I was expecting typical chick lit, when I picked out 'A summer fling' at the library. The cover is very girlie, with a very summery looking cover featuring a lady in a sun dress, a group of friends having fun, and a dull row of houses in the background with the sun setting in the background. At nearly 500 pages, it is a lot longer than conventional chick lit, and I perhaps should have guessed it would be better than expected.
Starting the story, I felt it had the potential to be aq bit dull. The first few chapters set the scene to the story, and the characters did not feel that interesting to me. Set in a Bakery department of a big supermarket chain's office, the Manager has just taken early retirement, and the rest of the department are a bit unsure as what to expect next. The Assistant manager, a creep called Malcolm, has been moved sideways, and an unknown boss, Christie Somer's is about to join them.
Grace, in her 50s, in a dull marriage, has turned down early retirement herself to take on the Assistant manager role rather than be stuck at home with the husband and ungrateful daughter. Anna is approaching 40, and rather subdued after her fiance traded her in for a younger model. Raychel is in her 30s, happily married, but rather reclusive. And lastly, Dawn, bubbly, very organised, and happy to be organising a wedding to her fiance Calum.
The group do not gel, and when Christie walks into their life, she is the breath of fresh air that their lives so desperately need. In a way, they are all stuck, and need some help and inspiration to move on in their lives. Christie with her bright clothes and kind nature helps them all bond as friends, and changes all of their lives for the better.
I started to warm to the book quite quickly as the characters were a real mixed bunch of people, who were initially not that interesting, but as their friendships developed I couldn't help but feel warm about them and involved in what was happening to them.
I'm a Yorkshire girl myself, so I liked the fact it was set in my home county, as I recognised references to some of the local places, and I felt it was very true to the way that Yorkshire woman tend to be. Mostly keeping things to themselves, but with a good friend, a problem shared is a problem halved. Also, a willingness to help each other out through thick and thin. I also felt that the level of 'grim' in the story, as in 'it is grim up North' was appropriate, showing that there are some real diamonds among the rough. The stereotypical family of Calum Crooke, Dawn's fiance, also had me in stitches. How true to life, I'm sure I see one or two of them when out and about myself. And made similar comments about some of them looking like they are waiting to go on Jeremy Kyle.
I found myself becoming totally engrossed in their lives and the rich interaction between the characters. Nothing felt contrived to get to where the author wanted the plot to go. It was just a warm story, which thankfully falls into chick lit and has a very warm ending.
I found myself thinking it was a bit like the style of Joanne Harris in 'chocolat'. A mystery woman (Vianne Rocher) Christie Somers, breezes into their lives and starts to change the lives of the people around her as if by magic. This book is as well written, but a bit less ethereal, as you feel like the women are going to be permanent fixtures now in each others lives, and that it would be lovely if there was a follow on to this story so you could see what this is.
I found this incredibly well written, with a mix of good strong characters who are fully rounded and developed, and the plot was non-deliberate, non-meandering, and a pretty good read. I have not read anything by Milly Johnson before, but I would jump upon anything else I spotted by her to see if it was as good as this.
"A Summer Fling" follows the lives of four women who, in perhaps a first for a chick lit novel, work in the bakery department of a supermarket chain. They're all a little nervous at the imminent arrival of their new boss Christie but don't confide their worries to one another, none of them having ever really spoken to each other before, despite working together five days a week. Christie has a huge job ahead to mould them into a team and teach each team member to support and rely on her comrades.
The oldest of our ladies is Grace. In her fifties, she feels stifled by her husband and pressured by him to take early retirement, retirement from the job that provides the only escape from her loveless marriage. Thirty nine year old Anna was devastated when her fiancé left her for a much younger model and now only leaves the house to go to work, spending her time daydreaming about her lost fiancé coming back to her. Dawn, at 33, has been desperate to have a family ever since she was orphaned as a teenager. Engaged to the dreadful Calum and deeply attached to the security she feels this brings, Dawn seems impervious to all of his many, many flaws. The youngest of the women is Raychel, 28, who appears to have a blissful marriage to her childhood sweetheart Ben; but why haven't they had children, and why is Raychel so quiet and withdrawn?
It took me a chapter or two to get properly immersed in the book, but once I was there I was really hooked: there's loads of excitement and intrigue, with plenty of secrets to be uncovered as we discover more about the protagonists.
My favourite character was Grace; I felt so sorry for her with her awful husband wanting to permanently whisk her away to a caravan. I loved how her story developed and I thought the relationships between her and her stepchildren were brilliantly dealt with.
Some of the novel's other great personalities were Dawn's future family-in-law, who were hilariously awful, and her fiancé, who has to be one of literature's laziest bums. It's a true testament to Milly Johnson's writing that you could really empathise with Dawn and understand why she'd stuck with these awful people for so long - a big, close family was what she felt was missing from her life.
Part of the novel that I particularly enjoyed was Anna's transformation; not just the physical changes, her care of herself and her smiles, but the mental alterations, how the scars of her fiancé leaving heal. Anna's love interest, the vampire character, was a little bizarre, but if Milly wants to add a little Gothic vampirism to her text then who am I to complain?
There were some aspects of this book that really made it stand out. I especially felt that making the women differing ages gave the novel a wide appeal and I found it interesting to see events from their various perspectives. I enjoyed having Barnsley as the setting; it gave the story a very different feel to the usual metropolitan chick lit.
This is the first of Milly Johnson's books that I've read, and I'll be working my way through her back catalogue soon. It contained some brilliantly written characters and the intertwining plots were all captivating. Yes, there were parts of the novel that were a little far-fetched, but what's wrong with a little escapism eh?
