New mum Julia is offered the chance to get back to work as an event planner, when, on a recommendation, Valerie hires her to plan her son Jon's wedding. Valerie has a strong vision of exactly how the wedding should unfold. It has to be a very classy affair - so unlike her prospective daughter-in-law Aimee. Julia also gets involved in two other weddings - that of Debbie, who is determined to lose weight before her big day, and Gill, who is dealing with a big blended family. Readers were first introduced to Julia in The Girl's Guide to Falling in Love (aka The Beginner's Guide to the Birds and the Bees) when she and her husband, Nick, were having counselling. This is another amusing, light read from Hart. Valerie, the monstrous mother-in-law, was a great villain, and as a result Aimee's storyline came through the strongest. Definitely one to read if you like character-driven stories with a wedding theme.
Sex therapist Annie Hall is there to help couples overcome any troubles in their relationships. Nick and Julia have been married for several years and are trying to have a baby. This has slowly become an obsession for Julia, which is only pushing Nick further and further away. Zoe and Simon have just got engaged and can't keep their hands off each other. To challenge themselves, they want to turn their wedding night into something special by taking a vow of celibacy for six months. Roy and Linda have been married for more than 30 years but the excitement has left their relationship. Roy wants nothing more than to be close with Linda again, but she only seems to care about the family flower shop. Annie has her hands full with her three new couples but then she meets Jamie, who works in the same building. There are definitely sparks between them, but will Annie be able to follow the advice she has been giving others for years for a change? This is chick lit at its best from the first letter to the last full stop. Sophie Hart is a fabulous author and her writing style is so easy to get into and just the right pace. The topic of the book is sex, but Sophie deals with it in a fabulous way, highlighting everything that comes with this topic, such as relationships, love, comfort and trust. Annie is a great main character who is understanding, trustworthy, warm and I couldn't help but root for her from the start. The other three couples whose stories we get to follow are different and interesting in their own way, and the various storylines were all entertaining. It was great to join these couples on their relationship journeys, and there is even some great advice hidden in the novel here and there. The Beginners Guide to the Birds and the Bees is an amazing, uplifting romantic comedy and one of my favourite reads of 2014. (JoH)
Estelle is a single mother of a teenage boy who runs the small and cosy Cafe Crumb. Things are bit slow when it comes to business so Estelle comes up with a plan to start a book club which would bring in some extra customers. The word gets out and soon the book club starts with pensioner Sue, school teacher Rebecca, no-bullshit Gracie, shy college student Reggie and of course Estelle itself. After just one meeting it turns into an erotica book club. And soon it becomes more than a book club when friendships are made as a few members start to take these books way too seriously in a bid to spice up their own sex lives. You will not want to put this down until the very last page. It's an excellent debut with truly lovable characters. (SS)