who would give his dear life for me.

Now who said it again, that women can’t have it all?

(Who indeed? – Thanks Katarina from all we middle aged women!)

About Katarina West

Katarina

Katarina West was born in Helsinki, Finland, into a bilingual family.

She spent time travelling in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and went on to study at Queen Mary and Westfield College in London and the European University Institute in Florence, where she completed a PhD in political science and published a book based on it, Agents of Altruism. During those student years she started work as a journalist, and continued writing for various Finnish magazines and newspapers for over ten years, writing on various topics from current events and humanitarian issues to celebrity interviews and short stories. She also briefly worked as a university lecturer on humanitarian issues in Northern Italy.

Katarina lives in an old farmhouse in Chianti with her husband and son and when not writing, she is fully immersed in Tuscan country life, from jam-making and olive-picking to tractor maintenance.

You can follow Katarina on Twitter, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

Giveaway

1000 cover

For your chance to enter Katerina’s giveaway to win one of 10 e-copies of The Thousand Tiny Miracles of Living Twice, click here.