‘Amy has enjoyed a charmed life, shopping and lunching while the nanny looks after her children. Until her world is thrown into disarray when husband Ben's business collapses overnight, taking their house and savings with it. Suddenly Amy finds herself the breadwinner. Can she rise to the challenge? Will her marriage survive such an upheaval? Or is it a case of 'Till Debt Do Us Part'? Kate has always had to struggle by, juggling her job with two children and a husband, though she wouldn't have it any other way. But her safe little world is rocked when she meets enigmatic Jack in a chance encounter. Feeling increasingly estranged from husband Miles, Kate wonders if Jack can offer her a fresh start. But there's something about Jack that Kate doesn't know...Jennifer is only just beginning to recover from the death of her own husband. When Jennifer makes contact with old flame Hugh she unlocks a dangerous Pandora's box. She is desperate to find the answer to a question that has tormented her for decades. But will she be able to cope with the truth?’
Widowed Jennifer is finally ready to build more of a social life for herself, and begins meeting up with an old boyfriend. Worried what her grown-up daughters, Amy and Kate, will think of her behaviour, Jennifer keeps her relationship secret. However, it turns out her children have more than enough troubles of their own to deal with without interfering in their mother’s love life: Amy’s husband’s business has collapsed, losing them their house and all their savings as well as the many luxuries which Amy and her children have become used to. Meanwhile Kate is feeling unappreciated by her husband as she struggles to run a home, care for the kids, and work as a nurse. When she meets handsome Jack, Kate wonders if he’s the fresh start she needs.
‘IOU’ begins with a very intriguing prologue that drew me straight into the heart of the tale. I soon found that I could easily connect with each of the protagonists, and enjoyed reading about them. I thought the relations between the women were very honestly dealt with: they really aren’t the closest of families, despite loving each other very much. It was great to see them coming together and supporting one another when they needed it.
I felt a little sorry for Amy being a bit of the odd one out because Kate and her mother live near to one another. I also thought that Kate and Jennifer were quite judgmental towards Amy at times, and didn’t really give her the benefit of being a grown woman and knowing what she wants. At the beginning of the novel at least, Kate is more than a little jealous of her sister, but it’s not Amy’s fault that she’s got money, and it’s not like she’s not generous with it!
Amy was definitely my favourite character as I really enjoyed seeing her come into her own whilst her husband, who’s always been the strong one in the relationship, was falling apart. She ends up being far more capable than her family could have imagined.
‘IOU’ seemed a much meatier novel than Warner’s debut ‘RSVP’: it dealt with several serious issues and did so pretty well I thought. Overall, I enjoyed it, particularly the parts relating to Amy, whom I ended up really liking. The relations between the three heroines were thought-provoking and compelling, and the author’s easy to read style meant that I was swept up in the story very quickly and the novel kept me interested throughout.
3 and a half stars
'Four women, one wedding and a day to remember – or rather forget …Anna’s world is rocked when she receives an invitation to her ex Toby’s nuptials – Toby was The One, The Love of Her Life, The One That Got Away. Will attending his Big Day finally give her the sense of closure she so desperately craves? Or will it only re-open old wounds? Clare is Anna’s best friend, the person who was there for her when she and Toby split all those years ago. But little does Clare know that Toby’s wedding day will also change her own life for ever. Ella is a classic femme fatale. She loves men and leaves them without a backward glance. But the one person who’s never fallen for her charms is Toby. As he prepares to get hitched, is it too late for a last-ditch attempt to win his heart? Finally, Rachel is the blushing bride-to-be. This should be the happiest day of her life. So how come she feels nothing but a terrible sense of foreboding?'
‘RSVP’ is the debut novel of Helen Warner, the Head of Daytime TV at Channel 4, and it’s a real corker.
Anna, our heroine, never got over her first love, Toby, whom she dated whilst at university and still considers her soul mate. She and Toby seemed perfect together but broke up just before they graduated – mainly due to a rather nasty piece of work called Ella, who’d been desperate to get her clutches on Toby for ages. Ella seized her opportunity at a party one night, and when Anna refused to listen to Toby’s explanations, the couple split up.
Ten years later and Anna is a teacher living with her career-driven best friend Clare. One night Anna goes to a university reunion and bumps into Toby, who invites her to his wedding to his fiancée Rachel. Anna’s convinced that going to Toby’s wedding will give her the closure she needs to get over him and move on with the rest of her life; she resolves to attend, however much it will hurt to see the love of her life marry someone else.
Will Toby marry Rachel or realise that Anna is the right woman for him? How will Anna feel coming face to face with Ella and her devious nature again? And will Clare find someone who can compete with her beloved career?
The lives of the characters overlap throughout the book and Warner is very good at building the dramatic tension, choosing the exact moment that the reader can’t bear to change character… and then promptly changing it – a great way to ensure that a novel isn’t put down until the end! The first half of the book contains a lot of time-jumping which I enjoyed – it’s always better to ‘be there’ with the protagonists at the time rather than just hearing about their reactions to something many years later.
I liked all the main personalities, although I found Clare’s behaviour a little bizarre during the second half of the book. Ella was probably my least favourite character, but then if you like Anna then it’s inevitable that you have to dislike Ella, at least a little bit! I did, however, appreciate the way that she developed throughout the novel.
Another character which was dealt with very well was Toby: Warner does a very good job of making sure that he always comes across as a ‘good guy’ in his dealings with both Rachel and Anna – it would’ve really turned the reader off Toby if he’d treated either of them badly and yet he does have to choose between them and as they both love him, one of them is going to get very hurt.
The flashbacks of Anna and Toby during their student days were very sweet; they really were the idyllic university couple, though so much so I was almost pleased that Warner had Anna and Toby argue a little when they meet up again: they were so adorable as the student couple but it was good to see that in the ‘real’ world they’d developed something of a more regular relationship, especially with Anna’s insecurity regarding Toby’s relationship with Rachel.
‘RSVP’ contains some lovely characters and an interesting plot with lots of twists, turns and flashbacks, making for a very enjoyable read. I shall definitely be on the look out for future books by Helen Warner; she’s going to be an author to watch.