I love Patricia Scanlan's books and always find them to be very readable with great story lines. I knew that I was going to enjoy Happy Ever After especially as I had already met most of the characters in another of her books - Forgive and Forget. Happy Ever is the sequel but it also stand on its own as a great story so you do not need to have read the other book first. In fact, as I had read it quite a while ago I had forgotten most of the story anyway although it did come back as I was reading. References to the past book are always explained anyway so it doesn't lessen the enjoyment not to have read Forgive and Forget first.
In Happy Ever After there are a number of different stories that are interweaved with one another. All of the characters are related though so often one story forms part of another too. Debbie and Bryan have just returned from their honeymoon but are up to their eyes in debt. Whilst Debbie is anxious to sort them out her new husband Bryan just wants to bury his head in the sand. Debbie's father's second wife Aimee has just discovered she is pregnant - much to her utter dismay. She already has enough to deal with with her teenage daughter Melissa and she has just been offered a really good job too. She wonders whether she can have an abortion without her husband Barry finding out. Things are not too good with her parents either. Aimee's father Ken is rude. Obnoxious and chauvinistic and although his wife Juliet has put up with his behaviour for years, she finally reaches breaking point. Debbie's boss is in hospital having narrowly survived a horrific car accident which, on her darkest days, she sometimes wishes had killed her. Dealing with most of these people and often having to pick up the pieces is Connie - Debbie's mum and Barry's ex wife. She's a bit fed up of being a sounding board and sorting out everyone's problems - maybe it's time for her to put herself first for once!
As you can see there are a lot of different stories to follow and you might be concerned that it is a bit too busy but it certainly isn't. All the stories merge beautifully and each is equally absorbing in its own right. It would be difficult to pick out any as being the main story, as they all seem to have equal weighting.
As always with Patricia Scanlan, I thought that all of the characters were brilliant and they all had appeal. I really felt that I was getting to know them better and better as I continued to read and they almost felt like old friends by the end of the book. They were incredibly believable and most of the female characters were very sympathetic too.
All the stories were all very rounded and complete in their own way, there is definitely part of me that wants to carry on reading and find out what happens next. You certainly feel that there might be more stories waiting to be told. I don't know if there is going to be a third book about all these characters but I would really hope so. I, for one, would buy it!
The paperback is currently available on Amazon for £3.99 (November 2010).
I was first introduced to Patricia Scanlan's books by my old boss about 6 years ago with Double Wedding. I would say she became my favourite Irish chick lit author. I quickly devoured everything she had written. However, I feel her last few books have been a slight disappointment and she has been overtaking in my opinion by Melissa Hill, I still look forward to her book releases.
Happy Ever After follows on directly from Forgive and Forget, although you do not need to have read the first book to get into this one! At the end of the Forgive and Forget, Debbie and Brian had just got married, her stepmother Aimee has just found out she is pregnant, and her Mum Connie is about to start a new job and a new life.
Debbie and Brian have just returned from honeymoon, but the honeymoon definitely seems to be over. They have returned to a big stack of bills and Debbie wonders if Brian is really ready to give up the single life and become a responsible husband. However her relationship with step sister Melissa is going from strength to strength, but can Debbie see what is really going on in Melissa's life...
Aimee is mortified to find herself pregnant, just as she has been offered her dream job. With a teenage daughter she thought her baby days were long behind her, but can she really not go through with the pregnancy, and will she tell her husband Ken about the baby?
Connie has just started her new job as a private nurse, and with less hours she is looking forward to some well earned me time. Can the handsome Drew provide a much needed change from being burdened with her family's problems?
Like most of Patricia Scanlan's books Happy Ever After is really easy to read - I got through this book in about 2 days. The chapters are not too long, and the third person narrative allows the book to move between the characters while giving good descriptions of all the characters so you feel you get to know them all. It is written like several separate stories that are all connected; and each chapter picks up a different character's life.
The characters were all well written and believable, and although I did not like all the characters I found their actions plausible. Aimee is written as the villain of the piece, and although she doesn't come across as a very nice person I did find myself feeling sorry for her in places and although some of her actions may appear questionable, I think they would at least come to mind if you were in her situation even if you wouldn't dream of acting on them. I couldn't warm at all to Debbie, although she didn't come across as irritating and spoilt as in the previous book, but I just found her a bit wishy washy and felt myself wanting to give her a good shake!! Connie was the hero of the piece, and it was hard not to root for her finding a bit of happiness when she had all the others dumping their problems on her shoulders. I also liked the side story of Judith and her mum Lily following her car accident - in the last book we saw the growth of Lily who had become reclusive since the death of her husband, and in this one we see the changes in Judith as she comes to terms with the years wasted looking after her mum and how this has made her bitter and unhappy - there are some real raw emotional scenes where you can't help but feel for Judith.
This should have been such a great book - the characterisation is great, the storyline is engaging and it tackles a whole range of scenarios which starts to move it away from fluffy chick lit. However, the ending really lets this book down. It is as if Patricia Scanlan thought 'I'm bored of writing this now' and just lumped a half hearted epilogue on the end that seemed to resolve nothing. I would assume that her next book would be a follow up but there is nothing in this book to indicate that, and even if there is to be a continuation the loose ends should have been more tied up than they were. Forgive and Forget finished leaving you wanting more but the wedding provided an adequate conclusion, but this just seems to feel unfinished, which is really disappointing as this could have been a great book. As it is I struggle to give it more than 3 stars, and although it is worth a read I think most chick lit fans will be frustrated at the ending!
Paperback by Transworld Ireland - 523 Pages. £3.99 from Amazon.co.uk
This was on the counter at the library when I returned her last book, so I decided to check it out. I'm not sure if it was the good cover art or interest into how Scanlans books develop, but I found myself finishing this in two days, too.
Debbie is a newly wed, which usually means she should be blissfully happy and on top of the world. She isn't. She's feeling frustrated at new husband Bryan's debts, which seem to keep getting higher and higher, and is begging him to give up his high life to be a house husband. He detests the idea, however, and Debbie finds herself resenting him for his crazy spending which somehow didn't seem so bad before...
Debbie's dad has just found out that his new girlfriend Aimee is pregnant, and he is thrilled. As soon as he finds out he tells everyone he knows, and starts looking at prams and painting the nursery. He can't wait to be a dad again...Aimee doesn't feel the same, however. She's a workaholic, and thinks a baby is the worst idea ever. Will she be able to convince him that she's right, though?
Debbie's mum has had enough, and finally got over her split. She vows to move on, and meeting a very sexy new boyfriend convinces her that life is for living, and hers is stagnant. She's preparing to move on just as everyone needs her to stay, though...
This was an excellent read. The characters are well rounded, and you see all sides of them. There isn't any instantly likeable characters, as you are left to develop your own opinion of them, and that made for much better reading. Whether you agree with their thinking or not, you'll be willing everything to work out, and before the end you'll question if there really can be a happy ending. A brilliant book.