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8 April 2015

Review & Interview: 'The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards' by Fiona Jane Gibson

What would you do if you discovered the real reason for your husband’s proposal…and she was younger than you, prettier than you and out to get him back? 

Harmony Richards is forty-five, swallowed whole by a marriage she’s insecure in and a chore-ridden motherhood she can’t escape from, and dismayed that her looks are beginning to fade. If all that isn’t bad enough, she finds out her husband of twelve years has a Lost Love. A one that got away. Except she’s not away; she’s back. And her arrival makes Harmony feel her life is in faster free-fall than her face. 

Surely stalking the lost love, flirting with a man young enough to know better and taking on an unexpected new challenge can’t possibly make things worse?

A few months ago I was contacted by author Fiona Jane Collins with the question whether I'd be interested in reading and reviewing her debut novel 'The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards', which was released in November 2014. I straight away liked the cover and the description of the story, but I also discovered the book was the winner of the Debut of the Year award in the ChickLit Uncovered Book Awards 2014. A promising award which definitely made me even more curious to check out the book and discover Fiona Jane Collins' writing for myself!

Forty-five-year old Harmony Richards has the life of your average stay-at-home-mum, living in a small village with her husband and three children, whom she loves very much. However, her life is suddenly turned upside down when Harmony all of a sudden discovers her husband has been hiding things from her, more particularly a girl named Melissa whom he was madly in love with and engaged to before he proposed to Harmony; in other words, the One That Got Away. And now, that same Melissa has moved back to the village, set on winning back her former fiancee's heart. Harmony knows she shouldn't doubt twelve years of marriage, but before she can stop herself she finds herself stalking Melissa and flirting with a much younger man... Will Harmony be able to save her marriage or is it all just downhill from here?

I love discovering new authors whose writing style I immediately really enjoy and can get lost in, and that was certainly the case for Fiona Jane Collins' debut novel. Harmony is a lovely main character whom was easy to warm to and relate to. Even if you're not yet in your forties, like me, Harmony will win you over together with the funny and recognisable situations she finds herself in. While the main focus really lies on Harmony, there are some entertaining secondary characters such was Harmony's best friend Julia, who really made me laugh, and Melissa, who used to be engaged to Harmony's husband and who is so easy to dislike (with a passion!).

I really enjoyed Fiona Jane Collins' writing style which is perfect for a romantic comedy novel: flows easily, detailed enough but with enough dialogue as well, and some great and funny scenes that will undoubtedly make you laugh out loud. While the novel was a bit slow-paced in places, in my opinion, I was never fed up with the story and was curious to see how it would all end. Overall, 'The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Roberts' is a funny, witty, well-written and thoroughly enjoyable read; definitely a promising debut novel and I already can't wait to check out Fiona Jane Collins' next book! 
For more information about this book: / / Goodreads

Thanks to the author for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.

Author interview with Fiona Jane Collins!

I'm excited to welcome author Fiona Jane Collins to the blog today to tell us more about her wonderful novel 'The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards'!

Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards’?
It’s about a forty-five year old wife and mother who discovers that the unromantic husband she adores only proposed to her years ago because he was dumped by his One That Got Away. This ex-fiancee is not only much younger and prettier than her but she’s also back in town, turning Harmony’s life upside down. The book explores what it feels like to be insecure in a marriage and threatened by a stunning, younger rival when your own looks are fading. 

Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
I was forty-five myself when I wrote it and thinking about ageing a lot, especially as the media, particularly newspapers like the Daily Mail, is always focusing on it unkindly and making women feel ashamed of losing their looks. There’s also the perception in Hollywood that actresses can’t possibly look a day over thirty-five.  I wanted to explore what ageing is like for a woman really affected by it, especially if they are also dealing with a one-sided marriage and a husband with a younger, hot ex. 

Can you tell us a bit more about the main character, Harmony?
Harmony is quite a complicated character, I think. She can be feisty and an outrageous flirt, at the same time she’s lacking in general confidence and feels diminished by her role as wife and mother. Also, she met her husband, Tom, at university and has never been sure if he returns the strength of her feelings. It really bothers her that he never says ‘I love you’. Once Melissa arrives on the scene, Harmony’s life is thrown into turmoil but it does liven up considerably and there are some twists and turns that take her in some surprisingly fulfilling directions.  There’s also the pickle she gets herself into with young Australian personal trainer, Blake...

There’s a great cast of supporting characters in the novel as well. Which character did you most enjoy writing?
It would have to be vain, bitchy Melissa, who delights in being both extremely attractive and much younger than Harmony. It’s always fun to write a ‘bad’ character and she was very entertaining to conjure up, especially her dialogue in the beauty salon scenes. 

Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
I forced myself to the gym a few more times that I would have liked, to get Harmony’s gym scenes with Blake just right, and I also researched spray tans as they were something I had no experience of! Other parts of the book I have been researching for years ie. drunken girls’ nights out!

Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
I’m in the process of finishing my second novel which is about a single mum who finds her mundane life transformed when she meets a female rock star on the school run. I’ve also started a third novel about a group of women who have sworn off men... 

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
As I’m new on the scene, I don’t feel too qualified to advise other writers but I would say write what you would like to read and get on with it!

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
I’ve just finished Sue Townsend’s The Woman who Went to Bed for a Year, about a wife and mother who takes to her bed and disengages from life as soon as her twins leave for university.  I’d only ever read the Adrian Mole books by her, but I really enjoyed it.  It was very funny and the premise was great.

Which book could you not live without?
I’m sure a lot of readers would agree, but it has to be To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s just one of those books you have to pick up and re-read every few years. 

And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘The Anti-Ageing of Harmony Richards’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
Hopefully. Funny. Book!

Thanks so much, Fiona! :)

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