I started reading this book about 6 weeks ago whilst sat in the garden, and it was the first book by Milly Johnson I have read. I have to say I wasn't that impressed with the style of writing, it wasn't funny, it didn't keep me interested or on the edge of my seat, but I did read it to the end to find out what happened to the characters.
The story revolved around five main characters who were a group of women who had worked together in a office for a while, but had never really made an effort with each other to make friends due to their problems in their lives distracting them. Then a new woman called Christie joined the company and forced them all to interact more, and socialise. First there is Anna, who has recently been dumped by her fiancé for a younger woman, then there is Dawn, about to get married to Calum who is lazy and would rather spend his time in the pub rather than with her, grace who is married to Gordon, and Rachel who is married to Ben with a dark secret. The book follows how each of them get over their problems, and it was nice how the friendships grew between the five women.
Out of all the characters I enjoyed Dawns story the most, a lot of girls would be able to relate to her, but I didn't really get into the story between Rachel and Ben. Rachel was hardly mentioned throughout the book, there were only a few paragraphs of her story randomly here and there and I didn't think the book really needed this character, I thought she was a bit pointless and her story very boring. The book seemed to focus more on Dawn and Anna's story more than the other girls. I loved the character of Christie and the characters of the five women were very believable, but I did sort of predict the ending for most of them, but there were a few surprises I didn't expect.
This wasn't a book that I couldn't put down and read in a couple of days, but I'm glad I read it, even though it was hard to get into. I don't think I will be reading any more books by Milly Johnson as she failed to keep me interested through out and the way the book read was just a bit boring.
Although I did enjoy reading about some of the characters, some just bored me, but it was a good book to read just sitting about in the garden.
When Christie comes to take over the reigns at the Bakery Department in which 5 ladies work, they don't expect to develop the friendships and bonds that they do, especially that they've barely spoken a work to each other in the many years they've already worked there! There's young Dawn who is planning her wedding to fiancé Calum, but starting to have niggly doubts about him and his lifestyle. Anna has been dumped by her fiancé Tony for younger woman Lynette but she still doesn't seem to be over him. She's sure that everyone sees the dowdy, hideous woman she sees when she looks in the mirror, but mysterious Vladimir Darq is out to prove her wrong.
Grace married her husband because of his children, not through true love, and now it's coming back to bite her in a big way. Can she get out before it takes a turn for the worse? And finally, there's Raychel who is hiding a secret past that no one else but her husband knows about. Will the other ladies be able to coax her out of her shell? All together, these women realise how much they need each other and the friendships that come with it too, and help is what they'll need to get them through some troubling times ahead!
This is Milly Johnson's fourth book, and it's not a secret to say that I have looked forward to this one for absolutely ages! I first read her debut novel The Yorkshire Pudding Club a few years back, and then quickly moved onto her next book The Birds and The Bees which was just a good! Her third book A Spring Affair was also brilliant (seeing a pattern here?!) so I had very high hopes for this one, and luckily Milly hasn't let me down again! I was so excited when I opened the parcel to discover a copy of this book and I actually started it there and then, I just couldn't wait, and finished it a day later. I was actually up until 1am because I couldn't bear the thought of going to sleep and not knowing how it was all going to end for everyone! I hope my review conveys just how much I adored this book, because it really does deserve a glowing review.
Immediately, I was drawn into the book because I met all the characters within the first few paragraphs, and that straight away set the scene for the book, showing us all the different characters and how they all are together before Christie is introduced into the mix. I actually expected that to happen a lot sooner but I am glad Milly makes us wait a little bit so we really get to know these characters before we start to see them change before our eyes. The book begins in April and progresses through the book until we end up in June, and I think the three month time-frame is perfect for the book and pace of the story.
I won't go into too much detail with all of the characters because there are quite a few, and I don't actually want to spoil anything about the book for you because it's such a brilliant read. What I love about Milly's books is how believable her characters are as people, and this is certainly the case in this book. My favourite character was definitely Christie, she is a breath of fresh air not only for her colleagues but for the book as a whole. She breezes through in her bright suits and really cheered me up, you just wish you had a friend like Christie! I also loved the character of Anna - she's very self-deprecating as a lot of us women are so I could relate to her in that respect, and I enjoyed seeing her character grow throughout the book very much.
Milly has been brave in this book and created a character that is totally unexpected, and not a character you would expect to see in a chick lit book like this at all, and that is Vladimir Draq. He's a Romanian designer that has a wonderful story with Anna, but also there is a bit of a mystery to him as well... is he a vampire? I was worried that this character would seem totally out of place in the book but I loved the whole mystery around it, and I think Milly has done a great job of integrating this storyline into the lives of these normal 5 women.
What I loved most about this book however was the emotion running right throughout it. It was funny and it made me laugh... it was sad and I felt the sadness along with the characters, and every other emotion that these people felt I felt like I did so too. Milly writes in such an easy to read way that you quickly find yourself plowing through the book and I'd devoured nearly half of it before I realised what was happening, I was so engrossed in it! It's got a real heart in it, and that's what will make it appeal to so many people out there who love a good, fun and emotional read. I can't tell you enough how much I loved it, there is nothing to dislike at all and if you don't pick up a copy, then you'll really be missing out on a superb read. Amazing!
ISBN: 978-1847392831. Published by Pocket Books in April 2010. Pages: 496. RRP: £6.99.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitreviews.com
Thank you for reading.