Zoe Miller's Rival Passions is set in the Wicklow countryside outside Dublin. Serena and Jack Devlin are twins, running the family business, the luxury retreat hotel of Tamarisk. But Serena's marriage is suffering due to her devotion to her work, and Jack is coming to terms with tragedy. Their mother Charlotte has her own memories and regrets, while trying to build a new life, and best friend Kim is hiding a secret.
Rival Passions has all the ingredients for an absorbing family saga-style tale. Secrets, past and present, family problems, a luxurious setting and lifestyle. Yet it doesn't instantly suck you in as other authors in this style do, Penny Vincenzi and Douglas Kennedy being examples who spring to mind. Rival Passions is a considerably shorter novel than theirs tend to be, which shouldn't matter, but I suppose the length does narrow the scope somewhat. As a result, contrary to appearances, Rival Passions is not the saga you would expect from Vincenzi and Kennedy, but a much simpler story, despite featuring sections set in the past.
It took me a while to become properly interested in what was happening to the characters. I couldn't engage with them - they seemed slightly flat, and even the hidden secrets hinted at from the outset did not give them much depth. For some reason I found their rich lifestyles off-putting, and the luxury seemed slightly forced rather than flowing naturally as part of the characters and setting - not a problem I usually have when reading about rich characters.
The story itself does have a few different strands to it, and isn't simply linear. We hear from all four main characters as third person narrators, and all of them have their secrets which take time to be revealed. I was worried for a while that these secrets would never be fully revealed, something which is incredibly frustrating in novels, but fortunately the secrets of Rival Passions were revealed, although Miller waited quite late to get to the bottom of everything.
This is all sounding rather negative, but overall I did quite enjoy Rival Passions. It has its faults, and it is by no means an absorbing read, but it is generally enjoyable, a pleasant lightweight read which was perfect for a lazy weekend. Rival Passions is one of those books which is quite difficult to sum up - I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, but on the other hand I wouldn't want to dissuade anyone from giving it a go.
Brother and sister Jack and Serena Devlin are the owners of Tamarisk Manor, a chic, luxury hotel, ranked as the ultimate retreat for socialites and celebrities. But behind the indulgent façade, the privileged Devlin family is in turmoil ... Serena's commitment to the hotel is taking a toll on her once-perfect marriage. She finds it easier to run a multi-million euro business than to be the kind of wife that her husband expects, or the mother that her daughter deserves. Jack, struggling to come to terms with the shocking death of his wife, takes refuge in La Mimosa, their sister hotel in France. Until a chance encounter forces him to re-evaluate his whole existence... Will Serena sacrifice her marriage for the sake of success? And will Jack give up his birthright for the sake of love?
I have never yet read a Zoe Miller novel, but when I was sent this one to review by the publishers, my eye was really caught by the bright cover, and it sounded like the sort of book I would enjoy as well. Miller is an Irish author, and since I seem to really enjoy Irish penned fiction, it seemed a sure bet that I would like this one too. Luckily, I was right and Rival Passions was a fantastic book that I really didn't wany to put down in the evenings! It was an intriguing and fun story that had me guessing how things would end up for the characters up until the last page, and it's certainly made me want to pick up more of Zoe Miller's books!
The book is the story of twins Jack and Serena Devlin, who run a hotel called Tamarisk Manor. While Serena is dedicated to making the hotel a success at apparently any cost, Jack has recently been widowed and is struggling to put his life back together again. He's pretty much run out on the business and has left Serena to run it all alone, much to the annoyance of her husband Paul and their four year old daughter Harriet. But when it seems Jack might have other things on his mind, Serena is determined to make him step up to the plate and the legacy that their parents left them. Their mother is also suffering, watching her daughter struggle and her son not step up to his responsibilities but is powerless to act and help them out. This is really a family saga, involving lots of members of the Devlin family, and how they struggle to keep their relationships both personally and professionally, and this is for me what made it such a great read.
I did feel sorry for Serena, being left to run the business by herself and also struggling to cope with being Harriet's mum as well. As a reader, we could see what was going on with her yet her husband Paul seemed (understandably) a bit blinkered and just wanted her to be a wife and mother again. I did have a little dislike for Jack, he seemed very irresponsible and too quick to land his sister in trouble at work, and only cared about himself. Yes, he'd been in a tough situation but still that was no reason to abandon his responsibilites. I also liked the character of their mother, she was a feisty lady, who ran a hotel pretty much single handedly for years, and I enjoyed reading her develop as the story progressed. Overall, it was a great cast and Miller really brings them to life in her writing, creating these people and a fantastic setting too.
Miller writes the luxurious and beautiful resort of Tamarisk Manor perfectly, you can really imagine the setting in your mind as you read about the sumptuous rooms, the spa and beautiful grounds, and it really does sound amazing! Yes, we know there's a recession going on and that is mentioned in the book, with the hotel having to make cutbacks but there are a few mentions of luxury and splurging and why not? It's nice to read something a bit out of the ordinary and I loved it. The setting of Ireland is fantastic, and although it flits around a bit as well, it always comes back to Tamarisk and it always felt like coming home when the book returned here. The book contains a great cast of characters, a beautiful setting and a storyline that will keep you guessing. I loved that life wasn't all plain sailing for the Devlin family, yet they tried to help each other make it through the tough times like family should. I loved this book, and will certainly be looking out for more of Zoe Miller's books after reading this fantastic book!
ISBN: 978-0749952242. Published by Piatkus on 5th January 2012. Pages: 416. RRP: £6.99. Also available as an eBook.
Thank you to the publishers for sending me a copy to review for http://chicklitchloe.blogspot.com.
Thank you for reading.