Blog Tour: 'Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Back Up Man?' by Laura Kemp
Twenty-one and insecure, Vicky Hope comes up with a plan on the eve of travelling the world with her high flying friend, Kat Lloyd: if she isn't married by the time she's thirty, she'll marry her geeky best mate Mikey Murphy.
Fast-forward eight-and-a-bit years, Vicky, now Vee wakes up on her thirtieth birthday in Brighton, expecting a proposal of marriage from her arty boyfriend Jez. Instead he tells her their relationship is over and she has no choice but to return to her parents' home.
Devastated and alone in her childhood bedroom, she decides she has nothing to lose and tracks down her two old mates. With shock, she discovers Mikey, now Murphy, is a successful app designer driven by his tragic upbringing. Kat, or Kate, never made it - but she hides a devastating secret, which threatens the happiness of all three.
Quite some time ago I was asked to read and review author Laura Kemp's novel 'Mums on Strike' (click here to read my review). I enjoyed the novel but never really got the chance to read another one of the author's works, until recently! Laura Kemp's latest book, 'Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Back Up Man' was released at the start of this month by publisher Aria and I'm really excited to be part of the blog tour for the novel today. I liked the book cover and the description promised an interesting chick lit story, so I was both curious and excited to check it out. If you want to know more about the book, scroll down to read my review, an extract from the novel and visit some of the other blogs taking part in the tour; the blog names can be found on the blog tour poster!
Vicky Hope, Kat Lloyd and Mikey Murphy used to be the best of friends when they were in their early twenties. After university, Vicky and Kat decide to go travelling together, but at the other side of the world things slowly start to go wrong and it ultimately leads to all three of them going their separate ways. Now, at the age of thirty, Vicky (now known as Vee), seems to be back at the starting line: no job, no relationship and back at her parents' house. With nothing to lose, she decides to reach out to Kat and Mikey, in the hope of figuring out what happened all those years ago and perhaps rebuilding their friendship. But things are a bit more complicated than expected, especially when some big secrets and misunderstandings come to the surface and change everything...
'Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Back Up Man?' is another enjoyable read by author Laura Kemp; one that focuses on and is told from the perspective of three different characters: Vicky, Kat and Mikey, who used to be the best of friends, but due to specific circumstances they've not seen each other for years. I always enjoy stories told from multiple POVs, because this usually means there is more than enough going on to keep the reader guessing and interested. I easily warmed to Vicky and Kat's story was definitely my favourite; Mikey didn't really do a lot for me, but put together it definitely resulted in a thoroughly enjoyable story mainly focused on friendship and romance, but dealing with some other issues at the same time.
The book is divided in quite long chapters that focus on both the present and flashbacks to when Vicky, Kat and Mikey were younger. This provides the reader with insight into the history between the three friends, which I really liked. While I did enjoy the author's writing style I did feel that there was a lot of description and not enough dialogue, which made reading the book a bit tiresome to me personally at times. Overall, though, I'm glad I got the chance to check out another Laura Kemp novel and 'Whatever Happened to Vicky Hope's Back Up Man?' is a light-hearted and warm romantic comedy read that I'm sure many readers will enjoy!
Thanks to the publisher for providing me with a review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Extract from the novel!
Roath, Cardiff, September 2007
Lying flat on her back, Vicky Hope screwed up one eye and waited for the orangey night sky to stop spinning.
When it didn’t, she groaned, reached out across her parents’ manicured lawn for Mikey Murphy’s hand and squeezed it hard.
‘Ow! What in the name of Britney Spears was that for?’ he said, yanking back his arm.
‘Everything’s whirling and I can’t stop it,’ she wailed as the street light in the top right of her vision pogoed up and down. This was not how she had wanted to look back on the farewell barbecue held in her honour for family and neighbours the night before she left home and travelled the world. She’d intended to behave seeing as Mum had pulled out the stops, having bought the posh burgers from the supermarket.
‘That’s five hours of sinking everything in your Dad’s drinks cabinet, that is,’ he smirked, splayed out beside her, blowing smoke rings into the for-once still Indian summer air. ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have had that last one. The green concoction that tasted of melon with an umbrella and a glacé cherry. That made you sick. That ended the party.’
‘Not helping,’ she gulped, panicking at the prospect of her six-month tour with their friend Kat Lloyd, beginning with boarding British Airways flight 548 from Heathrow to La Paz, Bolivia via Miami at 11.25 a.m. tomorrow. Twenty-one hours in transit – not including Dad’s painfully sensible driving from Cardiff to the airport – was bad enough when you’d never gone further than the Mediterranean but with a hangover? Vicky felt panty and light-headed at the thought of Kat in bed already after a tame family supper. ‘And I’ve got to get up in about four hours and Kat says she’s taking far less than me and that I’ve overpacked. But I think five pairs of shoes is fine, don’t you?’
