Opera star Cosima looks like she has it all from the outside. She's a hugely successful singer, talented and beautiful to boot. Cosima has been offered a huge chance to go on a six-week opera tour but the fact she has to sing alongside her ex-husband Nolan O'Connor is enough to put her off saying yes. Will Cosima be able to see past Nolan and look at the much needed big pay cheque and accept the tour? Julia works for for Anglo-Italian bank and has been having an affair with her married boss for 5 years. However, when Julia finds out that Christopher has been making empty promises, how far will she go to use the secrets she is banking up against him? Finally, Mercy has always had an ambition to be an Opera star, but is sure that her poor upbringing will stop her dreams. She takes a job at Anglo-Italian bank as a cleaner to earn money to pay for singing lessons, but is being hampered by serious issues with her brother at home. Will Mercy be able to fulfill her dreams?
It's no secret now that Olivia Darling is the pen-name for hugely successful chick-lit author Chrissie Manby, and under this name, she has released 3 bonkbusters, very different to the light rom-coms released under her own name. This particular book was postponed from its release last year, but is back for 2011 with a brand new cover look too, one that suits it far more and is in keeping with the elegant look of Darling's other books. The book promises a lot of scandal, following 3 separate women in their quests to resist temptation and to fulfill their own ambitions, and it ended up being one of those books I didn't want to put down as I wanted to find out what was coming next!
The characters are each very different, and that makes the book quite easy to follow - there's no need to worry about differentiating between the 3 threads as they are clearly very separate. Firstly, we meet Cosima, an Opera diva and a character I didn't initially warm to. I realise she is meant to be a diva and therefore possibly unlikeable, but even as the story progressed and things were revealed about her, it still didn't do enough to make me sympathise with her, instead I found myself wishing against the good things that sometimes happened to her! I did, however, love Juliet. She's far more down to earth and a more believable "real" character than Cosima, but that makes for a good contradiction between the pair and their lives. Yes, Juliet is the typical woman who thinks the married man she is sleeping with will leave his wife for her, and yes it all goes pear shaped, but I love the direction Juliet's story takes from there, it certainly wasn't what I was expecting!
Mercy is definitely my favourite character of the lot. She's a good girl, someone who didn't succeed at school except in music, but is convinced she is never going to achieve her dream of becoming a huge opera star due to her background. The way Darling delves into Mercy's mindset throughout the book was fascinating to read, and you can't help but will Mercy on, desperately hoping she will see past her own discriminations and get to where she wants to be. The male characters in the book are all pretty hideous - a cheat, a completely stuck-up Opera star, a vicious thug and wannabe teen gangster. However, they do make the women look slightly better and offer an edge to the story which makes the book very readable.
The book switches from the sublime at the Opera, travelling around Europe on a "glamourous" Operatic tour with Cosmia, Nolan and co, to London where Julia works at the bank, although this isn't described in too much detail compared the locations of the opera. Mercy again is in London, but a totally opposite side to that which we see Julia in. Darling clearly differentiates between their worlds with her descriptions, and I enjoyed the chopping and changing of the stories. Darling has also clearly done her research into the world of Opera too, describing Tosca in particular with good detail but also some of the musical terms and other associated things. I did find things a little tiresome in parts, such as Cosima being so ungrateful and annoying, Darling's over-the-top descriptions such as the "ocean-wide" beds which were mentioned at least twice and the fact I could see how it would all end despite the twists and turns along the way, but even so it was an enjoyable read.
I don't think this book is quite up there with the likes of Tilly Bagshawe, who for me is queen of the glamourous bonkbuster at the moment, but Darling is definitely getting there with this offering. The book has lots of emotion, passion and plenty of excitement to keep you turning the pages until you reach the end, and I did really enjoy it. Yes, there are going to be things people won't like about it, but for me it was well suited to its genre and read very well. Darling's narrative switches very easily between the three characters, although I would have loved to see more of the lovely Mercy, but overall it was a very entertaining read and one I would definitely recommend to fans of bonkbuster-esque novels!