Review of The Charmer, a novel, by Mandasue Heller
I am review the paperback version of the novel, 392 pages, published by Hodder Headline. ISBN 9781444705768. Cover price £6.99.
This is the first novel I have read by this author. Part of the reason I purchased it was the recommendation of a book review site, where the author's writing was compared to that of Martina Cole, a writer I am familiar with.
The central character, Maria Price has led a difficult life, orphaned at a young age when her single parent mother dies in a road accident, Maria is left totally alone in the world. The Social Services system kicks in and Maria is taken into care. She is uprooted from her native Manchester and sent to a children's home in Devon. Maria survives the care system relatively unscathed and although she is often lonely, she learns to be very self reliant. She completes her education by attending university and qualifying as an art teacher. Maria has built a pleasant life for herself in Teignmouth, where she has a flat, a job and a good circle of friends.
The storyline really takes off on Maria's 21st birthday when she receives some surprising post. Her world is shaken to the core, as the letter is from a solicitor advising her that she is the sole beneficiary of an aunt's estate. As Maria was unaware of any living relatives, she is suspicious of the information but agrees to travel up to Manchester with her friend Beth to meet the solicitor.
Maria finds that she is indeed the heir to the estate of a Miss Elsie Leonora Davidson and that she has inherited a house and a small fortune. She decides to remain in Manchester to view the house and her friend returns to Devon alone. In the bar of the hotel where she is staying, Maria meets an attractive stranger, Joel Parry, a good looking, charming man who manages to ply her with drink and seduce her. Joel isn't all he seems to be and unbeknown to Maria, he carries a dark secret.
Maria is horrified at her own behaviour and ashamed that she had a one night stand with a stranger. She is a feisty and self assured young woman and vows that this will never occur again.
She decides to move up to Manchester to live in the house she now owns and build a new life. When she bumps into Joel again, he just walks back into her life, her home and her heart. Before long he has moved into her house and is helping her to spend her money. Maria finds herself slowly but surely becoming immersed in a world where Joel is her whole life, yet she actually knows very little about him.
The plot may sound rather similar to that of a 'chick-lit' novel, however there are several dark and sinister twists to keep the reader on their toes.
More I will not reveal for fear of spoiling the plot for others!
==About the Author==
Mandasue Heller was born in Cheshire, she moved to Manchester in 1982. She has sung in cabaret and rock groups, seventies soul cover bands and blues jam bands. She has a partner who is a musician and three children. The family still live in Manchester.
==Availability and Price==
I purchased my copy from Asda in their January sale for the knock down price of £1. The novelist was on my 'to read' list as mentioned above. The jacket price on the paperback is £6.99 and it is also available from various online booksellers such as www.amazon.co.uk or High Street book shops.
==My Thoughts and Conclusion==
Mandasue Heller's writing style is similar to that of Martina Cole, gritty, down to earth and she pulls no punches. There is violence and strong language within the plot, but not in the huge quantity found in Ms Cole's novels.
I found the central character female, Maria, likeable yet irritating. Her personality altered as the plot progressed from a strong willed young woman to that of a cowed and dependant girl. The main male character, Joel, the 'charmer' of the book's title was a truly nasty piece of work, a user of women and a thoroughly unpleasant person. The central characters are very well drawn and they are believable.
I considered this novel to be a well written and absorbing book, worthy of a 5* rating. I would certainly recommend the novel to others who enjoy a crime novel with plenty of twists and turns and a gritty plot.
Thank you for reading.
©Brittle1906 February 2010.
N.B. My reviews may be found on other review sites under the same user name.
The Charmer By Mandasue Heller
Being pregnant and pretty much housebound due to the extreme swelling of both my feet and ankles, has given me the time to try and relax and get through as many books as possible in my to read pile. This one book I have had for a little while and have been meaning to get around to reading it. Finally I have had the time and once I started it I just couldnt put it down and finished it within a few days.
Mandasue Heller is a new writer to me and I have only this year started to read her works. I have been reading Martina Coles books for a long while now and have worked my way through each one of her books. These two authors are pretty similar in styles so I am sure if you enjoy reading Martina Cole then Mandasue Heller would be right up your street.
Admittedly Mandasue Heller is far easier to read, as her books are shorter and far less complicated. You can get through one of her books within days where as Martina Cole writes much more in-depth and really gets you to know her characters this is somewhat missing from Mandasue Hellers writing style.
The book The Charmer is probably one of Mandasue Hellers best in my opinion. It is set in the grimy estates of Manchester and seems to be very close to real life. The main character Maria Price who has grown up in care ever since her mum died when she was a small child comes across as a good strong character and Heller portrays her very well that you feel as though you really know her. One day she is luckily enough to inherit an old large house outside of the grimy estates she is so familiar with and truly cannot believe her luck.
Then she meets Joel Parry. He is indeed a real charmer good looking, kind and caring Maria really thinks her luck is in. She begins to form a relationship with Joel who seems to be well known among the right circles in Manchester. Maria finds herself falling head over heels for this fantastic man who is brilliant in bed and can seem to fulfil her every fantasy. Joel quickly moves in to Marias grand home and is forever grateful to Maria for helping him out when he finds himself in need of a new place to stay, albeit his choice. The money Maria acquired together with the house is eagerly spent by Joel and Maria believing he is spending it with her not for her is happy to go along with all Joels schemes.
But there is more to Joel than meets the eye and he is heavily into the dangerous world that is the Manchester drug scene. He has hidden a lot from Maria, things that even he wishes he could forget. Everyone knows however that the past has a funnyu way of catching up with you and for joel Parry this is no different. Maria is caught up in this world she has longed to miss her by and has done a good job at keeping it at bay so far.
I really dont want to say too much more about the story line otherwise that will really give the whole book away. The plot is fairly basic boy meets girl with money, boy spends money, boy ends up hurting girl. Of course there is a lot of fluff around this plot and although a good read I never seemed to be drawn into the book as much as I would like. The characters are portrayed just enough but I really would of liked more. I think Mandasue Heller could go deeper with her storylines as they have the basics there for a fantastic book. However they really do not meet up to Martina Coles standards and I think Mandasue Heller has a long way to go before producing something of Coles quality.
The book was enjoyable to read even if it did only take a few days to get through. The story line is pretty memorable and fairly easy to get into and keep you interested. I enjoy reading Mandasue Hellers style and would think most people could be drawn into her world even if she doesnt bring it right up close.
A good book from Mandasue Heller and one I would recommend even if I wouldnt read it again.
Gritty crime for fans of Martina Cole from an author whose sales are doubling with each new book. Maria is an ambitious young graduate about to embark on a journey round the world with friends. Her life is a million miles from that of her early childhood in Manchester. A life she had escaped from when her mother was murdered, and she never imagined she would return. When a letter informing her that she has inherited a property arrives, it changes all her plans. Maria wants to sell as soon as she can but then she meets charming, mysterious Joel. He has other ideas and when Maria starts delving into her lover's secrets, things start to turn nasty.