The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me by Lucy Robinson

          Published by Penguin in June 2014

Sally is a woman of many (hidden) talents.

She’s been working as a wardrobe mistress at the Royal Opera House, not telling a soul she’s a damn good singer. But then, she’s only been able to sing if she’s shut inside her wardrobe, where she’s safe.

But she’s made a promise to her cousin Fiona that she would audition for Opera School and, for complicated reasons, she can’t get out of it – even though she’d rather claw her eyes out than sing in public.

Sally has a lot to learn, but will she figure out that stage fright is about more than forgetting the words?

And that perhaps her real problems lie very much closer to home?”

MY REVIEW

Firstly I’d like to thank the publishers for sending me this book to read and share my honest opinion. I’ve enjoyed other books by Lucy Robinson (reviews here) so I couldn’t wait to get started.

Right from the beginning I was hit by Lucy’s familiar humour and drawn in by some very vivid characters. I could tell that reading this book was going to be quite a ride! The comedy continued throughout the book and I must admit that it was my kind of humour. The writing style had a certain bluntness to it which simply made me laugh and I do love a book that makes me laugh out loud while I’m reading.

The opera side of the storyline was actually quite fascinating for me, I knew nothing about opera before reading this book and, while it certainly didn’t make me an expert, I do feel like I learned a few things about the world of opera.

There was an intense mystery surrounding Sally’s trip to New York and what had happened there. I came up with a few predictions as to what the big drama was (all of which were wrong) but in the end it all became too much for me and I found myself screaming (in my head of course because little one was asleep) WHAT HAPPENED IN NEW YORK??? There were snippets of information along the way but then just as I thought I was about to find out, I was whisked back to the present day – Lucy Robinson you certainly know how to tease your readers!

I mentioned that the characters were vivid – the most vivid of them all were Barry and Jan, let me tell you why…

  • Barry was just epic! I could picture him so clearly stood there talking to Sally and calling her ‘chicken’. His massive personality really jumped off the page and made me smile every time he spoke.
  • Jan was equally as epic (are we all picturing the epic strut right now? Because we should be)! I could almost hear his accented words whispering through the pages at me. He came out with the most entertaining sentences I think I’ve ever read in a book – “will you be dying in this moment” was one of my favourites.

That big mystery I told you about? Well, towards the end I started to get an inkling of what had happened because each piece of the puzzle had gradually begun to fit together. At that point I couldn’t help but think back to the story I’d just read and look at it with a completely different viewpoint, one that was far more emotional than I’d expected.

This was a cracking read, a laugh-out-loud sort of book that was sprinkled with some very emotional scenes.

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The Greatest Love Story of All Time by Lucy Robinson

The greatest love story of all time

“It’s Fran’s thirtieth birthday and things are good . . .

She’s bluffed her way into a Very Posh Job and her outlandishly handsome and talented boyfriend Michael is escorting her to the Ritz with a bulge the shape of a ring box in his pocket.

But something has gone wrong. Very wrong. By the end of the evening Fran is howling in bed with a bottle of cheap brandy and one of Michael’s old socks.

In her quest to figure out why her life has suddenly gone down the pan, Fran comes up with a failsafe plan: live like a badger, stalk a stranger called Nellie and cancel her beloved Gin Thursdays in favour of drinking gin every night. But then Fran’s friends force a very different plan on her and it’s nowhere near as fun. How could eight dates possibly make her feel better?

But eventually she agrees. And so begins the greatest love story of all time . . .”

MY REVIEW

I bought this book after reading and enjoying A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger by the same author – my review of that book can be found here.

Getting to know the main character Fran at the beginning of the book was entertaining to say the least, I particularly enjoyed reading about the time she met Michael – I just couldn’t help but laugh! The whole storyline was filled with my kind of humour, there were rude jokes, clumsy moments and amusing events that kept me flipping the pages with a smile on my face.

The supporting characters were just as fun as the main character and this is something that I always like in a book because it gives me more of a well-rounded reading experience.  My favourites were Leonie and Dave – Leonie just had such an honest/blunt way of talking, her antics had me laughing out loud on more than one occasion.  Dave was a curious man who also said what he was thinking in a very amusing way but there was also a mysterious side to him that I couldn’t quite figure out.

