29 February 2012

Book Review: The Darker Side of Love by Jessica Ruston

"Lies: we all tell them.

To protect those we love, to disguise failure, to hide disappointment. To mask betrayal, or deceit. But what happens when those lies start to catch up with us? When our lives begin to be shaped by the lies of others?

The late 'noughties'. A global recession looms. A group of old friends, all leading outwardly successful, interesting lives. All in apparently loving, secure relationships. Yet all, in some way, lying to those closest to them, concealing secret worries, jealousies, desires. This group of friends is about to discover that the truth won't stay buried for ever...

Welcome to the darker side of love."

Rating: 4.5/5

I was really eager to read Jessica Ruston's new book The Darker Side of Love after loving her second novel last year, To Touch The Stars. The cover of this book really caught my eye as I feel the image and teal colouring works really well together and looks slightly different to your normal chick lit. The idea of a book focusing on the recession which is a very prevalent topic at the moment to all of us, so I was curious to see how Ruston would weave this into the story, and make it an interesting read. I found this book to be a brilliant read - it is one that you have to sit and read in the peace and quiet because there are a lot of characters and there is a lot going on, but it's worth it because it's a genuinely brilliant read, and I loved it!

I'll give you a quick run down of the characters and what's happening with them without going into too much detail and spoiling anything. The characters are all friends and/or relations in some way, so they often appear together in scenes which can confuse you a but but once you have them down, it's all good and should be fairly easy reading! Firstly, there is James and Izzy, a married couple with 2 children who are quite comfortable in their lives, but something from James' past is lurking around the corner and seems set to upset their happy home life. We have James' sister Caroline who has recently married Bart, but all is not how it seems for these newly-weds. There's James' best friend Will and his girlfriend Harriet, who is desperate to get married but Will doesn't seem to be taking Harriet's hints - how much more can she take? And finally, there is Stella and Johnny, friends of all the couples, married with young son Viking(!!!) whose marriage is hiding some secrets from everyone else, but are they really happy?

As you can see, there are a few characters here, and consequently there are a lot of plot threads to keep up with too, but I found it fascinating as there was always something interested happening, and I was always wanting to find out what was happening next with these characters. I really enjoyed reading about James and Izzy's story, I felt it was the most realistic out of them all (although they are believable and could easily happen) but for me, this one just worked. Izzy tries to open a new café in these tough financial times, and this has an effect on the other things going on in their lives which I found fascinating to read about. Ruston does a really job in building up the tension throughout the book with these stories, not allowing too much to be revealed but enough to get your attention and get you hooked into the book, and consequently you find yourself whizzing through because you want to know what is going to happen next!

It isn't all easy reading, by any means. The book really does stick to its title of The Darker Side of Love, and it isn't all pleasant, with domestic violence, drug use and abuse, and infidelity all taking centre stage as the main themes in the book, and I found some scenes especially shocking, although I felt they were well handled by Ruston. The thing I liked most about this book is you can fully imagine everything you read actually happening to either people you know or just people in this country struggling in these tough times. All the characters are believable, and this makes it even better reading. I have to say there is one storyline involving James and Caroline's mother that was especially heart-breaking and I applaud the author for her delicate handling yet realistic portrayal of this subject, it was beautifully done.

Overall, I found this book to be a really enjoyable read, and certainly marks Jessica Ruston out for me as an author to look out for. Her books are very readable, but quite gritty and offer something different from what I would class as normal chick lit - I really wasn't convinced I was going to get a happy ending here and I liked that fact. It's a book that will have you consumed by it - you simply have to know what is going on with James, whether Stella will get her act together, and what on earth that mysterious story that is frequently referenced throughout the book is involving guns and a hostage situation, and I love that this is played on throughout the book, leaving you guessing! While it isn't an easy read, it's a fantastic one and I enjoyed every single page. Try this book, you really won't be disappointed!

You can buy The Darker Side of Love as a paperback or an eBook now.

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