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“Shirley Valentine, eat your heart out Ven, Roz, Olive and Frankie have been friends since school. They day-dreamed of glorious futures, full of riches, romance and fabulous jobs. The world would be their oyster. Twenty-five years later, Olive cleans other people’s houses to support her lazy, out-of-work husband and his ailing mother. Roz cannot show her kind, caring husband Manus any love because her philandering ex has left her trust in shreds. And she and Frankie have fallen out big time. But Ven is determined to reunite her friends and realise the dream they had of taking a cruise before they hit forty. Before they know it, the four of them are far from home, on the high seas. But can blue skies, hot sun and sixteen days of luxury and indulgence distract from the tension and loneliness that await their return?”

Ven’s had a really tough couple of years but as her 40th birthday approaches she’s determined to celebrate it with her dearest friends, exactly as they’d planned they would whilst they were still in their teens.

And soon it’s pretty obvious that it’s not just Ven who needs to get away for a bit. Poor Olive has been married for years to a lazy bum of a man; when she’s not cleaning other people’s houses she’s running around after her husband and his demanding mother. She originally says she won’t come on the cruise as her family can’t do without her, but when she discovers they’ve been conning her it’s the final straw and she packs her bags and leaves.

For Roz, the holiday is make or break time for her relationship with Manus – a man who completely adores her, but whom she’s unable to forgive for something he did years ago. She wasn’t expecting Frankie, whom she’s fallen out with, to be invited, but agrees not to spoil Ven’s birthday by arguing with her. Everyone else is hoping that the holiday will be the perfect catalyst for the two to finally make up but Roz is still of the opinion that some things are completely unforgivable.

The four women starring in this fantastic romp were wonderful, vibrant characters – I loved reading about them and their escapades. Ven was my favourite of the ladies – she’s got to be one of the sweetest and most generous characters ever invented. The protagonists’ personalities are perfectly exhibited by the author’s use of the third person narrative, and this also worked very well with the frequent changes of character viewpoints.

Johnson’s obviously done a great deal of very thorough research into life on a cruise liner, particularly when it comes to the food! I was actually salivating at several points during the novel; the author’s descriptions of the meals onboard were just divine. I also enjoyed the little titbits of information given about the various places the ladies stop off at during their holiday; they were absolutely fascinating and really added something special to the book.

Johnson keeps the pace going throughout the story: there really isn’t a dull moment. She has a real knack for writing comedy and there were some extremely funny moments – I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Olive’s awful husband and mother-in-law coping by themselves after Olive leaves.

Another of the author’s great talents is her ability to create absolutely yummy love interests for her characters. When I was reading about Vaughn, Frankie’s Viking-esque object of desire, I actually felt like I was intruding; if there was ever a character created as the author’s perfect man, then I suspect he was it!

With ‘Here Comes The Girls’ Johnson has created a wonderful romp of an adventure, full of gorgeous potential love interests, hilarious moments and an original and glamorous setting, all topped off with an extremely satisfying ending! It’s my favourite Milly Johnson novel to date.

5 stars

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When dynamic, power-dressing Christie blows in like a warm wind to take over their department, five very different women find themselves thrown together at work. But none of them could have predicted the fierce bond of friendship that her leadership would inspire…Anna, 39, is reeling from the loss of her fiance, who ran off with a much younger woman. Her pride in tatters, these days Anna finds it difficult to leave the house. So when a handsome, mysterious stranger takes an interest in her, she’s not sure whether she can learn to trust again? Then there’s Grace, in her fifties, trapped in a loveless marriage with a man she married because, unable to have children of her own, she fell in love with his motherless brood. Grace worries that Dawn is about to make the same mistake: orphaned as a child, engaged to love-rat Calum, is Dawn more interested in the security that comes with his tight-knit, boisterous family? When a sexy, footloose rock singer catches her eye, will Dawn have the courage to follow her heart? At 28, Raychel is the youngest member of their little gang. And with a loving husband, Ben, and a cosy little nest for two, she would seem to be the happiest. But what dark secrets are lurking behind this perfect facade, that make sweet, pretty Raychel so guarded and unwilling to open up? Under Christie’s warm hand, the girls soon realise they have some difficult choices to make. Indeed, none of them quite realised how much they needed the sense of fun, laughter, and loyalty that abounds when five women become friends. It’s one for all, and all for one!

“A Summer Fling” follows the lives of four women who, in perhaps a first for a chick lit novel, work in the bakery department of a supermarket chain. They’re all a little nervous at the imminent arrival of their new boss Christie but don’t confide their worries to one another, none of them having ever really spoken to each other before, despite working together five days a week. Christie has a huge job ahead to mould them into a team and teach each team member to support and rely on her comrades.

The oldest of our ladies is Grace. In her fifties, she feels stifled by her husband and pressured by him to take early retirement, retirement from the job that provides the only escape from her loveless marriage. Thirty nine year old Anna was devastated when her fiancé left her for a much younger model and now only leaves the house to go to work, spending her time daydreaming about her lost fiancé coming back to her. Dawn, at 33, has been desperate to have a family ever since she was orphaned as a teenager. Engaged to the dreadful Calum and deeply attached to the security she feels this brings, Dawn seems impervious to all of his many, many flaws. The youngest of the women is Raychel, 28, who appears to have a blissful marriage to her childhood sweetheart Ben; but why haven’t they had children, and why is Raychel so quiet and withdrawn?

It took me a chapter or two to get properly immersed in the book, but once I was there I was really hooked: there’s loads of excitement and intrigue, with plenty of secrets to be uncovered as we discover more about the protagonists.

My favourite character was Grace; I felt so sorry for her with her awful husband wanting to permanently whisk her away to a caravan. I loved how her story developed and I thought the relationships between her and her stepchildren were brilliantly dealt with.

Some of the novel’s other great personalities were Dawn’s future family-in-law, who were hilariously awful, and her fiancé, who has to be one of literature’s laziest bums. It’s a true testament to Milly Johnson’s writing that you could really empathise with Dawn and understand why she’d stuck with these awful people for so long – a big, close family was what she felt was missing from her life.

Part of the novel that I particularly enjoyed was Anna’s transformation; not just the physical changes, her care of herself and her smiles, but the mental alterations, how the scars of her fiancé leaving heal. Anna’s love interest, the vampire character, was a little bizarre, but if Milly wants to add a little Gothic vampirism to her text then who am I to complain?

There were some aspects of this book that really made it stand out. I especially felt that making the women differing ages gave the novel a wide appeal and I found it interesting to see events from their various perspectives. I enjoyed having Barnsley as the setting; it gave the story a very different feel to the usual metropolitan chick lit.

This is the first of Milly Johnson’s books that I’ve read, and I’ll be working my way through her back catalogue soon. It contained some brilliantly written characters and the intertwining plots were all captivating. Yes, there were parts of the novel that were a little far-fetched, but what’s wrong with a little escapism eh?

4 stars

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