Etta

Book Review: Love Life (ARC)

Expected publication: August 2nd 2021

Author: Nancy Peach

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Yorkshire lass in possession of a career, a house, and a cat, must be in want of a husb—
Oh get a grip!

Dr Tess Carter is no starry-eyed Jane Austen heroine. After all, if your dad left without a backward glance and you found your last boyfriend in bed with another guy, you wouldn’t believe in romance either. And the voices in Tess’s head – you know, the ones that tell you you’re not good enough, not pretty enough, not clever enough – well, these voices are very loud. Very loud indeed. Especially when the proud and disagreeable son of one of her patients starts challenging her every decision.

Edward Russell might have a big job and a posh voice, but Tess is determined not to let him get to her, especially if she can get her inner monologue to stop with the endless self-sabotage. And Edward, it turns out, may be less of a prat than he first appears; he’s certainly handy in a crisis.

In the real world, where gentlemanlike manners and out-of-the-blue declarations of love are a story-book fantasy, it’s up to Tess to decide whose voice to listen to … and how to make her own heard.

Love Life is an enjoyable second chance romance story. It follows two emotionally wounded individuals who initially connect, but timing wasn’t right to be together. They lose touch as they move on with others and are brought together by a chance meeting. The two of them begin to get to know the other, but they are unsure if the initial feelings from years ago still exist or if they were just not meant to be. Essentially, the basic premise is amazing and there are amazing themes throughout this novel. However, there is a lot going on all at once that it sometimes feels that some issues got lost in the shuffle where it did not fully hit the mark for me.

Tess Carter is in her late twenties and is currently training to become a doctor. She is in the middle of training rotations with current plans to become a GP. Her current training is at a hospice facility where they look at end of life care for patients. Tess has A LOT going on internally that she struggles with on a daily basis aside from her career. One day she came home from work to find her boyfriend, Scott Wickham, in bed with another man. They broke up and Scott became serious with this man, Luke Foster. She has a very complicated with relationship with her mother as her mother has drilled it into her head that men were bad from a young age, so Tess never dated or opened herself up to men until Pete, in university and was the boyfriend before Scott. She is half-Italian while her half-brother is half-Jamaican with their English mother. Her father left her mother when she was five years old and the two of them lost contact. Tess was under the impression that her father did not want anything to do with her anymore.  Additionally, she suffers from very low self-esteem and developed bulimia that she sometimes has under control. 

Throughout the story, the readers are introduced to the two inner voices in her head that I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of in the story. She has a television host that essentially is her own worst critic and points out every single flaw that Tess believes she has. Then, there is Jane Austen who gives the slightly more optimistic approach with some criticisms. It is a good concept with the “angel and devil” scenario as it is very relatable where everyone has their inner doubts that can eat away at them. It gave some good insight into her mental health. Many issues from her past have affected how she sees herself in the present and how she pictures her future. For me, I think a slight reduction in their length would have been better as sometimes it went on awhile and caused me to lose focus on what was happening before in the story.

Now Edward Russell, a 31-year-old lawyer for a large bank in London, has his own emotional struggles.  When his mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he feels lost. He grew up with an emotionally unavailable father, so he was closer to his mother. Additionally, his father suddenly passed away from a heart attack only a few year ago. His sister, Madeline, lives in the United States with her family, so he can speak to her on the phone, but a lot of his mother’s care now falls on his shoulders. His current girlfriend, Clara, does not help matters as she a very busy lawyer and is not always around to be a support system for Edward.  When Edward’s mother, Mary, is brought to the hospice, he meets Tess who becomes his mother’s doctor. The two butt heads over differences of opinion with her care and perhaps recollections from their first meeting years ago back when Tess was with Pete.

As I said earlier, there is a lot happening in this story. I feel it would have been better served to take some of the pieces out in order to give some subjects the time and attention they deserved. While it felt realistic as some people do have that much going on at any given time, it felt like too much to fit into a single novel.  A main issue that occurred with Tess at her clinic was her trying to find balance for being there for her patients without becoming too involved. However, Tess discusses learning from this, but I would have liked more from this part of the story.  She faces possible professional repercussions from this, so it would have been nice to have more about how she learns from it and moves forward with her patients.

Overall, this was an excellent debut with tons of potential. It is not a light-hearted read as many darker/difficult issues are tackled; however, there are many moments of levity in the story. The story is mostly told from the perspective of Tess with occasional portions that were told from Edward’s. While I loved getting some inner thoughts from both main characters, it did become confusing when there was no transition so it bounced between from one paragraph to another. Ideally, I would have enjoyed a 50/50 split, but I did not feel it was necessary and instead I just wished for a little more transition between the two. I loved the ending between Tess and Edward as it was done well and fit the situation of the story. While not being fully my cup of tea, this novel was interesting and I would be interested to read more from Nancy Peach in the future.

**I give a special thank you to Netgalley and the publisher, HarperCollins UK – One More Chapter, for the opportunity to read this enjoyable novel. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.**

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