Mountains, Mystery, Romance: Can you run from your past?
Harriet Anderson’s life is spiralling out of control. Unused to such mayhem, she ditches her high-powered job to take refuge in the Swiss Alps where she meets Philippe Smith, a crime writer with a dark and shadowy past. Thrown together by chance, is their fate intertwined? Will the karma and romance of the mountains and the quaintness of the Alps soothe their troubled souls?
Or will their rocky paths create avalanches that cannot be avoided...
Bestselling authors, Erica James, Jane Green and Caroline James congratulate Nicky Clifford on her debut novel, Never Again:
“Delicious! A perfect book to cosy up with...”
This contemporary romance novel starts with an appealing premise. Harriet arrives in the Alps, escaping her life in England and taking up the position working in a hotel. There's a comical element to the set up; the hotel owners are portrayed with a touch of satire and Harriet is a very relatable character, comfortably matching our expectations for this genre. Becky, joining her in this new adventure, is equally colourful and wastes no time in flirting with the guests.
"Becky had shed her clothes in record time and was stretching her long, toned body on a towel placed very close to Philippe's. .......Becky was unbelievable! She had no morals. Not that she cared. A man was the last thing she needed in her life right now. Particularly a man like Philippe."
Yes, the enigmatic Philippe, at whom Becky has decided to set herself the challenge of snaring, despite the engagement ring on her finger! But as Harriet states, unlike Becky, she has no interest in men. She is trying to forget about her complicated relationship she has hoped to have left behind in England.
So the first third of the novel is a bit of a gentle holiday romance. Beautiful setting, celebrity guest, girl nursing a broken heart. All the right ingredients for a gentle, enjoyable read.
But as the novel continues Clifford develops her main protagonists, giving both Harriet and Philippe more complex backstories and forcing them both to confront deep issues they've tried to bury within themselves. I liked the way Philippe was allowed to develop as much as Harriet as a character and that although the story is mainly from Harriet's point of view, Philippe is more than just the male interest. There is a vulnerability about him as he too has to come to terms with loss, rejection and work out how to reconcile himself with his past.
Both characters are determined not to fall in love - never again!
"He had sworn to himself that he would be a confirmed bachelor. Forever."
"This getaway of hers was turning out to be nothing at all like she had imagined. Instead, she had walked into a nightmare. It may be a different country, but it looked as if history was repeating itself."
But there is something very magnetic about their attraction and try as they might to ignore it- or as hard as Becky tries to make sure they never see it- they seem to be constantly drawn back together and gradually have to admit their feelings for each other. However, the course of true love (never again) does run smooth.......
Philippe has a lot of soul searching to do.
"What had he become? As he rose up the ranks of the heights of a famous tennis player, his ego had grown with him. If you are treated like a king and worshipped long enough, you start to believe you are a king. ....When all of that is ripped away, you become a 'nobody'. In fact, you are worse than a 'nobody' because you are a 'has been'. You lose yourself and you become rudderless."
His heartache is as much about his sense of physical failing as an emotional one. It is Harriet's "son" Toby who is able to help Philippe overcome some of his more complicated feelings of resentment and frustration he's been experiencing since his accident.
The more we learn about Harriet, the more we learn about her previous relationship with Greg. She is obviously so scarred by his treatment of her that she becomes angry and suspecting very quickly. She is too fearful of history repeating itself.
"Her calm and ordered life had morphed into a soap opera, that she no longer recognised. And the worst thing of all, she seemed to have taken on the role of Chief Drama Queen in all of this.....From Ice Queen to Drama Queen."
The second half of the novel is dramatic and there is an increase in pace as the couple face many dilemmas, tough decisions, tragic and even life threatening situations. Almost every single hurdle that can be thrown at them, is. Just when you begin to relax and dust of your fascinator, something else comes up and your hopes of a wedding fall off the edge of the Alpine mountains. The reader is constantly shuttled backwards and forwards over the tennis net as the umpire shouts out "Will they? Won't they?" Until finally, I was almost screaming, "Well, will they or won't they???" And a few "Nooooooo not again....." 's might have slipped from under my breath!
But this is a romantic drama. And drama it must have.
It's always a credit to the author if you are shouting at fictitious people because it means the characters have left the page and climbed inside your head -which means you must care about them and you must be engaged in their story. Clifford has achieved this.
The story is one of love, betrayal, loss, trust and fate. Harriet has to face many tough decisions to which there are no easy answers. She has to learn to trust again just as Philippe has to learn to accept who and what he now is.
It is also a novel about family. Elspeth, an elderly guest at the hotel who is an eccentric breath of fresh air, brings much light relief to the pages as well as a candid honesty and wisdom. Then there is Philippe's family who add a further depth to his character and role. The reader becomes part of these extended families and all of them have a part to play in the resolution of the story.
It is a bit cliched in places but in a very comforting and pleasing way. The book is well written and although it treads the well worn path of a decent chick lit read, the reader is forever wondering whether there will indeed be a happy ending and just what the fate of Harriet and Philippe really will be. There's always room for one more twist!
This is Clifford's first novel and I think it is a confident, solid book. If you enjoy chick lit and romantic novels, you will find this a rewarding read. I will be looking out for anything else she writes and I think Clifford's "Never Again" will sit snugly alongside other contemporary popular titles from the likes of Lucy Dillon and Cecelia Ahern.
"Never Again" by Nicky Clifford publishes on 21st October 2016 and is available to buy on Amazon.
I received a copy of "Never Again" from Nicky Clifford in return for a fair and honest review which I believe this is. My thanks to Nicky for the advanced copy.
MORE ABOUT NICKY CLIFFORD
Theale resident and writer, Nicky Clifford, launches her debut novel, Never Again, on October 21st and her dream of seeing her book in print finally becomes reality. Never Again has received warm reviews ahead of publication and looks set to storm its way up the Amazon charts in romantic fiction.
A successful poet with scores of poems and articles published, Nicky completed a writing course at Reading University and says her local writing group was instrumental in motivating her to get the book finished. With a corporate background in HR and training, Nicky says her skills never prepared her for the complex minefield of editing, web design and social media required for today’s indie authors and she is fortunate in having a very patient family as housework has gone on the back-burner!
Never Again is a contemporary romance set in the heart of Berkshire and also in the Swiss Alps where Nicky worked during a placement whilst at university. Bestselling authors, Erica James, Jane Green and Caroline James have congratulated Nicky, and Caroline describes the book as, “Delicious! A perfect book to cosy up with...”
Nicky is making a donation from the book’s profits to the charity, Childhood Tumour Trust (childhoodtumourtrust.org.uk). Never Again is available via Amazon for pre-order download now and will be available to download and in paperback from October 21st
Nicky Clifford lives with her family in Theale and works for the local charity, Auticulate. She is the author of three novels and Never Again is the first to be published. A keen ice-skater, Nicky hung up her boots to concentrate on her writing.
Email: nickyLclifford@hotmail.co.uk Tel: 07766950347
www.nickyclifford.com Twitter: @nickynovelist
For more recommendations and reviews follow me on Twitter @katherinesunde3 (bibliomaniacuk)