Mikey gave a loud snort.
‘What?’ Vicky said, turning her head to face him.
Mikey, being Mikey, deliberately kept looking upwards, his face expressionless, the profile of his heavy brow, strong nose and defiant lips as inscrutable as Snowdon.
But having been best mates with him for eight years, Vicky knew exactly what he was thinking: she was ridiculous. So she elbowed his skinny ribcage.
‘Oi!’ he barked, making to sit up before giving in to gravity and collapsing alongside her. Vicky watched as he stretched to stub out the last burning embers of his fag on the edge of the patio. Knowing the drill, he pocketed the butt – funny how he followed the rules here at Mum and Dad’s but nowhere else.
‘It’s not enough to leave me – yet again. Oh no, you have to go and duff me up,’ he said, pouting for effect, which sent Vicky wild.
‘You were invited!’ she screeched. ‘Me and Kat always said we’d go travelling after uni and we always asked you to come.’
Vicky’s indignation evaporated then when she realized it was no longer an idea but an actual happening. She was frightened of the food, the toilets, the language barrier – and of being The Plain Friend. Vicky loved Kat dearly: they’d wished they were twins in primary and that the corridors would swallow them up in secondary. With Vicky’s ginger hair and puppy fat and Kat’s towering height and thick specs, they’d stood out in Cardiff High for all the wrong reasons. Then when Mikey had turned up from a rough estate in Llanedeyrn with long black hair in Year Nine he’d had no other choice but to join their gang.
Now though, Kat wasn’t the square in glasses anymore. She had contact lenses, a thigh gap, perky boobs and glossy Angelina Jolie hair as well as a first-class degree and a career in banking waiting for her when they got back. With her pale podge, ‘strawberry’ blonde hair, a 2:2 and that clueless gawp if asked what she was going to do for a job, Vicky was still hoping to have her ta-da moment of transformation.
Whenever Vicky admired her friend’s new looks, Kat would make sure she returned the compliment: Kat knew what it was like to feel unattractive. But that didn’t change the fact that Vicky was going to spend the next six months in Kat’s shadow.
If only Mikey was coming, he always made her feel special. Sort of interesting, funny, clever, kind and not the big idiot she considered herself to be. Oh, God, she thought, shutting her eyes, she was going to miss him madly. He was her constant, her ally and her teammate – even more so than Kat, who’d been put in a different form and was whisked off at home-time to her smart semi overlooking the park for after-school tuition, leaving Vicky and Mikey to deal with the bullies alone.
He’d been moved by his mum and dad from the ‘interfering’ catholic school at a time when she was having one of what Mikey called her ‘mad attacks’. With drainpipe school trousers and both ears pierced, he stood out a mile and from day one he was ‘a poof’ and ‘a queer’. A mouse of a student who, at best, was called a plodder, Vicky had no hope: hanging out with him meant she was tainted by association.
When everyone else had been sorting themselves into their tribes, whether they were indie kids or trendies, she and him had been on the periphery, united by not being like everyone else. They paired up because no one would sit next to them. That was when they bonded; over their pencil cases scrawled with Pulp and the Manic Street Preachers; class war; and their hatred of Tony ‘Tory’ Blair. Being singled out as weird, they took it and turned it on its head, thriving on their otherness: there was comfort in their in-jokes, secret codes, latest activist causes and understanding that they were different. Kat, or Katherine back then, flitted in and out of their world when she had a second away from her heavily scheduled ‘free’ time of music and maths. Everyone else followed the crowd: the girls all had Rachel from Friends haircuts while the boys tried to look like Baywatch extras with blond highlights.
Those clones had no hope: Mikey and Vicky however were destined to make it, whatever ‘it’ was. Vicky would listen enraptured, her heart beating wildly, as Mikey talked of the future, desperate to get away from his drunk of a dad: how he’d tread the roofs of the identical new-build estates like stepping stones and pick his way to London, paving the way for a better life. The others, he’d scoffed, could only see as far as ten minutes up the A48.
Vicky didn’t have the same motivation – unlike Mikey, her family was boringly normal. The weekly shop was always done on a Wednesday. Dad drove an executive Ford. Mum dreamed of having a side-return extension to their Victorian terrace round the corner from Roath Park. And her big brother Gavin was scaling the grades in the finance department of the National Assembly for Wales.
But that was precisely why Vicky yearned to fly. Because she was so ordinary, she had an emotional need to make herself stand out, be accepted, be someone. To be interesting.