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29 April 2015

Review & Interview: 'The New Mrs. D' by Heather Hill (2014)

Four days into their honeymoon in Greece, Bernice and David Dando have yet to consummate their marriage and after having accepted his almost non-existent desire for sex throughout the relationship, Bernice finally discovers the reason; he is addicted to porn. Learning that the love of her life chooses the cheap thrill of fantasy over her is devastating but then, 'every man does it; it’s just looking, right?’ If she leaves the relationship because of virtual adultery, will she be labelled as pathological, overreacting, or even worse, frigid? 

When funny, feisty, forty-something Bernice plans the adventure trip of a lifetime, she doesn’t expect to be spending it alone. But as it turns out, unintentionally contributing to a Greek fish explosion, nude karaoke and hilarious misadventures with volcanoes are exactly what she needs to stop fretting about errant husbands and really start living. But when Mr D tries to win her back, Bernice has a decision to make: is this a holiday from her humdrum life, or the start of a whole new adventure?

Another day, another book review! Several months ago I was contacted by author Heather Hill with the request of whether I'd be interested in reading and reviewing her novel 'The New Mrs. D.' It took a bit of time before I found a review copy of the book on my doorstep (especially since another copy went missing in the post), but a few weeks ago I received the book and looked forward to checking it out and finding out more about main character Bernice! Below you can find my review of the book and I also got the chance to ask Heather Hill some questions about 'The New Mrs. D', her own favourite books and her future plans as an author. So be sure to scroll down to read more!

Forty-year-old Bernice Dando has finally tied the knot with her boyfriend of six years, David, and they are in beautiful and sunny Greece to enjoy their honeymoon. However, Bernice is getting a bit worried because the two of them haven't consummated their marriage yet, and it doesn't take long before Bernice's fears are confirmed. She knew about David's porn addiction and was willing to give him another chance, but only four days into their marriage Bernice realises David isn't even trying to overcome his addiction and she knows she will probably be better off without him. Instead of a romantic honeymoon, Bernice decides to turn the trip into her own adventure, and she quickly finds a group of new friends to join her. But what happens when David comes back onto the scene, begging Bernice to take him back and giving their marriage another chance? Will Bernice give it another go and go back to her old life, or is it really time for something new?

'The New Mrs. D' is quite a quick read with just over 250 pages and one that's great for a day at the beach or when you're looking for a few hours to get your mind of things. Heather Hill really has her own distinctive writing style which is filled with humour and fits the story well. It took me a bit of time to get into, but main character Bernice's antics definitely had me laughing out loud and shaking my head. Bernice, also known as Binnie, has to deal with quite a serious topic; a husband who has a porn addiction, something that has also really affected her own body image. Heather Hill approaches these topics with a good dose of both realism and humour, which is something that can definitely inspire readers. 

Bernice is a unique character; her energy and humour are great and I admired her and the journey she goes on throughout the novel. She goes on all kinds of crazy adventures with her new group of friends, which form a fascinating collection of secondary characters and really add a fun touch to the story. Personally, I do think the novel was a bit too much on the funny side; I would have really liked to have seen a bit more of an emotional side to Bernice and getting to know her a bit better as the main character. However, I am positive other readers will appreciate this fact and thoroughly enjoy the high dose of humour. Overall, 'The New Mrs. D' is a witty and entertaining read with a collection of colourful characters at its core; a novel to pick up when you're looking for an escapist read and a laugh!
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 Heather Hill

I'm really excited to welcome Heather Hill to the blog today for an author interview. Be sure to check out her answers below!

Can you tell us something about your novel, ‘The New Mrs. D.’?
It is the story of a woman who takes a second chance on love in later life by marrying the man of her dreams, only to discover he has an unhealthy addiction to porn. Not in that he just uses it, but that he has been using it in place of making love to her.  And the saddest part is it has taken her so long to recognise the damage his addiction has been causing the relationship that she only learns the true extent of it while on honeymoon. So, she sends him packing while deciding if this is a serious enough issue to call off the marriage; embarking on the rest of the adventure laden honeymoon alone. 

It’s a sad, hilarious and empowering romp that delves into subjects that are not often spoken about, and follows the woman’s midlife, personal awakening whilst alone on a stunning island in Greece.

