Today is publication day for Love Life, the debut novel by Nancy Peach. Happy publication day, Nancy. I have been lucky enough to have received an advanced copy of the book for the purposes of review, and am delighted to share that review with you today. Huge thanks to the author and her publisher for providing me with a digital copy of her book, which I have reviewed honestly and impartially.
Palliative care doctor, Tess Carter, is no starry-eyed heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision.
Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears…
In the real world, where gentlemanlike manners and out-of-the-blue declarations of love are a story-book fantasy, it’s up to Tess to decide whose voice to listen to … and how to make her own heard.
A romance book set in a hospice might not be something many feel-good book lovers would rush to pick up but, like the tag line in the book says, ‘Love can be found in the most unexpected of places’ and, similarly, a moving and uplifting love story can be found in the most unexpected of plot lines.
The main character is Tess, a young doctor working in palliative care in a hospice. Tess has been very hurt and let down by most of the men in her life (except her brother, Jake, who I was kind of in love with by the end of the book), so she is swearing off love and concentrating on her career. This approach is tested by the reappearance of a face from the past, which sets in motion the romantic escapades of the book.
Tess will be a very relatable character to most readers of the novel. Despite everyone around her being able to see that she is a capable, caring, genuine, accomplished human being who anyone would be privileged to know, she is riddled with self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy and is constantly at war with these feelings which hold her back from having the kind of life she dreams of. This is amusingly illustrated by the warring voices she has in her head, one always telling her what an abject failure she is, the other trying to buoy her up. The fact that the second voice is that of Jane Austen added an extra layer of amusement for me, as the author has captured her voice perfectly. Whilst we may not all have voices literally talking to us as Tess does, we can all relate to what the author is trying to demonstrate – how loud and persuasively our inner critic can seem to us and how much they can influence how we feel and act.
There is no getting away from the fact that the book deals with a difficult topic, that of grief, and how grief again affects the way we act towards those around us. However, the topic is obviously something that the author is experienced in, understands and manages to deal with with a light and sympathetic but authentic touch. She manages to capture the emotion without the book straying into the realms of the terribly depressing, which I think is quite a skill, and may be unexpected to people who are taken back by the blurb. Readers should not let the idea that the book deals with end-of-life issues put them off. As someone who has dealt with a tragic and deeply personal loss in her life, I found the writing relatable and also slightly comforting. The scene in the church near the end, in particular, resonated deeply with me but in a positive way. It’s a hard sensation to describe but I did not come away from this book feeling maudlin.
The chemistry and relationship between the two main characters was believable and charged with heat. I had worried that it might feel inappropriate, given the circumstances of the plot, but it didn’t, even when a scenario in the book WAS inappropriate (people who have read this will know what I mean!) I really wanted Tess and Ed to end up together, I cared deeply about the outcome. The author did a good job of leaving the question of whether it would work out or not hanging, and it caused me real pain to think they wouldn’t. You cannot possibly ask for more from a romance novel that to create this kind of investment by the reader in your characters and their story.
If I had any complaint at all about this book, it would be that I felt the author slightly over-egged the pudding on the use of colloquial dialogue for the Yorkshire-based characters (and I speak as a native of the county) and I wish this has been dialled back slightly. Also, I took the quote in Chapter 8 about people whose well-read and well-loved books remain looking pristine being untrustworthy as a personal affront, as my books always look like they have just come from the shop no matter how many times I have read them! However, if you are a serial book-abuser from any other county in the UK, none of this will bother you at all, I’m sure.
Joking aside, I really loved this book. It dealt sensitively with some difficult issues, portrayed a believable and enthralling relationship, and walked the line between humour and pathos beautifully. I have no hesitation in recommending the book at all and back up this recommendation with the fact that I have purchased a copy of it myself for future re-reading. There is no better accolade I can give a book than spending my hard-earned cash on it.
Love Life is out today as an ebook, and will be available in paperback and audiobook formats on 9 December. You can order you copy here and anywhere else great books are sold.
About the Author
Nancy is a writer of commercial women’s fiction, a mother of three and an owner of various ridiculous looking pets including a dog who unexpectedly grew to be the size of a small horse. She is also a practicing doctor working for both the NHS and a national cancer charity. Over the years her medical job has provided her with an insight into many aspects of human behaviour, across all walks of life, and she is endlessly fascinated by the people she meets. She has always loved to write and finds the process incredibly therapeutic as well as being a welcome diversion from some of the less glamorous aspects of her other roles. Being a medical doctor, her sense of humour is already quite dark; she prides herself on being able to find comedy in challenging scenarios and has found this to be an essential skill in both her domestic and working life. Love and laughter are the best of medicines and she tries to channel as much of them as possible into her blogs www.mumhasdementia.com and www.nancy-peach.com as well as her books – casting a wry and discerning eye over the human condition and tackling heavyweight issues with a light comedic touch.
Nancy’s work has been longlisted for the Comedy Women in Print Prize and shortlisted for a Harper Collins / Gransnet competition. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association and is represented by Tanera Simons at Darley Anderson Literary Agency. Her debut novel Love Life is published by One More Chapter at Harper Collins.
Connect with Nancy:
Facebook: Nancy Peach Writer