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Book reviews: The Princess and the Prick by Walburga Appleseed, Tackle by Jilly Cooper, The Contest by Karen Hamilton, The Square by Celia Walden, The Fake Wife by Sharon Bolton, Eight Bright Lights by Sara Gibbs





Janet Gordon, from Takeley, reviews best-sellers and debut fiction for the Indie

The Princess and the Prick by Walburga Appleseed (HQ £9.99)

More years ago than I care to remember I won a prize for poetry in my first year at senior school. I have no idea what it was I won, but I vaguely remember it was the weirdest poem I’ve ever written. But then I was 13, full of angst and life, love and just about everything.

My poetry never managed to get published, primarily because I never did anything with it other than shove it in a drawer.

And nor did I call myself something quite so different as author Walburga Appleseed, whose The Princess and the Prick is definitely a stocking-filler for those difficult late teen years.

With wonderful illustrations, Walburga takes traditional fairytales, legends and myths and gives them a somewhat ironic feminist twist.

The Princess and the Prick by Walburga Appleseed (HQ £9.99)
The Princess and the Prick by Walburga Appleseed (HQ £9.99)

Tackle by Jilly Cooper (Bantam £22)

Moving on from my school years to my many years editing Taxi Newspaper – the official “organ” of the licensed London taxi trade - and I’d been reading Jilly Cooper’s single-name romantic comedies for years until she burst into the best-sellers with her very first “bonkbuster” featuring the epic Rupert Campbell-Black.

OMG I simply devoured it and reviewed it at the time - I still have the thank-you card that the lovely Jilly sent to say hello.

Now, countless bonkbusters later, she’s back with Tackle. Still featuring the relentless Rupert Campbell-Black and Jilly’s trademark double entendres, there’s a wonderful cast of characters all focused on the failing football club Searston Rovers.

Tackle by Jilly Cooper (Bantam £22)
Tackle by Jilly Cooper (Bantam £22)

The fiercely competitive Rupert has been persuaded to buy the club and to sign his daughter Bianca’s football-playing boyfriend.

Still married to the gorgeous Taggie, who is now about to undergo chemo, Rupert, in his quest for success, becomes rather fond of his raggle-taggle footballers.

The irrepressible Jilly is now in her mid-80s and still turning out best-sellers – isn’t that so wonderfully hopeful? And I’ve still got my first edition of Riders which was published in 1985.

The Contest by Karen Hamilton (Wildfire £8.99)

There are luxury travel firms and there are uber luxury travel firms. Blackmore Vintage Travel (BVT) prides itself on being the crème de la crème.

Every year, the company vies to dream up the biggest and best show-off great escape - this year it’s a climb up Mount Kilimanjaro. Only their nearest rival, who also thinks of itself as a luxury travel company, has also decided to climb the mountain.

BVT’s favourite spendthrift, uber wealthy clients have even packed their own rucksacks with their desired personal luxuries whilst the helpers forge on ahead with tents, toilet tents, luxury foods and more or less everything possible to make the guests feel, if not quite at home then very nearly.

The Contest by Karen Hamilton (Wildfire £8.99)
The Contest by Karen Hamilton (Wildfire £8.99)

But there is mischief afoot and dangerous deeds. Hugo, who is BVT, brings along his son Jacob who is bidding to take over the company whilst Florence, who heads up Team Two at BVT, is also in the running to take over the company.

Who plays fair and who doesn’t? There’s plenty of intrigue on the way to the summit in this very chilly thriller.

The Square by Celia Walden (Sphere £22)

Colette is the go-to IT expert for the residents of Addison Square. Not that they ever remember her name – she’s just the “geek”.

But when newcomer Leila moves into the square and enlists her help because she’s convinced that a resident is after her, the geek begins to rebel.

And, of course, nothing is secret to the geek. . .

The Square by Celia Walden (Sphere £22)
The Square by Celia Walden (Sphere £22)

The Fake Wife by Sharon Bolton (Orion £20)

We meet Olive who is dining alone in a luxury hotel whilst her husband is away, until a gorgeous stranger takes the seat opposite and tells the waiter she is joining her wife.

For some reason, Olive just accepts this and they order dinner.

Then she is forced to leave the hotel and take a drive with her “wife” and becomes the latest in a line of missing women.

Wow! This one will keep you guessing right until the end.

The Fake Wife by Sharon Bolton (Orion £20)
The Fake Wife by Sharon Bolton (Orion £20)

Eight Bright Lights by Sara Gibbs (Headline £9.99)

Hannah is slumming it in a dive of a pub in Devon and finds herself bundled off to Tel Aviv after her father, who she hasn’t seen or heard of for years, suddenly dies.

Then there’s Rachel, who is determined to become a journalist on her favourite magazine and who just happens to be getting married on Christmas Day.

And there’s Ellie, who mouths off at the boss from hell and quits, but who happens to be Rachel’s wedding planner.

Eight Bright Lights by Sara Gibbs (Headline £9.99)
Eight Bright Lights by Sara Gibbs (Headline £9.99)

Determined that she won’t let Rachel down, Ellie decides to go it alone and, using all her contacts, plan Rachel’s big day. Only Corinne, the boss from hell, calls in all her favours and Ellie is in despair.

It’s just a week until Christmas and also Hanukkah, and everything is conspiring to stop the wedding happening.

But, like all good fairy tales, the interweaving story threads in this wonderful tale are all pulled together in this glorious story full of pathos, humour, shouting and screaming.

A story full of life and love, I absolutely adored it.

The winners of the Kammy: My Unbelievable Life and Snow Problem competitions (Indie, November 22-28) were Brian Purton and Margaret Power respectively.



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