Julia Williams is one of my many favourite authors and I have read most of her recent books. However, I had not read her second book, 'Strictly Love' (written in 2008) until recently when my husband gave it to me for my birthday. I'm always slightly worried about reading earlier works from my favourite authors as they have often improved with age and experience! However, this was not the case with 'Strictly Love' which I enjoyed from start to finish and I would say that I enjoyed as much as any of her other books that I have read.
Julia Williams has picked a great subject with 'Strictly Love' as it is all about people who meet at ballroom dancing lessons, and, as the title would suggest, there are many references to one of my favourite TV programmes - 'Strictly Come Dancing'. The dancing lessons provide a brilliant backdrop to the slightly chaotic lives of Emily, Katie, Mark and Rob who all attend and have varying degrees of success in dancing in the same way that they do in their personal lives!
Emily is unhappy working for an unscrupulous law firm representing 'zedlebrities' and also has a disastrous relationship with Callum who seems to care more about getting high on drugs than he does about her. Emily's friend Katie is married with three children but things just aren't right between her and husband, Charlie. When Katie sees the advertisement for Isabella's ballroom classes for beginners, she thinks that it will be good for both herself and Emily and at least they will have a laugh.
Mark is recently separated from wife Sam but still thinks that she is the love of his life. His mate Rob, who is temporarily sharing his house and who thinks that he is God's gift to women, sees the same advert and persuades Mark that they should both go, thinking that it will be a great place to pick up women and to take Mark's mind of Sam.
The four meet and as the dance classes progress there are some obvious attractions. Stories and secrets unfold, dilemmas are faced and it's all likely to culminate at the big dance competition that Rob and Katie find themselves entered for. There are lots of coincidences too especially when Katie finds herself having to represent the celebrity who is suing Mark for revealing her dental history as he is her dentist.
All of the different story lines are really absorbing with equal amounts of humour and poignancy. I really liked all of the main characters too and found myself really wanting things to turn out well for all of them. There were also a few surprises in some of the various plots that I did not see coming at all so it definitely kept me on my toes as a reader and made me want to keep on reading.
Overall I think that 'Strictly Love' is a really good book with some very strong story lines and interesting characters that will keep your interest. I definitely recommend it along with all of Julia Williams' other books. 'Strictly Love' is currently available in paperback on Amazon for £6.29 (October 2011).
This is an easy, romantic read-just the sort of book for these cold afternoons!
This is Julia William's second novel following on from the success of 'Pastures New'. First printed in 2008 by Avon (a division of Harper Collins) this book follows four very different characters who share one common interest-Isabella's dance classes. Firstly, Emily who is a lawyer by trade and faces challenges in her life. Secondly, Katie, she is a wife and mother who strives to be the best she can be. Thirdly, Mark, a dentist, he has recently become single after his wife deserts him and finally Rob who hides a secret. The plot twists and turns in and out of their relationships as they discover more about themselves through dance. I can recommend this as a chick lit favourite. I like the way William's come to life in this story.
For further details of Williams and her work you can visit her own website cited at www.juliawilliamsauthor.com.
Strictly Love is Julia Williams' second novel and folllows Emily, Katie, Mark and Rob. Emily is a lawyer who wated to devote her life to good causes so how come she's defending zedlebrities (Julia's word, not mine)? Katie wants to be the perfect wife - trouble is her husband, Charlie, is away a lot. Mark has just split up with his wife and is wondering if he'll ever find love again and Rob, happy-go-lucky Rob is hiding a terrible tragedy. A dance class brings them together and they re-invent themselves - they can be anybody they like. Trouble is it may come back to bite them in the bum...
It took me about 5 days to read Strictly Love because I just couldn't find the time to sit down and really get into it. However for the past two days I've managed to sit down and really get into it and I found that I really enjoyed it.
Dancing seems to be a popular topic among chick lit books at the moment - Lucy Dillon's debut The Ballroom Class for instance. It's a great topic to read about especially if you enjoy Strictly Come Dancing or shows like that.
Coming in at under 400 pages you might think we won't have enough time to really get to know each character but we learn enough about them to care about them all. I liked Emily but found her a bit irritating when she went completely off on one with Mark because he lied to her when she herself lied to him. I think she redeemed herself in the end though, and I was happy she finally made up her mind regarding her job! I enjoyed reading about Mark and the unfortunate incident he found himself in. (More about that later) but it was Katie and Rob who made the story for me. I loved how easily they got on with each other and how they could relate with each other even though they started on a rocky foundation (Rob called Katie thunder thighs!). However reading about them dancing together was just brilliant.
