On the brink of bankruptcy, Ellie finally succumbs to her sister's well-meant bullying and decides to rent out some rooms. And all too soon the indomitable Allegra with her love for all things lavender, Sabine on secondment from Berlin and estranged from her two-timing husband, and unreconstructed lads' mag aficionado Matt enter her ordered but fragile existence - each with their own messy life in tow. And Ellie finds herself forced to step out of the pages of the romantic novels she hides behind, and learn to live - and love - again. Maybe a new chapter is about to begin for them all...
As soon as I saw the cover of this particular novel, I just knew it was the kind of book I would like. Not only does the title include the words ‘happy’ (who doesn’t like happiness?) and ‘broken hearts’ (which are there to be fixed, right?), but the caption on the cover also reads “Sometimes you have to write your own happy ending…” Well, obviously by just looking at the name of this blog it is quite clear that if a book promises something about a happy ending, you can count me in.
This novel tells the story of Ellen Woods, a thirty-something widow living in her beloved Victorian home in London with her almost-teenage son, Charlie. After losing her husband Nick, Ellen spends her days taking care of Charlie, worrying about money, and using her work as an editor of romance novels to escape reality whenever she can. It is Ellen's sister, Hannah, who ultimately convinces Ellen that she has to get her head out of the sand: it's either moving out of the family home herself or letting other people move in. After making the decision, it doesn't take long before three lodgers arrive on her doorstep. Allegra (a determined elderly lady, who also happens to be Ellen's favourite romance novelist), Sabine (a German working professional with marital problems) and Matt (an attractive young man who has taken on a new job for all-man magazine 'Bang It!') all bring their own personalities into Ellen and Charlie's lives, and it doesn't take long before Ellen is forced to step out of the pages of happy ever after's and start facing the real world again, no matter how scary it might be.
I hadn’t read anything by Rowan Coleman before, even though I saw her name appear on my Amazon wish list every now and again. I love discovering new authors I can add to my favourites list and Coleman is definitely one of them. After just a few pages, I was already completely absorbed by this novel. Not only because the protaganist, Ellen, is an easily loveable and relatable character (who of us doesn't use stories to escape reality every now and then?), but because almost all of the characters are instantly likeable and bring something interesting to the table. The novel is really well-written and the mix of romance, grief, humour and strength is the perfect balance to form a story I simply could not put down.
What I especially loved about this book is the way Coleman developed her characters. In most books, there are always a few characters you love, maybe one or two you dislike and perhaps some you don't really care for. With this book, I surprisingly found myself falling in love with almost every single character: Ellen, who is shatterd by grief but is trying to pick up the pieces of her life; Charlie, who is struggling with his mother's behaviour and the fact that he is starting to turn into a typical teenage boy (which results in a couple of very funny scenes and conversations); Allegra, the demanding lady in lavender who you can't help but grow fond of; Sabine, who is perhaps not as present as the others but definitely adds something to the story with her own issues with her cheating husband; and, last but not least, Matt, who I couldn't help but develop a serious reader's crush on. The only character in the book I had a bit of trouble with was Hannah, but that most likely also has to do with the plot development (don't want to entirely give it away for those of you who haven't read the book yet!).
I was seriously gutted when I finished this novel, but at the same time it was a satisfying ending I can not complain about. The one thing about this book that slightly bothered me were the cursive passages that focused on The Sword Erect, the romantic story Ellen is editing during the course of the novel. I myself wasn't a big fan of this other plot and would have rather seen those couple of extra pages used to write more about the other characters. Yet, at the same time I do see the significance of this other storyline, so it is simply a personal comment on the side. Overall, a really well-written book filled with warmth, kindness and laughter which I would definitely recommend to any chick-lit fan!