Thursday, 10 July 2014

You Had Me At Merlot - Lisa Dickenson

About the book...

The first part in this hilarious four-part digital romantic comedy, from the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas - winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.

Elle and Laurie are the last ones standing: they're single, they're not having babies any time soon and their weekends aren't filled with joyful meetings about mortgages. For Elle, this is fine - she likes her independent life, she loves her job, and she has no desire to walk down the aisle anytime soon. But Laurie wants love and she wants it now.

So when Laurie begs Elle to come with her on a singles holiday to a beautiful vineyard in Tuscany, Elle is reluctant. You Had Me at Merlot Holidays promises crisp sunshine, fun and a chance to stir up some sizzling romance. Elle has no intention of swapping her perfectly lovely life for someone else's idea of her Mr Perfect, but ten days under the Italian sun with her best friend and lashings of wine? How bad could that be?

The second part in this hilarious four-part digital romantic comedy, from the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas - winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.It took some convincing for Elle to come away on this singles' holiday and now her MD has turned up! As the matchmaking activities begin, from blindfolded wine tasting to crushing grapes barefoot, Elle tries her best to enjoy herself but it's not easy with her boss around. Nor is it that easy when she's being set up with every man on the holiday. All in all, this isn't turning out to be the fun break Elle was hoping for. Thank goodness for Jamie, the vineyard owners' son - he's exactly the kind of company Elle needs right now because he's not interested in finding a partner either. So what if Jamie is delicious to look at and his dad thinks they're perfect for each other? They're just friends. Nothing more. And that's all there is to it . . .

The third part in this hilarious four-part digital romantic comedy, from the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas - winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.

Elle, determinedly single Elle, isn't used to waking up next to a boy. And she certainly isn't used to being engaged. Thanks to all the (delicious) chilli wine she consumed last night, Elle has no idea how she's managed to get herself into this situation. And as fond as she is of the man lying next to her, and no matter how happy he looks by this turn of events, getting married has never been part of Elle's plan. No way. All that romance stuff just isn't for her . . . right? But the combination of this lovely man, the incredibly romantic Italian countryside and the feel of the early morning sun on her skin is starting to have an effect on Elle. Maybe, just maybe, she's not as anti-love as she thought . . .

The final part in this hilarious four-part digital romantic comedy, from the author of The Twelve Dates of Christmas - winner of the Novelicious Debut of the Year award.

Elle didn't plan on falling for anyone on this singles' holiday so it came as a huge surprise to her when she fell, hard, for her very own Italian stallion. But it seems he's not as perfect as he first appeared - especially now that his maybe-not-so-ex ex-girlfriend has turned up.

Elle doesn't want to believe that it was all a lie but it's hard to ignore the very real bombshell standing in front of her. Has she been taken for a fool? As the end of the holiday approaches, confusion and heartbreak threaten to ruin Elle's hard-fought peace of mind. Does Tuscany have enough magic left to fix her broken heart?

You Had Me at Merlot is the kind of love story that will have you crying with laughter one moment and nodding your head in agreement the next. Full of sultry summer nights, hilarious moments and plenty of wine, it will warm even the most cynical of hearts and have you believing in the magic of romance (and the power of a decent glass of Merlot)

About the author...

Lisa Dickenson was born in the wrong body. She was definitely meant to be Beyonce. 

Despite this hardship, she grew up in Devon attempting to write her own, completely copyright-infringing versions of Sweet Valley High, before giving Wales a go for university, and then London a go for the celeb-spotting potential. 

She's now back in Devon, living beside the seaside with her husband and forcing cream teas down the mouths of anyone who'll visit. She is sadly still not Beyonce.

My thoughts...

I was given an ecopy of this book by Clara at Little Brown Book Group in exchange for an honest review which I'm more than happy to give. The book comes in four delicious parts that will be published during July and August, the first on the 14th July.  I was fortunate enough to read all four but will review each part over the next four days. But, I'm telling you - order all four now so they get delivered to your kindle on release day, you won't be able to wait!

Part 1 introduces us to Laurie and her best friend Elle.  Both single girls, but at different stages of their lives.  Laurie ready to settle down and looking to meet the love of her life, Elle quite happy with her lot, enjoying being single, loving her job and her independence.

Like so many best friend duo's there is always a stronger character who uses their persuasive skills to their own advantage, persuading the other that what they're suggesting is a really good idea, only twisting the truth a little to get the others buy in.

I laughed and cringed with equal measures whilst reading part 1. Both characters bouncing off each other with me particularly loving Laurie's display of persuasive skills.  Using a selective language to convince Elle that the thing she most needs now is a holiday with her best friend - playing up the wine not the single aspect of the trip. One half of the duo clearly wants to throw herself straight into the singles holiday, the other wants to blend into the background. Although, behind closed doors the wine does its magic softening a few edges.  I defy anyone not to instantly love and relate to both Laurie and Elle as they hit Italy. 

We've all had friends just like them bouncing off each other - one upbeat and hyper, the other seemingly more sensible and calming. Until in Laurie and Elle's case the plane touched down and the heat along with the wine packed its punch, although the hilarity begins long before the plane even took off. I couldn't help but smile, laughing out loud and gasping OMG over and over again as the story unfolded.