I felt for Katie because she was trying so hard to be the perfect wife to Charlie and he seemed completely oblivious. His secret was not what I expected, when he blurted it out I was very surprised. I also really felt for Rob and couldn't help wondering what on Earth he was hiding that caused him so much pain. I was suitably shocked when I found out!
Along with all of the four having personal problems there's a storyline running about Mark. One of his zedlebrity clients, Jasmine (who seems to resemble Jade Goody) makes a shocking allegation and he ends up trying to defend himself and not lose his dentists' job. Trouble is, Jasmine's lawyer is Emily so that caused a lot of mayhem between the two of them. I knew how the storyline would end but I still enjoyed it.
One final twist in the story is an incident involving one of Mark's daughters. This I did not see coming! It definitely had me reading on and on, I'll tell you.
I really enjoyed Strictly Love. The third-person narrative is well written and it was very easy to get lost in the storyline once I was able to really sit down to get into it. It's well worth a read particularly if you love dancing, as I said.
After reading a couple of more depressing books recently, I fancied something more fun, lighter and easy to read. I am a big fan of programs such as Strictly Come Dancing, and indeed that is what attracted me to the book in the first place.
Strictly Love tells the story of a year in the life of four 30 somethings, all unhappy with how their life is panning out and decide to take up dancing classes for a bit of escapism.
Emily became a Lawyer after the death of her beloved Father from asbestos poisoning, when she decided she wanted a career that would make a difference to the working classes and take on large corporations. However, at the beginning of the book we find Emily has actually ended up representing 'Zedlebs' in London. Her boyfriend Callum is a rich and useless waste of space drug addict/party boy, and she is seriously disillusioned with her life.
Katy is Emily's more stable friend. She married the man she loved, has 3 gorgeous kids and a beautiful house, to the outsider she has a perfect life and works tirelessly to uphold the illusion. However behind closed doors, things are less than perfect. Katy's husband is becoming increasingly distant and her marriage faces breakdown. Katy meanwhile feels as a person she is lost in a frumpy world of motherhood, and reminisces fondly of her youthful dancing days.
Mark is a single father to two teenage girls, who he doesn't understand. His ex wife, Sam, is demanding and unreasonable, and left him for a more exciting partner. Forced to share a 3 bedroom semi, with best friend Rob, Mark is still in love with Sam, hates his job as a dentist and feels like an all round failure.
Rob, who flat shares with Mark, is a womanising commitment phobe. At 35 he's the one who never grew up, and his sole interest in dancing is to pick up more women. However, there is a deeper side to Rob, which is revealed slowly.
The book is told in the third person, and skips quickly from one of the four to the other. It wasn't difficult to know which character we where reading from at any given time, however telling the view point of 4 different people in under 400 pages means that we don't really get to know each individual character very well.
Excepting Emily, I loved all the characters, and could relate either myself or people I know to them. Particularly Rob and Katy.
Katy is a fascinating woman, who despite feeling downtrodden remains intelligent and feisty. I would have much preferred the story to centre around Katy, with Emily perhaps as an annoying friend. And I suppose most of us knows a Rob, still acting like a student and chasing women despite being in his mid thirties! I liked how his story was slow to develop and led the reader from dislike to empathy at his situation.
Emily however grated from the minute she was introduced. I am guessing she was supposed to be an intelligent, independent career woman. Personally I found her to be a simpering idiot, weak willed and with little morals. Indeed when her fledgling relationship is threatened by a moral dilemma at work, which also raises questionable ethics, she does the wrong thing. I was screaming you 'Pathetic £%$"£' in my head.
Strictly Love was released late last year, and does mention a lot of recognisable modern culture. I liked this in a way, as I could instantly see which T.V show or celebrity was being described. However this does mean that the book will become out of date pretty quickly. In fact, one of the z-lists, Jasmine, Emily represents is unquestionable based on Jade Goody, pre-illness, along with the 'rotwieiler' Mother and fame hungry boyfriend and race row. She isn't painted in a good way, so future readers will either not 'get it' or fail to hate the character as we are suppossed to.
Overall, I quite enjoyed the book. It was incredibly easy to read, and did have some unexpected twists and turns making it not as predictable as one might first imagine!. I think the big mistake was to tell the story from 4 view points. I loved Katy and thought her story alone would have been fantastic. And while I didn't like Emily, her tale had an interesting premise. Perhaps the Author could have wrote 2 books, and by dedicating more time to Emily made her a more likeable heroine. In fact, far be it from me to re-write the Authors work, I do think she wrote very good female characters, even Sam, the nightmare ex, and Jasmine the zedleb have promise as interesting central characters in their own right.
A poolside easy read, I rate this 3 stars.
Strictly Love by Julia Williams
Published by HarperCollins in 2008