'Unforgettable You' by Georgina Penney (Recommended Read)
*A copy of this book was supplied by Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review*
After months working on an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean, engineer Jo Blaine can't wait to get home. Her job is tough, and she is desperate for some long overdue girl time. The last thing Jo needs when she walks through her front door is to find a strange man staying in her house. When she learns that her uninvited guest is none other than Stephen Hardy, she's tempted to head straight back out to sea. Stephen has always felt guilty for the part he played in ruining Jo's life years earlier and immediately jumps at the chance to make things up to her by looking after her apartment and her giant cranky cat. It takes some fast talking, but Jo is finally convinced to let him stay. And by the time she leaves for her next shift at work, they're both eagerly anticipating her return. But as they grow closer, it soon becomes clear Jo is hiding something about her past that is coming back to haunt her. After a lifetime of taking care of herself and her sister Amy, Jo isn't used to sharing her problems, especially when they involve her messy family history. But when threats start to escalate, Jo must decide whether to trust Stephen before her stubborn independence places them all at risk.
Written as a prequel, ‘Unforgettable You’ goes back in time to tell the story of Jo Blaine, sister of 1950s time-warp, Amy Blaine, who featured brilliantly in Ms Penney’s debut novel, ‘Irrepressible You’. I loved ‘Irrepressible You’ and was looking forward to this author’s second contemporary romance/chick lit novel. I was especially keen to see how a feisty oil-rig engineer tom-boy would be wooed by a mild mannered, marketing rain-man of a Margaret River vineyard. Once again I wasn’t disappointed.
It’s difficult to outline the plot of ‘Unforgettable You’ without giving away too much about both novels. It’s enough to say that both stories explore the lives of two sisters who experienced a childhood marred by domestic violence and yet whose life-responses couldn’t be more different from one another’s. In Amy we find an ultra-feminine kitten with nerves of steel who’s on an unconscious mission to avoid emotional intimacy. In Jo we find a volcanic wonder-woman on a mission to hide her inner softness and her conscious hankering to find just that. It takes the patient persistence of beta-hero good guy, Stephen Hardy, to finally break through Jo’s brittle front.
This is another great story from Ms Penney. The writing is incredibly detailed, to the point where you can imagine everything going on in the scene, and yet the story telling never sags. The characters are so vivid they leap off the page. Their stories aren’t just told from the point of view of two protagonists looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, it’s told from within the dynamic network of the interwoven friendships surrounding the Blaine sisters. In some ways these books remind me of Richard Curtis’ screen plays (Love Actually, Notting Hill etc) with the focus on a ‘family’ of friends – all successful, talented, Gen-Ys of the business and artistic worlds, and yet all of them a bit lost in their own ways, searching for something more meaningful beyond material success.
‘Unforgettable You’ tackles some very tough issues. Domestic violence and the way it affects the children involved, preventing them from realising their full potential in a myriad of ways, is not for the faint hearted amongst writers. I loved that ‘Unforgettable You’ sensitively explored another dimension of this issue through a quite different sibling within an affected family. And I loved, of course, that the decent, deserving Stephen Hardy was the man to see through the protective smoke-screens to the real Jo Blaine. I highly recommend ‘Unforgettable You’.
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