The Only Exception by Claire Huston – for Lucinda true love may be fiction in this enjoyable contemporary novel

The Only Exception by Claire Huston

From a dramatic beginning which swiftly introduces several characters, this is a lively and yes, exceptional novel that I greatly enjoyed. It is about a woman, Lucinda, who thinks deeply about romance and love, and is satisfied that the idea of finding a special person is a fantasy. It is about people who have some history, some experience of life, and face challenges beyond straightforward romance. The characters are given vivid realism in this novel, in the small details and the descriptions of what they think. The characters are well introduced, are consistent throughout, and basically come to life in the writing of this talented author. They vary from Alex’s small nieces as they ask embarrassing questions, through Lucinda’s difficult mother, and the event fixer Becky who featured in the author’s previous book, the excellent “Art and Soul”. The settings are well done, as Lucinda owns a catering firm which is always keen to keep its influential customers happy, and for which she feels personally responsible. Alex’s progress as an actor is fascinating, as despite his undoubted abilities he is always insecure and unaware of his attractions for many of the women around him. I enjoyed the idea of how he finds fame in an unexpected way, and how he attracts a particular group of passionate fans. 

This book offers real insight into the acting profession, with some of the insecurities of work even if the actor is appearing in a successful series. Alex is an insecure actor who is dedicated to preparation for parts, which is how he is on site to effect a very unusual rescue. The other settings, such as stately homes and kitchens are well described, and the characters are reasonable in their reactions. There are homes, whether shared, family or small flat, which imply a lot about those who live there, and are almost possible to visualise. Probably the most enjoyable element of this novel is the dialogue, which remains lively and realistic throughout the book. It is often funny, heartfelt and always consistent with the characters. There are the sort of text conversations that seem understandable and familiar.  Lucinda is a beautifully drawn character, amazed at the attraction she feels for Alex, which is in direct contrast to her beliefs about the existence of true love. She is also surprised at how strongly she feels about his relationships. Her hesitancy is expressed in how dismissive she is of him, even the rudeness she shows during their encounters. Lucinda is fighting the basic electric attraction she feels for Alex from a place of deeply held views about whether there can ever truly be “the one”, as well as ignorance of what he thinks about life. 

Another element of this book I especially enjoyed are the twists and turns, the surprises and revelations in this book. They are not dramatic and world changing in many senses, but the coincidences and impulses that many of the characters experience do add depth to the narrative. A woman who features in the first dramatic incident in the book shows herself to be full of surprises, for example. The hunt for a lost dog is entertaining and contains revelations of true feelings amid the mud and clothing decisions. 

This book is immensely readable and enjoyable. Not that it lacks depth; it is a detailed and deeply felt book about people with realistic lives. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this memorable book, and thoroughly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a well written contemporary romance.

Art and Soul by Claire Huston – A story of contemporary life fixing and crisis management


This is a positive view of twenty first century relationships, with very natural and unforced humour. The characters are realistic and spring off the page, convincing and involving from their first appearance. At the centre is Becky Watson, crisis manager, events fixer, and crucially mum to toddler Dylan. The people she gets involved with are reacting to a situation and indeed her with honesty. Though much of her work is with wealthy people keen to put on a show, whether that is an actual exhibition, or a hugely expensive wedding, her role is to unofficially prevent problems or at least fix them. Her real interest is in fixing lives, transforming them and offering them solutions. In this book she encounters a tough challenge in the person of Charlie Handren. Charlie is a reluctant artist who has lost his vision, and is at sea with all relationships. Can Becky help him rediscover his ability, a muse and also, can she help herself make and maintain a life for Dylan? I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this engaging tale of contemporary life.


“Calm and composed” is her mantra as Becky approaches the renovated railway station where Charlie lives with his daughter Phoebe. She is worried that the invitation to meet, in a drunken phone call the previous evening, may display a certain reluctance to actually engage with her variety of life coaching. Sure enough, she has to negotiate her way past a door chain to be confront with an unkempt man with no real interest in his own life and lovely house. She has her secret weapon, the fact that Lauren, Charlie’s sister, has long been on the case that he needs to focus and start painting. She also establishes quickly that Phoebe will be potentially leaving home in a year’s time for University. Charlie’s estranged wife left them six years ago, and has had limited contact since. As Becky enquires about his home studio, we are told of his feelings. Of how he feels pathetic, despite his beautiful home and apparently inspiring studio. He has kept a canvas that he has tried to work on, rework and generally got frustrated with, and accordingly Becky soon picks up on his thoroughly blocked inspiration. 


Becky consults her friend Ronnie, cake maker of local fame, and creator of amazing window displays. She and her partner Mike are a vital part of Becky’s support system, as she attends weddings in the wealthy area in which she lives, not as staff but to divert and distract when family tensions and jealousies threaten to disturb the smooth running of the event.  As she establishes what Charlie wants and indeed needs to get his artistic talent back on track, Becky cannot help getting involved with him as he becomes more attractive. Nevertheless, he has specified that he wants to become involved with the beautiful, wealthy Rachel, and Becky must not only organise an exhibition, drive Charlie to paint, but also ensure he can summon the courage to approach the seemingly unobtainable woman.


Becky’s real talent is to think laterally and fix problems. While she knows that she can potentially earn a lot of money if Charlie has a successful exhibition, she knows that she will work her way out of a job, having fixed Charlie’s life so he can be independent of her life coaching.She knows that life can be hard, disappointing and a bit of a struggle, and it seems she needs someone else to fix her life. This is an inspiring and entertaining novel, full of moving and lively descriptions, and is an interesting commentary on contemporary life. I recommend it as an uplifting and fascinating read in a positive tone.  


As I hope you can tell, I really enjoyed this book! I do hope it is a success, it certainly deserves to be. Good luck, Claire!


Meanwhile, back at the Vicarage, life goes on quite quietly. Selwyn the Vicarage cat is used to having his humans around virtually all the time, except when we defect to the garden. I am having a fine time reading and sorting books, though my trained librarian has the problem of trying to wedge them onto the shelves. As daughter’s stuff is still in her room here, fiction is still difficult to store, and to access. One day I will be able to read and review my books where the author’s surname begins with a letter before H…