Where did you get the inspiration for your novel? Is it in any way based on your own experiences?
I was actually at the airport after a holiday in Greece, waiting to go home, when the idea came to me to write the story of a woman who ends up on an adventure honeymoon alone. I wrote an overview for the book on the plane and while thinking about the reasons for such a sudden spilt, decided there and then to tackle this quite modern issue – I say modern because I believe that porn use is escalating now that modern technology makes everything sordid easier to access than ever before. I didn’t set out to attack the porn industry, or try to say that it was wrong. I set out to tackle the deeper issue from continued use, when viewing porn becomes such a problem that it affects a man’s libido and, ultimately, his desire for sex with his wife/partner.

Can you tell us a bit more about the main character, Bernice?
For sure! Bernice is quite a complex character who has been a bit of a victim for most of her life, from living under the cloud of life with a narcissistic mother, to having her first marriage collapse due to her husband’s infidelity and finally, all too quickly agreeing to marry a man she knew had issues in the hope that she could change him. It seems incredulous to many people that this could happen, a woman actually going through with a marriage when her head is full of doubts. However, my extensive research has taught me that it does and much more often than you might think.  Bernice is by no means unintelligent, but has many complex co-dependency issues as a result of her life experience so far. 
On the lighter side, she is also kind, funny, accident-prone and getting in to a mountain of weird, wonderful and hilarious situations whilst holidaying alone which makes for a series of madcap adventures throughout the book.

Can you also tell us a bit more about the cast of supporting characters in the novel? Which character did you most enjoy writing?
Bernice makes friends with some of the other people who are booked on a series of tour experiences on the island. We have an American teacher, Linda, who has come to the island to meet her girlfriend that she met online. The girlfriend has in tow a troupe of hilarious and lovely gay exotic dancers whom she has brought to the island as their manager, to do some shows. Then we have the painter, Chris, who is a friend of her husband’s and whose apartment she is staying in. There is also a couple from Sweden and one from Scotland. Without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite character is a kindly and hilarious little old Scottish lady from this couple named Greta. I completely love her and no, she isn’t based on anybody I know. But when I picture her, she looks exactly like Mrs Pepperpot from the children’s books! I don’t want to spoil things by giving away too much about Greta, but she is a very lovely and funny lady with an empowering and inspirational story all of her own.

Did you do any particular research for parts of the book?
I researched pretty much all of it, believe it or not. The story follows a series of adventure experiences and I even went out to do a couple of them myself; attending an art class near my hometown in Glasgow and some kayaking. I also spoke with several volcanology professors here and in the USA about the conditions required for a fake volcanic eruption. This part makes me smile because a couple of people found that part a bit far-fetched but they’d be surprised to know it was gleaned from a series of actual events! I also spoke to a chemistry professor and a company that sells pelvic toners! Enough said there…

Can you perhaps tell us something about your future plans? Are you perhaps already working on a next novel?
I am writing a second comedy novel at the moment about three fairly mature widows that find friendship in an online forum, although progress has slowed whilst trying to publicise Mrs D as much as possible but I hope to have this out, at least in an ebook, by the summer this year. To describe it in short, I’d call it ‘a tale of grief, loss and accidental kidnapping’. 

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?
I have said this a lot in interviews, but I really hate the term ‘aspiring’ writers. If you are committed to writing something the length of a novel then you’re already a writer. The best thing you can do for yourself from the off is stop being so afraid to call yourself a writer. The day I finally said this to myself was the day I pushed onwards with my writing for real, knowing I would never stop even in the event that no one ever bought a word of what I wrote. Not being able to sell what you’ve written so far doesn’t detract from the amazing fact that you did it! You don’t need anyone’s permission to call yourself a writer. Believe it, say it boldly out loud and you’ll become a writer. Don’t let your head get hung up on not being as good as somebody else or that your first novel draft isn’t perfect. Of course it isn’t! Nobody’s is. The magic happens in the rewrites. Keep going!

What is the last book you read that you’d like to recommend to others?
‘A Mother’s Story’ by the lovely Amanda Prowse. Amanda writes with such heart I find her work incredible – it resonates inside of you; especially if you’re a sensitive soul like me. She really writes emotion well. Her books always have me in tears at some point and I often tweet her telling her off for doing this to me again, but I always go back for more.

Which book could you not live without?
All of them! Imagine a life without books? I had a dear, now sadly departed TV comedy writer friend who used to tell me he never trusted anyone that didn’t have books in the house and I agree with him. I’m often asked for my favourites and I genuinely find it hard to commit to naming one. For what seems like my entire life I’ve been the kind of person who wanders off in to a bookshop and doesn’t come out again for hours.

And last but not least, if you had to describe ‘The New Mrs. D.’ in just three words, which words would you pick?
Hilarious, empowering, and silly. 
NB Dear world full of serious people, it’s actually okay to be silly sometimes…

Thanks so much, Heather!

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