25 January 2013

Book Review: The Valentine's Card by Juliet Ashton

"The Valentine's card was meant to be Orla's fairy tale ending, but really, it was only the beginning . . .

Orla adores her actor boyfriend, Sim, who's away filming a sumptuous costume drama. Although the long-distance relationship means that she can eat toast for dinner and watch as much reality TV as she likes, she misses him like crazy.

But Valentine's Day changes everything . . . The same morning Orla learns that Sim has died, she receives a card from him. As Orla travels from Ireland to London, to live and breathe Sim's final moments, can she bring herself to open the Valentine's card and read his final message?"

Rating: 4/5

You can buy The Valentine's Card as a paperback or an eBook now!

Juliet Ashton's new book The Valentine's Card is one I've been looking forward to for a while now, as it sounds like a really intriguing idea, and I really wanted to find out what exactly was going to be written in the card itself! Juliet is an Irish author, so I really liked how she blended Ireland through Orla and her character being Irish and originally living there, and then moving the book over to London, where Orla moves to after the death of her beloved boyfriend Sim.

Orla and her boyfriend Sim are happy together. Sim is an actor currently living in London while he stars in a brand new television show, and Orla is back home in Ireland where she is a teacher, and she does love her job. However, on Valentine's Day morning Orla gets an awful phone call, telling her that Sim has very suddenly died, which is swiftly followed by the delivery of his Valentine's card via the postman. Orla can't bring herself to open it, and instead heads to London to find out more about Sim's over there, and to locate his precious journal as well. Will Orla be able to bring herself to open the card and read Sim's final Valentine's message for her?

The book starts quite abrubtly with Sim's death, and then we are put into the story with Orla, and her finding out he's died and the fallout from that. I was surprised that I didn't find this whole part a little bit more emotional, because I was expecting to tug at my heartstrings a little bit more, but sadly I didn't feel all that moved by it for some reason. I have to be honest and confess that I didn't warm to her that much throughout the book either, she wasn't exactly unlikeable but I wasn't feeling necessarily sympathetic towards her like I had expected to. She didn't obviously deal too well with Sim's death, but as things progress and she finds out more about Sim and his life in London, I can't say I liked her actions much and perhaps that hindered my enjoyment of the book ever so slightly.

I really liked a couple of the other characters though. There's Maude, Orla's landlady in London who is hiding a secret of her own, and her no-nonsense approach to dealing with Orla was quite funny at times too and made me smile. I liked Polish man Marek's attitude throughout the book, he was a really well written character, had lots of dimensions to him and I really liked him a lot. Sim's agent Reese pops up throughout the book, trying to help Orla decide what to do with the Valentine's card, and I liked him too. There's the pantomime villain in the shape of Sim's co-star Anthea, or Ant as she's bizarrely known as in the book. She was funny, and you can so imagine many actresses behaving like this! They were a great cast and I enjoyed the many different relationships going on in the book, and how they are all well approached and love is shown in its many forms.

I really did enjoy the mystery of the Valentine's Card throughout the book, and how Orla carried it around with her everywhere, using it as her last connection to Sim, as I'm sure many of us would do if we were in her position. The card becomes more worn as time goes on, and was quite symbolic I feel. The book took some surprising turns as it progressed, and I really didn't know how it was going to end which was nice, it didn't seem obvious as I was reading. The setting of London allowed Orla to change, and I enjoyed Juliet Ashton's descriptions of the city, but also how she wrote the characters, relationship and the many emotions throughout the story. The Valentine's Card is a well written and enjoyable novel about love, grief and moving on, and I really enjoyed how it showcased love and different relationships throughout. It made me smile, and I thought it was a very good debut, well worth picking up!

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