Ali and Colin are childhood sweethearts, with two kids under their belt and a lifetime of memories between them. But something's not right. They are constantly fighting and Ali feels smothered by expectations. As the tension builds at home, another kind of tension is building in her work place. Owen is handsome, funny and the attraction between them is palpable. But is she ready to throw away her marriage on a fantasy? Her friend, Corina, worries that a work trip to Amsterdam could be a disaster waiting to happen...
This is Caroline Grace-Cassidy's first novel with her new home, Black and White Publishing. There are plenty of new titles on the contemporary fiction shelves but this one is a bit special. It brings the reader into the very real world of marriage and the working mother. Not all women return to work after having their children. Some choose to stay at home, others work part-time to keep in touch with the adult world. Others, like Ali, relish their time at work while managing to balance their family lives precariously. But when Colin begins to hint at Ali becoming a full-time mother, something inside her snaps. He says he helps out at home but this is not true. He bemoans the fact that he is the main bread-winner, all the while implying that Ali's job is a 'hobby'. How many women are subjected to this patriarchal nonsense? How many of them fantasize of a different life? I would guess a lot more than you would think.
This novel take us on a 'what if?' journey. The tension building up inside Ali becomes apparent from the first chapter and the author shows us how anger can bubble up at an alarming speed. Colin is a throw back to the days where men believed they were Top Dog in any marriage, and he is blind to the imbalance in their relationship. Owen is a veritable breath of fresh air, with the added good looks thrown in, with Corina emerging as the female friend we all want and need. Although there are two young children in the story, they play minor roles of which I was thankful for. We all know what the daily chores surrounding kids are and don't need them repeated in every book featuring families. Corina was a fantastic character, with her devil-may-care attitude and brash, reliable presence. She is a true friend, and if she exists in real life, please pass on my contact details; I NEED her in my life!
As far as female fiction goes, this novel is up there with the best of them. With a fresher approach than the big bestselling names of old, it raise the bar in its genre. Caroline Grace-Cassidy makes her characters more than words on a page. She makes the reader feel as if they are in the room, watching the story unfold. Although there are a little too many mentions of clothing labels (I find them irrelevant), the cafés, restaurants and streets of Dublin and Amsterdam are perfectly interspersed throughout. The ending is not as predictable as you would think and leaves the overall package one of high-grade. This is an established author who is growing from strength to strength. In a crowded bookshop, make sure you keep your eyes open for her. Having a strong female protagonist is nothing new, but having one who also struggles with her insecurities, fears and fantasies can be hard to get right. There is a bit of Ali in all of us and while her ultimate decisions may not mirror what we would do, she is as real as it gets.
The Week I Ruined My Life is published by Black and White Publishing and is available in PB and ebook format. You can order your copy, with 11% discount and Free Worldwide Postage, HERE. The ebook can be ordered via amazon link below: