What do you buy for the woman who has everything? Rob Blake thinks he has it cracked when he commissions a piece of jewellery for his wife Cat's birthday. But this is no ordinary necklace. The bespoke bling will be like nothing she's seen before, because he is paying the designer, Laura, a small fortune to dedicate all her time to it. She will interview Cat's nearest and dearest, and design a charm that tells the story of each relationship.
You'd be forgiven for mistakenly thinking this is Cat's story. And in fact I was surprised by how little it really has to do with her, despite the premise of her life story. Instead, this is all about Laura, the jeweller with a past, a woman who is clearly not what she seems. Which is a bit of a shame because given the choice, I think I'd befriend Cat over Laura any day. By the time we discover why Laura is the way she is it's a bit late for you to warm to her, whereas Cat is the opposite, someone you grow fond of before you discover her dirty little secrets, by which point she's like an old friend and you can't just dump an old friend because you've discovered some surprises about her past, can you?
There are stories within stories in this book, both those you would expect (Cat and her friends; Cat and her exes; Cat and her family) and those you wouldn't (who knew Laura's family would matter?) There are lots of characters too, both from Cat's life and Laura's, and it's not always clear how they interact with each other when they first pop up, though things get explained over time.
The book goes on, and on, and at over 500 pages I found it a little long for the genre, despite having a good crack at it on a plane, my long favoured reading spot. The highlights for me were Verbier, and the party for Cat's birthday, these being the places where most of the action happened, and the truth surfaced. I thought the suspense was done well and there was lots of it, though in a mildly mysterious way rather than a thoroughly thrilling one. Laura has lots of secrets, and I was correct to be confident that these would surface over time, from the reasons behind her red-shoe obsession to her friendship with Fee and her 'episodes'. I also appreciated the way the charms were kept hidden from the reader the way they were from Cat and indeed Rob. It would have been reasonable enough to disclose them as the interviews went on, but having a big reveal at the end was a satisfying conclusion.
I enjoyed this book but I felt not all of the characters stayed, well, in character throughout. Episodes of drugs and adultery seemed out of place, and I found it hard to believe all the elements of Laura's past. Relationships are forged and then altered too quickly, and Rob seemed a bit too quick at switching to Mr Nice Guy from Mr Nasty. If I could change one thing, it would be the descriptions of the charms, because I found it really hard to imagine the quality of the designs being talked about. I knew they must be impressive given how much people were willing to pay, but I just couldn't see them in my mind, which was a shame as they're like another character in this book.
This aside, it was a good, sink your teeth into read. I might have personally had fewer charms, so fewer stories and fewer characters, but in the end I feel they pulled it off. Rob and Cat don't have a perfect relationship, but that makes it more readable and believable, and the charm necklace idea brings it all together nicely. It's not about their shaky past, or their unknown future, it's about the perfect present.
This review first appeared on www.thebookbag.co.uk
Out now in paperback & Kindle forms
Title: The Perfect Present
Author: Karen Swan
Publication Date: 8th November 2012
Haunted by a past she can't escape, Laura Cunningham desires nothing more than to keep her world small and precise - her quiet relationship and growing jewellery business are all she needs to get by. Until the December day when Rob Blake walks into her studio and commissions a necklace that will tell his enigmatic wife Cat's life in charms.
As Laura interviews Cat's family,friends and former lovers, she steps out of her world and into theirs - a charmed world where weekends are spent in Verbier and the air is lavender-scented, where friends are wild, extravagant and jealous, and a big love has to compete with grand passions. Hearts are opened, secrets revealed and as the necklace begins to fill up with trinkets, Cat's intoxicating life envelops Laura's own.By the time she has to identify the final charm, Laura's metamorphosis is almost complete. But the last story to tell has the power to change all of their lives forever, and Laura is forced to choose between who she really is and who it is she wants to be.
This was another perfect Christmas read this year, First time I saw The Perfect Present I just knew it was going to be a great read, it was such a cute front cover a very good chick lit cover and very eye catching.
I've never read a book by Karen Swan before so i was a bit worried I might not like this, but I was totally wrong, I loved every minute of it.
We meet the ever so sweet Laura Cunningham who is haunted by her past and has a pretty basic and small life of her growing jewellery business, her quiet relationship and a lovely best friend who keeps her sane and helps in her business. Laura is busy away sorting all her Christmas orders and making little charms when the ever so charming Rob Blake swans in and asks Laura to make him a necklace with lots of charms which each charm will represent each piece of his Wife Cat's life.
Laura must interview a few people in Cat's family,friends and former lovers..But Laura steps out of her own world into Cat's..will she change altogether or will she stay enclosed in her small simple life?
I absolutely adored this book ever so much, In the book you never really find out what haunts Laura until the last quarter of the book which actually had me in tears and felt very sorry for her indeed.
I loved the little places she visits while on her travels for the interviews, where she meets the ever so batty Kitty who is an old best friend of Cat's who has a crazy life but still wishes to be part of Cat's life but that just isn't going to happen...
I loved the style of writing and Karen definitely described everything in beautiful detail and at times I wished I could of been part of Laura's life or even the ever so handsome Rob Blake...now he just had me drooling hehe.
I loved all the characters in the book, I don't want to give the names away too much but they are all crazy but also wonderful in their own sort of way and how some of them piece Cat's life together through the interviews and the charms did make me smile.
This book is definitely in my top 10 books of the Christmas reads for 2012. You must grab a copy and read., It will make you smile,cry but also giggle.I will certainly be reading more of Karen's books and will make sure some of my friends do too!