8 August 2012
Book Review: Better Together by Sheila O'Flanagan
Sheila O'Flanagan has written a whopping 17 books in her excellent career, and I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of her latest book Better Together to review. I have to say that I'm not entirely sold on the cover, it's a little bland and generic for my liking, and I do think O'Flanagan's books deserve a lot better, but then again they must suit the main market for her books, as she continually sells well, and this book is already doing well. I do like the colours of it, but it isn't a stand out cover for me. I really liked the idea of a book being based around a woman who knows and loves her sports, that isn't something we read a lot about in women's fiction, and I was curious to see where O'Flanagan was going to take her characters in this one!
Sheridan Grey was proud of her career as a sports journalist at a well known paper, even though her parents seemed to value her two brothers' sporting achievements over anything she did. But when her boyfriend dumps her, she becomes homeless and loses her job, Sheridan starts to wonder where she's gone wrong. She moves to Ardbawn, and starts to live in the guesthouse run by Nina Fallon and her husband Sean. However, behind closed doors, all is not well with their marriage after Nina discovers some shocking secrets actor hubby Sean has been hiding from her, and she doesn't know which decision is to make for the better. Will Sheridan and Nina find happiness again, or will the two women let their broken pasts ruin their futures?
As usual, O'Flanagan has produced a very realistic, easy to read story that draws you in and makes you care about the people involved in the trials and tribulations of the book. Sheridan is a very easy to love main character, easy going, hard-working and just wants to succeed. I felt very sorry for her regarding the relationship she has with her parents, to feel you are always second best isn't nice and O'Flanagan puts across Sheridan's feelings very well. Nina was more difficult to warm to - she's clearly struggling with what to do about her marriage, and I thought she seemed to be a bit of a doormat to Sean, always letting him take charge when things should have been made her decision. In this respect, she's the very opposite of Sheridan and I think that's why these leading ladies worked so well together in the book, and their friendship soon blossomed.
I really enjoyed the mystery element to the book regarding a story Sheridan is chasing about the owner of the small town newspaper she now works for. We have no idea what is going on for the most of it, and I liked that O'Flanagan managed to keep that mystery element going on throughout the book, bringing in various characters to add different elements to it, and it made it an enjoyable read. I also like how she struggled with whether to write about Nina's story or not, it added a human side to the journalist in Sheridan, and it made her all the more likeable! O'Flanagan writes the small town of Ardbawn very well, and it's easy to imagine the lovely guesthouse Nina owns, the few shops in town where Sheridan goes, and the other locations mentioned in the book. O'Flanagan always writes passionately about Ireland, and this comes across so well on the pages of the book.
Overall, this was another great reader from Sheila O'Flanagan, and people who love her books will definitely love this one. I found the ending happened really quickly for me, things got wrapped up quite quickly and I was surprised by the speed at which O'Flanagan brought it all to an end. O'Flanagan copes well with the emotional problems of both women in the book, dealing with Nina's grief and despair with sensitivity, yet also showing the reader exactly how she is feeling, and also putting across Sheridan's exasperation and need to better herself all the time. I really enjoyed the book, and it was an easy read that I could lose myself in for a couple of days and finished it smiling. A lovely, well written and enjoyable read from one of Ireland's best authors. Recommended!
You can buy Better Together as a hardback or as an eBook now!