23 January 2012

Book Review: Rival Passions by Zoe Miller

Brother and sister Jack and Serena Devlin are the owners of Tamarisk Manor, a chic, luxury hotel, ranked as the ultimate retreat for socialites and celebrities. But behind the indulgent fa├žade, the privileged Devlin family is in turmoil ... Serena's commitment to the hotel is taking a toll on her once-perfect marriage. She finds it easier to run a multi-million euro business than to be the kind of wife that her husband expects, or the mother that her daughter deserves. Jack, struggling to come to terms with the shocking death of his wife, takes refuge in La Mimosa, their sister hotel in France. Until a chance encounter forces him to re-evaluate his whole existence... Will Serena sacrifice her marriage for the sake of success? And will Jack give up his birthright for the sake of love?

Rating: 5/5

I have never yet read a Zoe Miller novel, but when I was sent this one to review by the publishers, my eye was really caught by the bright cover, and it sounded like the sort of book I would enjoy as well. Miller is an Irish author, and since I seem to really enjoy Irish penned fiction, it seemed a sure bet that I would like this one too. Luckily, I was right and Rival Passions was a fantastic book that I really didn't wany to put down in the evenings! It was an intriguing and fun story that had me guessing how things would end up for the characters up until the last page, and it's certainly made me want to pick up more of Zoe Miller's books!

The book is the story of twins Jack and Serena Devlin, who run a hotel called Tamarisk Manor. While Serena is dedicated to making the hotel a success at apparently any cost, Jack has recently been widowed and is struggling to put his life back together again. He's pretty much run out on the business and has left Serena to run it all alone, much to the annoyance of her husband Paul and their four year old daughter Harriet. But when it seems Jack might have other things on his mind, Serena is determined to make him step up to the plate and the legacy that their parents left them. Their mother is also suffering, watching her daughter struggle and her son not step up to his responsibilities but is powerless to act and help them out. This is really a family saga, involving lots of members of the Devlin family, and how they struggle to keep their relationships both personally and professionally, and this is for me what made it such a great read.

I did feel sorry for Serena, being left to run the business by herself and also struggling to cope with being Harriet's mum as well. As a reader, we could see what was going on with her yet her husband Paul seemed (understandably) a bit blinkered and just wanted her to be a wife and mother again. I did have a little dislike for Jack, he seemed very irresponsible and too quick to land his sister in trouble at work, and only cared about himself. Yes, he'd been in a tough situation but still that was no reason to abandon his responsibilites. I also liked the character of their mother, she was a feisty lady, who ran a hotel pretty much single handedly for years, and I enjoyed reading her develop as the story progressed. Overall, it was a great cast and Miller really brings them to life in her writing, creating these people and a fantastic setting too.

Miller writes the luxurious and beautiful resort of Tamarisk Manor perfectly, you can really imagine the setting in your mind as you read about the sumptuous rooms, the spa and beautiful grounds, and it really does sound amazing! Yes, we know there's a recession going on and that is mentioned in the book, with the hotel having to make cutbacks but there are a few mentions of luxury and splurging and why not? It's nice to read something a bit out of the ordinary and I loved it. The setting of Ireland is fantastic, and although it flits around a bit as well, it always comes back to Tamarisk and it always felt like coming home when the book returned here. The book contains a great cast of characters, a beautiful setting and a storyline that will keep you guessing. I loved that life wasn't all plain sailing for the Devlin family, yet they tried to help each other make it through the tough times like family should. I loved this book, and will certainly be looking out for more of Zoe Miller's books after reading this fantastic book!

You can buy Rival Passions in both paperback and as an eBook now. (links go to Amazon.co.uk)

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