Written From The Heart by Trisha Ashley – a funny novel of a writer’s life

Written From the Heart: Amazon.co.uk: Trisha Ashley: 9781784160883 ...

 

A novel of a writer, who writes and critiques other writers, is often an interesting read. This book contains much more – humour, ballet and innuendo, literary festivals and friendship. Trisha Ashley has created Tina Devino who tells her story very much in her own words, and with her own suggestive tales of her regular lover, partner and friend, the retired but still active ballet dancer Sergei. There are letters throughout addressed to Tina’s agency for aspiring writers, where for a certain sum a range of individuals send their manuscripts of varying quality for Tina’s scrutiny and advice. She replies with humour and discretion and I enjoyed these insertions into the story very much. Meanwhile we see Tina’s interactions with various people in her life; her publisher, Salubrious Press with a surprise, her agent, Miracle, and her good friend Linny. She has local friends in the seaside town of Shrimphaven, who help her with diverse things as computers, as the internet was a new thing for her, and her pet mouse Minnie. This is a very funny book, with Ashley’s usual cast of characters and a plot that is far more than a straightforward romance. Tina is a wonderful creation, with a lot of determination to make the most of her career as a “mid list author”, and this is a most entertaining book.

 

The book opens with Tina receiving a dictaphone so she can make notes for her novels, which Linny confidently predicts will be bestsellers. That would certainly relive the financial pressures  on Tina, but meanwhile she will keep producing her novels of gardening and passion and supplementing her income looking through the novels sent to her, often too long, beyond definition and not even in convincing English. They make for funny interludes, as she copes with Linny’s random behaviour and Sergei’s regular phone calls. Her brother is convinced that the family is from an Italian gangster background, and his family are all that is left of Tina’s relatives. She is no longer in contact with her ex husband, Tim, but her long term part time relationship with Sergei is quite exhausting. She becomes determined to save her career in the face of blonde debut writers, and decides that as her publisher will not spend anything on publicity for her book she must get some herself. Happily, that may not be too difficult with Sergi on her team.

 

This is a most entertaining novel with some very funny incidents, all seen through Tina’s remarkable point of view. Her clothes and her concerns are always funny. Her experiences at literary events have a certain ring of truth, especially when she is trying to lead a writing session. There are plenty of imaginative events involving Sergei, who embraces celebrity with great flair. The letters that are sent by the would be writers are very funny, as they reveal their great hopes for success and fame despite their frequent misunderstanding of genre and writing altogether. Every part of this book gives a picture of an unusual woman with a great sense of fun.   

 

This book originally appeared in 2008 as “Happy Endings”, which explains why the attitude to computers and the ignorance of such things and mobile phones may be noticed. This novel, like the other Trisha Ashley books I have enjoyed and reviewed, features women who are forced to reassess their lives for various reasons. This one is a lot lighter than some. I think it is one of a great variety of books that have come my way recently, and is very different from the book I hope to review tomorrow.

Good Husband Material by Trisha Ashley – a classic romantic comedy with real flair

 

Tish is married – and to a suitable husband. James, a solicitor in the family firm, seems good, solid, reliable good husband material. He is on good terms with her mother, which is more than Tish is, supports her while she writes romantic novels, and is eager to become a father. He agrees, eventually, to move to an idyllic, country cottage.  The problem is that Tish is not that convinced. Part of her remembers her first love, the famous, or maybe infamous, Fergal, pop star, celebrity, notorious for his lifestyle of wine, women and song. She knows that she should make the most of her safe, orderly life with James, but somehow all her fictional heroes resemble Fergal far more than her “good husband”. This funny book, mainly narrated by Tish as James becomes less than attentive and indeed her life changes, brings in several other characters that are all beautifully depicted, ranging from her slightly disreputable grandmother to Fergal’s ambitious self appointed girlfriend. It is possible to visualize her cottage, its challenges and proximity to a village in this well written book, full of dialogue and thoughts that entertain and engage throughout. 

 

The Prologue is written from the view of a young Fergal Rocco, remembering his first glimpse of Tish at seventeen, falling from a tree. A vision of beauty, trying to capture a bad tempered parrot. Twelve years later Tish observes that when she writes her novels as “Marian Plentifold”,  all her heros “bear a definite (physical) resemblance to Fergal”. She manages to find and buy a cottage in the countryside, which means that James has a longer commute, and she will be living out of town without being able to drive. Owing to strange twists of fate, Fergal and Tish meet again in a hotel. Meanwhile, James is becoming more uncommunicative, abandoning Tish with a temperamental dog and parrot, refusing to eat what she cooks, staying away overnight and becoming obsessed with the local pub and radio building. The locals in the village include a strange neighbour, a local shopkeeper and a wealthy woman, Margaret who has her own agenda. When the local manor house is bought, things become even more lively for Tish, and her challenges seem to multiply. Will her grandmother plots help? Will her awful mother finally gang up with James? Why has he been spending so much time away? 

