Meet Tigerlily James: romance cynic, North Londoner and die-hard margarita fan.
Tigerlily James has been a member of the Young and Bitter Club ever since she was dumped on Valentine's Day. By her fiancé.
Surviving on a diet of cynicism and margarita-fuelled ‘Misery Dinners’ with her best friends, she’s become a romance free zone…and that’s the way she likes it. Until an invitation for The Ex’s wedding arrives. Suddenly in need of a plus one, Tig has little choice but to bin the takeaways, ditch the greying underwear collection…and start pretending to view the opposite sex as something other than target practise.
Then, she meets Ollie – ie. the perfect solution. No sex. No strings. Fake boyfriend. The only catch is that she has to pretend to be his girlfriend for three whole months.
Dating without the heartbreak: the best idea Tig’s ever had, right? Wrong!
A. L. MICHAEL is a twenty something writer from North London. She has a BA in Literature with Creative Writing, an MA in Creative Entrepreneurship (both from UEA) and is studying for an MsC in Creative Writing for Therapeutic Purposes. She is not at all dependent on her student discount card.
She is a creative writing workshop facilitator and English tutor, as well as recently being the Writer in Residence at Red Door Studios in Newham, directing a brand new literary festival called Words With Edge. She is currently running workshops in creative wellbeing, and business skills for artists.
She enjoys expensive chocolate, cheap wine, and has an alarming penchant for animal puns. Occasionally, she sleeps.
I was given an ecopy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour for 'My So-Called Love Life' which I'm more than happy to give.
I liked the synopsis for this book, it wasn't just the thought of copious amounts of cocktails to get the setting right - honest, who doesn't love a margarita?
Tigerlily - Tig to her friends is a member of the Misery Dinners Club, she and her two closest friends Dana and Ame are on serious downers. Gathering weekly to put the world to rights, wallow in self pity and stick pins in the virtual bodies of their ex's. Sounds like a good idea at first, but as the three women's lives continue without their parters - cracks being to appear within the friendships.
The main focus of the book is on Tig, her boyfriend ceremoniously, dumped her on Valentines Day five days before her wedding - they'd been together for twelve years, since they were 15 years old - you can imagine how low she was feeling when she opened an invitation to his wedding, mere months after he had ended their relationship! She's not been able to pull herself together since and her whole life had been put on hold - instead she spends her days drinking tea in Enchanted (a tea shop/cafe) and evenings hitting the bottle to drown her sorrows.
Despite all this, there is a ray of sunshine in the form of Ollie, the new waiter at Enchanted who ends up being a shoulder to cry on - his personality jumps off the page, more than making up for Tig's wallowing and self pity. He is just passing through, he will be around for a few months before continuing his travels and offers more than an ear to Tig - he really could be the answer to all her problems. Tig needs a date for her ex's wedding and Ollie readily agrees but lays down a few conditions.
I literally devoured the pages of this book. The characters were so well written, visualising each of them was easy. At first Tig came across as flat and lifeless but, even at the beginning I could see the occasional spark - she was feisty and quick to react but clearly had a heart of gold that she'd managed to successfully bury in her bid to protect herself from more hurt. It was a beautiful journey that I travelled with Tig, watching as her true self emerged and the feistiness gave way to a gentle character that grew in strength and determination as the story unfolded. As I'm sure everyone who reads this book will agree Ollie was just a dish, he oozed charm and sexiness without coming across as smarmy and fake - all credit to the author as this sort of character is one that I usually find difficult to buy into. Somehow, they always come across as smug and self important, two qualities I can honestly say are not shared by Ollie. The temperament of Tig and Ollie couldn't be more different. Ollie being the antidote to Tig's poison. He is the catalyst in the changes in not only Tig, but her friends too. He comes across as totally selfless, focused on making Tig feel good about herself, he was a total ray of sunshine, pushing Tig but stopping just short of bullying - all the while letting her make her own decisions, knowing when to push and when to back off. But the best characters in this book without doubt have to be Tigs, hippy, parents. I literally choked laughing at some of the things they came out with - some truly, cringeworthy moments that only a parent can orchestrate - they were hilarious.
This truly is a story of trust, hope and determination, communication and honesty - sometimes focusing on someone else's problems and situations is the best medicine a person could have and as each one makes moves to start living their lives again you can literally feel the bounce, determination and energy leap off the page. Each and every character in this book eventually learns to both give and take, realising that successful relationships of any kind cannot be built on just one thing at all. The Misery Dinners served a purpose in the beginning as a support structure but it took just one person breaking out to make them all realise - life is for living, not wallowing in self pity. It's better to be happy and alone than miserable in a relationship and ultimately no matter what we have to be responsible for our own destiny. As for Ollie, outwardly he is Mr Happy, strong and supportive, is he exactly what it says on the tin? He's travelling the world, never laying down roots - is he happy or is he escaping? You'll have to read this book to find out for yourself, read all the history both past and present of each of the characters and travel with each of them as they learn to compromise and discover what is important and what is superficial in their lives.
I truly loved this fab story and highly recommend it to all chick lit readers who love a happy ending but want a story that is more than just gloss - My So Called Love Life will give you several hours of escapism and an ending that doesn't quite happen in the way you might initially think it would. You'll laugh out loud, sigh with happiness, cringe a little and may even be close to shedding a tear.