I can't wait to share part two - Italy is such a romantic country, add the heat and fragrant wine and I'm sure there'll be fireworks - even the most hardened singleton couldn't resist could they?

Part 2 imagine your quite scary, boss turning up on either your singles holiday or your wine tour depending on which version of your holiday you're plumping for - a horrendous thought for most of us, reality for Elle! Add to that an unwelcome suitor and we're off.

Blind folded wine tasting, grape crushing, secret notes and a trip to Florence are the back drops to our next full glass of merlot.  Elle the one not looking for love seems to be the centre of attention, one particular gentleman going all out to proclaim his love for her - she may as well be talking a foreign language for all the notice he takes.

I loved the fact that the tables are turned, Laurie really is a romantic, happy to cheer on Elle as she supposedly seeks companionship with Jamie the vineyard owners son, trying to avoid any amorous advances from George, the American lothario - feeling safe with Jamie because he's not looking for love either. Although, 'me thinks the lady doth protest too much' and visa versa - there's a definite pot simmering here, one that I can see coming to the boil quite quickly. 

I could so be in Italy now - the descriptions are so evocative and vivid, I can clearly see all the people, I can hear their voices in my head, taste the heady wine and feel the Italian sun warming my bones and removing my inhibitions.  It almost felt like I was watching an episode of Coach Trip as the group wandered around Florence, the eclectic mix, forming unlikely couplings as they all smiled then stabbed each other in the back - if looks could kill!

The temperature is definitely rising, with the girls still making me laugh at their antics, they're daft, light hearted, they behave like children let loose in a sweet shop, but they're a lot of fun. I'd love to be in Italy with them, people watching from afar although I will never drink wine again without visualising a scene from this book - hilarious would be one description, gross would be another.  But, for now I'm still loving Merlot, my usual Shiraz has been put to the back of the cupboard to gather dust.

Part 3 To say things are definitely hotting up would be an understatement - Elle waking up wrapped around Jamie after a night on the chilli wine along with mis-understandings and marriage proposals certainly gets the story off to a hot start.

I loved this part of You Had Me At Merlot, the Italian sunshine, free flowing wine and sumptuous food has worked it’s magic and relaxed the minds of all the guests.  Donna and Elle have a heart to heart, talk work, share confidences and break down barriers - both having differing views of work and the company they both work for - both helping each other see things differently.

But the best thing about part 3 is seeing the huge change in Elle - I loved how she’d taken a step back from her first thoughts of her holiday.  She was a firm non-believer in love, was work obsessed and only along as a reluctant gooseberry to best friend Laurie. No work, honest yet difficult conversations, sun and total R & R opening her mind to new possibilities and she finds herself using her skills in a surprising way

It’s amazing how things look differently when we take a step back from our lives, get off the treadmill and relax - I loved how a complete group of strangers come together for one great cause, helping and supporting because of friendships both old and new. Each prepared to give unreservedly but none more so than Elle.

But Lisa, how can you leave us with that ending - ‘You Had Me At Merlot” holidays gets a late check in!!  If you haven’t already pre-ordered all four instalments I urge you to do so quickly.  You’ll want to be in Italy with Laurie and Elle when this latest development explodes amongst the vines.

Part 4 Well I wasn't expecting that. I just knew that the untimely arrival of Rachel, the leggy, ex girlfriend of Jamie wasn't going to go down too well. Elle's world literally implodes and it's down to George, Donna and Laurie to pick up the pieces.

I loved how when the chips were down it wasn't just Laurie, Elle's best friend that picked up the pieces but George, fellow guest and Donna, Ice-Queen MD of the company Elle worked for that all waded in with love, hugs, food, drink and good advice.

Haven't we all drowned our sorrows then decided it's time to confront the cad? - not literally in this case and you know the saying  'eavesdroppers never hear any good of themselves' I literally held my breathe when Laurie and Elle snook up on Jamie's cottage and in an instant found myself chuckling away and muttering OMG as the vision of the pair flattening themselves against the wall to avoid detection.

This final part of You Had Me At Merlot demonstrates how far each and everyone has come since they arrived in Italy.  A singles holiday that was sprinkled with a fair share of pairings, but an even bigger share of self evaluation and realisation along with firm friendships formed. Donna, Laurie and Eve all leave Italy as different people to the ones that arrived but all relaxed as a result of the Tuscan sunshine, food and wine.

I started this book laughing and I ended this book laughing, Laurie is a natural comic and antidote to the more serious but, only slightly more serious Elle.  The situations she gets herself into are hilarious - with her recounting the tales as if everything is quite normal had me howling. She uses herself as the butt of many of the jokes literally. I'll never again drink Limoncello without thinking of Laurie upside down flashing her best knickers.

I loved the setting for this book, just thinking about Italy brings a smile to my face.  I so desperately wanted to share the sumptuous food and drink, the descriptions were so vivid.  I can see blue sky, dusty paths between the vines and sun washed patios, fat juicy olives and ruby, red wine.  Lisa please take me back again sometime soon, even if it's just to stop the drooling - there are stories still here to be told, questions to be answered!  How many hats do I need to buy for one......?

When you allow yourself to relax, switch off and open your mind to new possibilities who knows what chances will come your way - to find out who if any of them found love in You Had Me At Merlot you'll have to download the books and see for yourself - something I highly recommend you do.

I gave these books a total of 18/20

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