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The Rose Petal Beach by Dorothy Koomson is a story of many parts. It starts with a visit from the police with a shocking accusation and continues through a story of twists and turns - partly a suspense-filled thriller, partly a family drama, partly a story of female friendships. It is told through the voices of the main female characters and switches between their present stories and their past. I had read a couple of Dorothy Koomson's earlier novels ('My Best Friend's Girl' and 'Marshmallows for Breakfast' and found them to be more typical of women's fiction , albeit with more serious issues at the heart of their stories than your typical 'chick-lit', but I felt that 'The Rose Petal Beach' was a departure from the style of those books.
It is difficult to say too much about the story without giving away the secrets of the plot. The main character is Tamia Challey, married to her childhood sweetheart, living in a beautiful house with their two daughters. Outwardly, their life seems pretty idyllic but, as we know, in this type of story things are rarely what they seem. At the outset of the book, Scott is arrested and charged with an act which sends shockwaves reverberating through the Challey family and their friends. Suddenly Tamia is forced to confront issues which she had refused to think about and question everything that she believed about her little family. The accusation also affects her two closest friends, Beatrix and Mirabelle. And, as the book progresses, things end up getting a whole lot worse.
As previously mentioned, this book is told in a variety of voices - notably Tamia and her friend Beatrix. It took me a while to get into the story because it jumped around so much in the early stages but, as you start to feel more familiar with the characters and get a better idea of their personalities, I feel that the multi-voiced style definitely works. The predominant 'voice' in the story is that of Tamia - she is very much the central character and, in my opinion, the one that has the strongest voice. Koomson's writing pulls you deep into Tamia's mind - you feel her anger, her confusion, the hurt and sense of betrayal as the story progresses, as well as her passionate desire to protect her little girls from what is happening. I also loved the flashbacks that explained the relationship between Tamia and her husband Scott - those glimpses into the past made you care about them more as a couple, knowing what they had experienced before getting to this place in their lives. Beatrix was also an interesting character - initially you find out very little about what makes her tick but, as her story unfolds in tandem with the main plot, she becomes much more central to Tamia's story. You don't get to hear Scott's side of the story in the same way - his story is told through Tamia's reaction to it, which I felt was a clever writing technique which made me emphasise with Tamia even more. The other major characters are also well developed - they don't start off with a 'back story' in the way that the Challeys do, but things are revealed during the course of the main narrative as Tamia discovers them for herself.
'The Rose Petal Beach' is available in paperback (currently £3.85 on Amazon) and for download on to the Kindle. There are also a couple of free downloads in the Kindle Store which accompany this novel, although I haven't downloaded either of them so can't comment on the content.
Overall, this is a book which I would really recommend. The story pulled me in and kept me wanting to know what happened next. It was one of those books where I often ended up feeling annoyed as the train pulled into my station as I didn't want to stop reading it which, for me, is always a sign of a good story. The storyline is fast-paced and has far more twists and turns than I expected it to have - I thought that the story would all revolve around the initial accusation but, in reality, that is merely the event that kick-starts an even more dramatic chain of events. The switching between characters and past/presents does take a little bit of getting used to, especially if you are not used to reading books with multiple narrative voices, but it is definitely worth sticking with. The characters are well-written and I felt myself really caring about what happened to Tamia and her family. And, I was surprised by the way it ended which, for me, is a sign of a good book.
Tamia Challey thought that she had it all. She's happily married to husband Scott, and together they have 2 beautiful young daughters, a lovely home, 2 best friends, Beatrix and Mirabelle whom she loves dearly, and is happy. But all that changes when one evening, a police officer knocks on the door and arrests her husband. Scott seems to know what is coming, but Tamia doesn't and is shell-shocked. What follows is the undoing of Tamia's life as she knows it, with shock revelations and truths being uncovered that Tamia had no idea about. Will Tamia choose to fight for her marriage, or has too much damage been done to ever come back from?
Nothing gets me more excited in a list of book publications than a new Dorothy Koomson novel. I absolutely adore her books, the drama, the shocking twists and turns along the way, and the dramatic storylines that she effortlessly weaves between the pages. Dorothy has just moved publishers to Quercus, so this book has been a little while coming, but believe me when I say it's worth the wait. The Rose Petal Beach is a stunning novel of love, loss and betrayal and has an equally stunning cover to match, I love the muted tones and how they clash with the red of the rose petals. For fans of Dorothy's previous books, you will love this one, I guarantee it!
It's sort of hard to review this book because I don't want to reveal too much of the storyline, as one of the best things about reading it is undiscovering the story as it slowly unfolds. Koomson manages the book by telling it through the present tense, with Tamia and Scott's story unfolding, and then moves back and forth between the past and present, telling us the back story of Tamia and co, the back story of their lives and how they have ended up in the predicament that they are in. Many of the chapters are from Tamia's point of view, although we also get chapters from Beatrix, Tamia's best friend and Fleur, a character revealed later on in the book, and the mix of narrative worked well, and gives us different sides of the story too.
The story is based around one theme, which progresses and changes at the book goes on, but the driving force of the book is the emotion of the characters. Koomson manages to get into the heart of her characters and really display their feelings through her words, and also their actions. In particular, I felt she wrote Tamia amazingly well, the wronged wife struggling to keep life going as normally as she can, and I felt so sorry for her. The other characters, well you don't see things until they are revealed by Koomson and I loved that, it really keeps an air of suspense throughout the book as you seriously don't know what is happening, and I was left in shock when things came to a conclusion at the end of the book.
I would argue that this is probably my favourite of Koomson's novels to date. It has all of the ingredients to make a fantastic book, and Koomson makes them work well together to create a gripping and tense story that will leave you on the edge of your seat desperate to read more pages. It's a big old hardback book, and at over 400 pages, it's a long story but it makes full use of every page. I loved it, I loved the characters, the storyline, the mystery throughout, it's just a great book and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves high quality women's fiction. Koomson seems to get better and better with every book and this books reaffirms why she's one of the my favourite authors! Read it!
ISBN: 978-1780874968. Published by Quercus on 30th August 2012. Pages: 416. RRP: £12.99. 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.