1 September 2014

Book Review: To Have and To Hold by Helen Chandler

"From the outside, Ella has the happy marriage, the cute kids and the comfortable home - inside, she craves something more. But giving in to temptation will stir up a whole heap of trouble . . .

Imogen's relationship with Pete was once fun and carefree but since they've become parents, everything is different. Then an accident provides the catalyst for a life-changing decision.

Fifteen-year-old Phoebe is miserable at home and at school. And now her dad, who was always her ally, seems completely distracted by something - or someone. Maybe it's time Phoebe took a stand, and took control of her own life.

As Ella, Imogen and Phoebe contemplate taking the biggest risk of their lives, marriages, families and friendships hang in the balance. Should they take the leap, or will they risk losing everything?"

Rating: 5/5

You can buy To Have and To Hold as a paperback or an eBook now.

I read Helen Chandler's debut novel Two For Joy and thought it was a great book, and that Helen was going to be a great new voice in the women's fiction market. I was pleased to be sent a review copy of Helen's new book, To Have and To Hold as I really loved the sound of the story. As you probably know if you read my blog a lot, I enjoy books where there is more than one story to follow, and that's exactly what this book delivers on. I have to say I love the cover design as well, it complements Helen's previous book, and is a very elegant and pretty cover too.

Three women, all at different points in their lives, dealing with their own battles, intertwining in ways they had never imagined. Ella has it all - the perfect husband, 2 beautiful children, a lovely home but there is part of her that just wants more, despite her husband's protestations. When she bumps into a face from her past, she is left questioning the decisions she made all those years ago. Ella's best friend Imogen hasn't had it easy since the birth of her daughter, what with her partner being a pretty lax father. But when a freak accident leaves Indigo injured, Imogen makes a decision that is sure to change their future forever. Finally, there's fifteen year old Phoebe, dealing with a lot of issues in her personal life, especially her troubled relationship with her mother. As things fall apart at home, Phoebe doesn't know who to turn to, leading to terrible results. Are each of the women destined to lose everything they hold dear?

This is very much a family orientated novel, dealing with the complexities of different family dynamics, and how they affect those in the families, and those around them as well. Although there are 3 separate stories as such, they're all linked in their own way which I really liked. The three women are all great characters, and each strong in their own way in what they are dealing with. The story I enjoyed reading about most was poor Phoebe. She's a really young girl, both in age and in mentality, and is really struggling at home and at school. Phoebe is overweight, she knows it but her mother enjoys reminding her about it at every opportunity, which I found really hard to read. I felt so incredibly sorry for her, her mother was just an awful character and her father just needed to grow a backbone. This was a very sad story, and while it was at times hard for me to read, it was very well written and I enjoyed reading the progression of it.

Ella I struggled to like. She's a stay at home mum to her two young children, but feels like she wants more. She seems unfulfilled, but doesn't seem like she knows what is wrong with her life. She's driven to doing something questionable and the fallout from that is what takes place in the book. I didn't feel sorry for Ella dealing with it all because honestly, she brought it on herself, and I struggled to like her for what she did. It isn't something I agree with but I felt she did make some amends with her actions towards the end of the book for me. Finally, there's Imogen, the character I could most relate to. She's effectively a single mum to her daughter Indigo, dealing with a bit of a dead-beat dad and you can see why she has had enough, although I wondered why she put up with as long as she did. She was so likeable and just deserved so much happiness, I was really rooting for her throughout the whole book. I also enjoyed reading the male characters in this book too which is unusual as sometimes the men are the ones you're meant to dislike in these books, but not in this case which I liked.

I really did enjoy this book, and found it hard to put it down whenever I was reading. I kept saying to myself 'just one more chapter' every evening, but ended up reading at least 2 or 3 more! I was hooked into the story, desperate to find out what was going to happen next, especially with poor old Phoebe, I really did feel so so sorry for her. The book is a stark reminder as well how as parents we have a duty to protect our children in lots of ways, and how our actions affect them. Ella, Imogen and Phoebe each have to move on and through the things that happen to them, relying on each other as it goes on, and it shows the importance of friends and family all the way through the story. Chandler has written a fantastic novel here, full of drama, love and family, and it's definitely cemented her as one of my new must-read authors, I really loved this book.

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