Tuesday 12 December 2017

Review: Always on my mind by Colette Caddle

(Simon & Schuster, £12)
Here comes the bride's... ex-lover

It may be the literary equivalent of a warm hug, but chick lit hasn't exactly got the best reputation. It's the ditzy, poor relation of the books world that we're ashamed to admit we know, never mind love.

Although it's often dismissed as fluff by critics, the successful proponents of the genre, and there are many who've got the formula sussed, are the ones who are laughing all the way to the bank.

This competitive market should be saturated yet we're still embracing new offerings as we seek an escape from the R word and NAMA. Our seemingly insatiable appetite for the genre means that it offers the most lucrative rewards for writers. But not everyone can cut the mustard.

I've read a lot of chick lit -- from Maeve Binchy to Marian Keyes and quite a few in between -- and while there have been novels that do seem to insult the intelligence, many tackle serious issues between friends and within families, albeit within pink and bland covers.

Although I thought I knew quite a lot about the area and I vaguely recognised Colette Caddle's name, I was surprised to discover that Always On My Mind was actually her 11th novel.

In 1996, Colette had become disillusioned with her office job and began using her lunch break to devour every kind of book -- good and bad. After a fateful encounter with a particularly bad one, she thought, ''I can do better than this'' and the result was Too Little Too Late, which was published in 1999. Since then, she's certainly been prolific, which isn't necessarily a good thing. So it was with a degree of trepidation that I picked up Always On My Mind. But within the opening pages, I began to realise that her fans, who have ensured that all her novels have been bestsellers in this country, are on to something.

Molly Jackson knows she is a lucky woman. She has the perfect job as an agony aunt for online magazine Teenage Kix, is very close to her loving family and in just a few weeks, she is to marry her boyfriend of four years. The wedding arrangements are all in place, thanks to big sister Laura, when Declan drops his bombshell. He needs to go abroad on business and the marriage must be postponed.

Molly, who had secretly suspected that she had forced Declan to propose, is still reeling from the shock when she bumps into her childhood sweetheart Luke.

She hasn't seen him in almost 12 years since they were both 18, and they have unfinished business, a whole lot of unfinished business.

But you always pay a price for revisiting the past, and Molly's actions have consequences for herself and all her loved ones.

Always On My Mind is an enjoyable and well-crafted read. Molly is a realistic heroine and many will appreciate her dilemma, even if she does seem to resolve it with relative ease, and I found myself quite intrigued by Laura.

Caddle's legions of fans will definitely appreciate her latest offering and at least one new reader will be plundering her back catalogue.

Irish Independent

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