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Thirty-something Natalie has never been like the other girls. A late developer, she was always the one men made fun of rather than made out with! But now she has Dougie, a handsome young widower and father of twins who can give her everything she needs everything, that is, except the one thing she wants more than life itself: her own baby. She loves him but can she settle for his ready-made family and live in the shadow of his late wife Susan? Natalie's childhood friend Michelle had her first baby at seventeen. Abandoned by the father, Patrick, she married wealthy architect Caleb on the rebound but has not found the contentment she craves. With her two children and a heart full of longing and regret, she has come back to the holiday resort where Natalie lives, to find herself. When Patrick turns up, wanting to meet his teenage daughter, Michelle's old wounds are torn apart. For the two friends, is it time to start all over again?
I've read a couple of Emma Heatherington's books in the past and found them to be very easy reads, with good characters and lovely stories, and I thoroughly enjoyed each of them. When I was sent a copy of her latest book, All Over Again, to review I put it up near the top of my 'to-read' pile as I hoped it was going to be a lovely read just like her previous novels. The cover was pretty nice too, I like the colours and use of the two women as representations of the two main characters in the book (of sorts anyway). Now I've finished it, I thought it was a nice read but there was something about it that I just didn't click with as I have Heatherington's previous novels which I felt was a bit of a shame, but please don't let that spoil your view of it because it was an enjoyable book, I just couldn't myself to warm to the characters for some reason, I can't quite put my finger on it though!
The two main characters are childhood friends Natalie and Michelle. Natalie is a happy in her relationship with Dougie, even though his kids apparently can't stand her and make her life a misery whenever they are around. This annoyed me about Natalie - she never stood up to Dougie about their behaviour, at least not for a while and I can't imagine anyone wanting to be that much of a punchbag from obnoxious children like these. Heatherington almost tries to excuse it with the premature death of their mother, but I personally wouldn't stand for such rudeness and I don't like reading it in books either. Dougie was a bit soft for me too, a character that blended into the background a bit too much and was a tad forgettable for me, which was a shame as I really wanted it to work for Natalie and Dougie.
Michelle is the other lead character, a newly single mother of two after the breakdown of her marriage. She got out for the right reasons, and I admired her for doing that. She was quite a powerful character, I felt like she was a good force in Natalie's life and I especially loved the relationships she had with her children. However, my opinion of her changed halfway through when something happens in her lovelife that I didn't like, I don't really want to give it away but I'll just say going after men that are spoken for always lives a bad taste in my mouth. I will say again though that I loved the character of her daughter, and how refreshingly Heatherington approached not only the mother/daughter relationship but the inclusion of Shannon's father again after so many years. It was touching to read and nice to see a positive spin on this type of story.
The setting of a small rural town in Ireland was lovely, and I could imagine it in my mind as Heatherington writes about it, especially the cafe at which Natalie works and her family owns. It is described really well, and I enjoyed the way Natalie and Michelle almost relive their childhoods through their meeting again, and force themselves to reassess their lives too with the love and encouragement of the other woman in their lives. Despite all the positives, there was just something about the book I didn't click with, as I say I had a bit of a problem with Natalie and Michelle, albeit relatively small ones but it just didn't draw me in as much as her previous books, which was a shame as I really wanted to love it. The formula for it was there; good characters, a good story and its well written too but while I liked it, I just didn't LOVE it. If you're a fan of Irish fiction and Emma Heatherington then definitely pick this one up for a read because of all of the above reasons I mentioned, perhaps it's just me that had a (very slight) problem with it!
ISBN: 978-1842234594. Published by Poolbeg Books on 26th July 2011. Pages: 380. RRP: £6.99
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review.
Thank you for reading.