‘Jennifer had it all. Until a terrible accident took almost everything. When she moves back home, with her interfering ex right on the doorstep, the future doesn't look that bright. Until she meets Mack. Sexy, dishevelled and just a little clumsy, he starts to make her believe that she can move on from the past and embrace life all over again. But he has a secret he'd do anything to protect, and he's about to betray her to keep it. Will he realise what she means to him in time? And if he does, will she be able to love the real Mack?’
When Jennifer’s face is terribly disfigured in a car accident, she gives up her dream of becoming an actress, moves back in with her family and does her best to hide herself away. Then a walking guide writer named Mack turns up in town and just may be what Jennifer needs to help her pick up her life. Mack finds himself falling in love with Jennifer, but he’s hiding a secret which will devastate her and her family if it slips out.
The novel starts up from Mack’s view point, which automatically seemed to put him before Jennifer in my mind. However, to me anyway, Jennifer was by far the more interesting character and it was she that I wanted the story to focus on.
I thought it was very brave of Osmond to have a heroine with a disfigurement that would never improve, and I became so frustrated by people trying to run Jennifer’s life for her. I also appreciated that the writer didn’t overly romanticise Jennifer, or have Mack ignore Jennifer’s very obvious scars. In fact, I liked how the romance between the two leads built up gradually. Mack does behave badly, and I could more than understand why Jennifer is so hurt when he discovers his deceit. However, Osmond ensured that at no point did I actually turn against Mack, or feel that he didn’t deserve a happy ending.
I thought the initial concept of the novel was good and original, but felt a little let down by the setting. I think I may have just read one too many novels recently in which a city-dweller is forced to move to the back of beyond, initially hates it, but is gradually won over by locals and scenery. Despite this, I quite liked the use of the amateur dramatics society to bring Mack and Jennifer together, and the author’s own experience in this area shone through. It proved a clever way to introduce the villagers in a setting in which they’re interacting with one another. My favourite of the locals was undoubtedly Jennifer’s rather old-fashioned work colleague Lionel, particularly when he undertakes to protect Jennifer’s honour against Mack. He certainly wasn’t a typical knight in shining armour for our heroine, but he did his best bless him!
‘The First Time I Saw Your Face’ is Osmond’s second novel, and I was really looking forward to it, having enjoyed her debut ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe’ last year. I liked this story, although perhaps not quite as much as the author’s previous novel. What stands out about Osmond’s writing for me was that she really seems to know her characters inside and out, and her connection with them seemed to make them come to life for me. I look forward to reading what this author has to offer in the future.
3 and a half stars
‘Ellie Somerset is a great advertising copywriter going nowhere fast - a boyfriend who is always at work, a tendency to dress like a short-sighted bag lady and a Creative Director who rejects her fresh ideas - they all conspire to keep her just treading water. Even her Great Aunt Edith, a demon at filthy scrabble, has a better social life than she does. All that changes when Jack Wolfe becomes her boss. Whilst everyone else at the agency thinks he's Heathcliff in jeans, Ellie just sees a stalking, scowling Alpha male with a nasty redundancy plan up his sleeve. As Jack makes it his mission to smarten up Ellie's attitude and her appearance, it's time for her to prove herself. But that means getting closer to this very sexy, very wicked man, and as she does Ellie discovers that this particular Heathcliff has an awful lot to hide.’
Advertising copywriter Ellie Somerset is pretty happy in her job until Jack Wolfe joins her agency as her new boss. Although every other woman in the building is swooning over handsome Jack, Ellie feels unfairly picked on by him when he comments unfavourably on her appearance and interferes in her projects. However, as she gets to know Jack better and delves into his past, Ellie discovers the real reason behind his cantankerous demeanour.
“Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?” is Hazel Osmond’s first novel and I was impressed. She confidently told a well-written and frequently amusing tale, which flowed wonderfully, and definitely kept my interest. My one real criticism was the setting: I really didn’t find the advertising world a very exciting or vibrant background to the story.
Ellie’s aunt Edith was a brilliantly colourful character: there’s a lovely little scene where Jack beats her soundly at a game of naughty words Scrabble that really made me giggle. The bond between Ellie and Edith was heartwarming, and helped to highlight Ellie’s loyalty and kindness, the very qualities which enable her to break down some of Jack’s barriers after many others have failed.
I like a bit of alpha grumpy male as much as the next girl, but I did lose a little respect for Ellie when Jack treated her very badly and she continued going back for more - I expect my heroines to have more gumption than that! Of course Jack has a secret past that makes him generally guarded and irritable; Osmond does such a fine job of keeping the cat in the bag for just long enough that I was desperate to find out if my suspicions were correct. The chemistry between the leads was really well done, I adored the witty banter between the pair and longed for them to sort their differences out and realise their feelings for one another.
A book should make me react: that’s how I know I’m fully involved with the characters and plot, and ‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’ certainly achieved this: it was a feel-good read, that made me laugh, but was also sad and though-provoking in places. I was definitely gripped and was very reluctant to put it down. Although obviously much longer than a traditional romance read, there were certainly elements of Mills and Boon in this novel; in particular the story contains few characters and the male is very strong, wealthy and powerful. It was also very easy to read, with good pace throughout.
‘Who’s Afraid of Mr Wolfe?’ was romantic and extremely entertaining, with plenty of twists and turns along the way. I had a really heavy cold when I read this and was very grateful to the author for taking my mind off my sore throat and pounding head for a while. Osmond’s second novel, ‘The Genuine Article’ is out in a few months, I’m already looking forward to it.