 

This book dates back to 2000, so predates mobile phones and the internet being everywhere. Research is more complicated, communication more tricky, and instead of social media the newspapers and magazines carry all the celebrity gossip that Fergal attracts. There is a lot of subtle comedy here, and there are some wonderful set pieces between various characters. Despite his supposedly wild ways, Fergal comes over as a good man, who tries hard for those he likes. The novel overall is genuinely entertaining and the character of Tish grows with the book, overcoming challenges and maintaining her independence despite her qualms. I really enjoyed this book, and would strongly recommend it as a positive book with a basis in real life.    

 

 

This sort of novel is a welcome distraction from other concerns, though there is a health scare in the story. It is very funny, with terrific characters and a lot more. Some characters demand sympathy, some dislike and others are just for fun. Even the animals add to the story. All part of the rich variety I am aiming for on this website!  

The House of Hopes and Dreams by Trisha Ashley: an old house is full of possibility – and danger

The House of Hopes and Dreams: Amazon.co.uk: Ashley, Trisha ...

 

An entertaining novel based on a little known but a fascinating skill, characters who have to find their way after challenges, a mystery set in a large country house, this older novel by a well known author is a great read in many ways. The profession of stained glass design and restoration is an intriguing subject for a book, and it is obvious that the author has researched not only the principles but also the daily practice of this ancient craft brought up to date. This being a novel there are no illustrations, but the descriptions are so good that it is easy to visualise their appearance and impact. The main female character, Angel, has so much courage in the face of lost love, home and future that she is an admirable lead for this book. Carey Revell is the requisite hero, though when first sighted he is in hospital recovering from a near fatal bike accident.Angel realises that she is one more of  a group of friends and women who are keen to be part of Carey’s new venture, the chances of the right romance seems remote. The large country house almost becomes an additional character in this novel, and overall the complete package is a great read. 

 

Another element of this book is the intermittent entries from the journal of one of the previous women who lived in the house. Her unhappy story provides a framework and commentary on the origins of the spectacular house, and help to explain some of the contemporary discoveries. The research into this part of the novel alone must have been daunting, but as with the rest of the novel there is no overload of facts as the story shines through at all times. 

 

Angel’s story begins with the harmonious picture of her working with her older partner and mentor, Julian. He had made a recovery from a stroke a while before, and Angel had maintained the business as well as helping him. Unfortunately, his unpleasant son Nat is soon on the scene with his vindictive partner Willow, and Angel must find a new home and business premises. Carey meanwhile is in hospital when he discovers that he has inherited Mossby, a large but rundown house. Bewildered by his change of circumstances having been left by his partner and ousted from his job presenting a cottage renovation programme, he soon realises that with support from his friends and his own skills he can transform the challenging building. A basis for a television restoration programme seems highly possible, especially if he can rope in a friend who knows about the stained glass for which the house is famous for, and Angel is thus roped in just as she needs a fresh start. New and old friends combine with a tiny terror of a dog to make this a memorable story.

 

This entertaining book is a good distraction and a genuinely engaging read, with an element of romance running alongside the humour and the excitement of a new start. There is sufficient mystery to maintain interest, as well as the element of threat to everything Angel has done, as well as the overcoming of certain characters who do not support the renovation. This is a light read in many ways, but makes the most of its subject matter to make for a funny, fascinating and lovely read. 

 

How are your book stocks holding up? Mine are fine, not that it stopped me from ordering some new ones and some older titles during the last week. I am topping up my book trollies with books that I am coming across in the house, so I shouldn’t be running out of reading matter anytime soon. Looking at twitter and book blogs by other people reminds me of books I have in the house somewhere and would be interesting to read and review, or sometimes re read. I am lucky that Northernvicar has really got the cooking bug now, and is producing some lovely cakes – though I must stick to my exercises!

 

Choc – lit …and popcorn moments

The dearth of posts recently has happened for a reason …too many cinema visits! Well, two actually. Last week with assorted (grown up) children to see Toy Story 3.  Very good, probably better than No. 2. And I wasn’t the only one in tears at the end! Overall, a good film if you like animated stuff. And my second visit to the cinema inside a week was to see…Karate Kid! Yes, rather predictable, but with some funny moments. And Jackie Chan was well worth watching, even if you are not a fan of martial arts films. I have banned children’s nurse daughter from seeing it on the basis of her being tempted to diagnose injuries throughout…Happy Birthday, by the way.

And the book that just makes you want to go and eat chocolate, and the expensive type at that? Chocolate Wishes by Trisha Ashley is not great literature – simply a quick read aimed at the female of the species with a predictable outcome. Having said that, Ashley doesn’t give herself the easiest time juggling white witchcraft, dysfunctional families and a chocolate making business. The other ingredient is a vicar with romance on his mind…well, what else in an English village. This is definitely a guilty pleasure book which doesn’t actually make you put weight on, unless you succumb to the search for the perfect chocolate feast. It will not win any awards and its literary merit is negligible, but who said that every book we read has to be a worthy struggle? After all, I am the person for whom a very knowing friend bought a mug inscribed “Chocolate is for Life, not just for Easter.” So this book does tick boxes, presenting a picture of life in an atypical village with atypical characters, but also throwing in a few wry comments about a young woman’s interests, passions and her painful realisation that her parents are always going to let her down.  So read, enjoy, and go easy on the chocolate!