The dating part of the story was so much fun, the messages Fran received were hilarious and I loved reading about the dates themselves, once again these were filled with humour and entertainment. However, putting all the fun and laughter aside there was a small element of the storyline that was far more serious.  It involved Fran’s mum and I felt that the behaviour of all those concerned was written accurately and with feeling, in my opinion it grounded the book and added a touch of a difficult reality.

This was a fun read with a hint of real-life difficulties, I look forward to more from this author.

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A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger – Lucy Robinson

A Passionate Love Affair With a Total Stranger

“Charley Lambert has worked hard at creating a perfect life.  She has an aspirational flat, a job of international significance and a very good pair of legs, thanks to a rigorous health and fitness regime.  Best of all, her boss has asked her out after seven years’ hard flirting and a covert fumble in a mop cupboard.

Then she breaks her leg in three places, watches her boss propose to someone else and – horror – is forced to hand over her job to her nasty deputy.  Charley, a certified workaholic, fears that she will go mad.

Dangerously bored, she starts helping people who are talentless at internet dating.  Then William arrives in her inbox and rocks her world.  Helpless, she watches herself fall in love with him and discovers she’s not who she thought she was.

But can she turn her back on her old life – all for a total stranger?”

Firstly I’d like to thank Francesca from Penguin UK for sending me this ARC to read and give an honest review.  The intriguing title really jumped out at me and the blurb intrigued me even more – this was a book that I couldn’t wait to start!

After just a few pages I got a sense of craziness surrounding Charley, she was a very busy woman (totally put me to shame, although I do have the same obsession with to-do lists) so when she found herself in hospital with a broken leg it was obvious she was going to struggle.

Learning more about Charley’s friendship/relationship with her boss John was highly entertaining but when everything came crashing down I felt incredibly sad for her.  She was the kind of character who I could imagine being friends with, the same went for her friends and family who certainly were an interesting mix and I found myself comparing them to people from my own life.

Charley’s decision to set up a business helping people in the internet dating world came after a no-nonsense phone call from her Grandmother (who was one of my favourite characters by the way), I loved the whole idea even though I didn’t fully understand how it would work to begin with.  I was soon up to speed though and when William came on the scene, or in this case online, things got even more interesting.  You may or may not know that I love a book with emails, well this one is full of them (along with instant messaging and texting) so I was pretty much in heaven with all this technical communication that was going on.

There was quite an unexpected twist that I hadn’t seen coming and it changed the direction of the book completely for me.  From that moment on whenever I thought I had it all figured out something would happen to make me change my opinion again, it really kept me on my toes.

The humour was brilliant, definitely my kind of humour, I found myself laughing out loud on many occasions throughout.  I loved the bluntness of the characters (Sam in particular) when they were talking to each other, I could easily relate to this and it just made them feel more real to me.

The author has a very natural and relatable style of writing, it made me feel comfortable whilst reading and I experienced a variety of emotions along with the intense need to go out and buy Nutella (this will make sense when you’ve read it) :).  The ending was perfect and left me grinning from ear to ear, I’m looking forward to reading more from this author.

This was a fun read containing the perfect combination of romance and humour, I would definitely recommend it.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger is Lucy Robinson’s second novel and follows on from her successful debut, The Greatest Love Story of All Time. Prior to writing Lucy earned her crust in theatre production and then factual television, working on documentaries for all of the UK’s major broadcasters.  Her writing career began when she started a dating blog for Marie Claire where she entertained readers with frank tales from her laughably unsuccessful foray into the world of internet dating.

Lucy was brought up in Gloucestershire surrounded by various stupid animals.  She studied at Birmingham University and lived in London for many years before disappearing off to South America for eighteen months in the hope of becoming a bohemian novelist.  This novel was written entirely on the road as she travelled through Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Ecuador and Columbia – although, fortunately, it does not feature so much as one crusty backpacker.

Lucy lives in South London with her partner, The Man.

For more insights into Lucy’s world, including her new blog, click here, you can also follow Lucy on Twitter and Facebook.

A Passionate Love Affair with a Total Stranger is released on 31st January 2013 and can be pre-ordered from Amazon in Paperback or Kindle edition.