Book Review: Strictly Love by Julia Williams

Guilty feet have got plenty of rhythm ! Kick off your shoes and snuggle up with this warm and witty new novel from the author of the bestselling Pastures New Lawyer Emily promised her late father that she’d devote her life to good causes. So how comes she spends her days defending Z-listers, desperate to prolong their 15 minutes of fame? Katie is obsessed with being the perfect wife and mother – unlike her own one. In which case, why is husband Charlie permanently AWOL these days? Dentist Mark is licking his wounds after his wife walked out on him and desperately missing his kids. Can he cope with becoming a singleton again – on top of a devastating legal case against him? Meanwhile, happy-go-lucky Jack the Lad Rob is hiding a secret tragedy! Isabella’s dance class give the four the perfect opportunity to forget their troubles and re-invent themselves. They can be whoever they want to be – they’ll just let their feet do the talking. Over the weeks, as they foxtrot, tango, waltz and chachacha their way into each other’s lives, they discover the truth about each other – and themselves. But will they like what they learn?

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.

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. I do think Julia Williams wrote very good female characters, even Sam, the nightmare ex, and Jasmine the zedleb have promise as interesting central characters in their own right.

My Rating: 3.5

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