If frothy, lightweight chick-lit leaves you cold, then cuddle up with one of the warmest, cleverest romances on the shelves this summer.
The talented Paige Toon, author of a string of gorgeous novels for both teens and adults, certainly knows how to put readers through the emotional wringer and The Last Piece of My Heart is guaranteed to have her fans veering erratically and ecstatically between tears and laughter.
Using her finely-tuned writing skills, wicked sense of humour and picture perfect ability to sweep readers away to locations as diverse as a rainy day in Cornwall and sun-drenched Thailand, Toon brings us the rollercoaster story of a young woman looking to mend broken hearts.
On that journey, she will meet tragedy, grief and a devastating sense of loss, but there will also be love, friendship, discovery, adventure and hope.
Thirty-four-year-old Bridget is a successful travel writer with more than a dozen failed love affairs behind her. Based on her theory that ‘the problem with giving your heart away to someone is that you never fully get it back,’ she has built up a quirky relationship blog about finding the missing pieces of her heart.
She now plans to turn the blog into a book but after several rejections from publishers, Bridget accepts an alternative proposition. Nicole Dupré died suddenly only two weeks after the publication of her bestselling novel The Secret Life of Us, and Bridget has been commissioned to finish the incomplete sequel.
Just thankful to have her foot in the publishing door, Bridget agrees to relocate to Padstow in Cornwall for the summer to meet Nicole’s grieving widower, Charlie Laurence, and spend her days reading through Nicole’s stack of notes and diaries to try to understand how the author intended the story to end.
But there are problems ahead… for a start, Bridget is living in her father’s old and uncomfortable camper van, Charlie doesn’t seem to want to talk and he has eight-month-old baby daughter April to care for, the child who was only five weeks old when her mother died.
With Charlie not pleased to have Bridget around the house, Bridget hoping to overcome her aversion to babies and the difficult writing task in hand, it look like a long summer ahead. But as she gets to know Nicole’s grieving family, and the woman behind the writing, Bridget’s priorities start to change…
Toon’s fans will already have enjoyed brief glimpses of the adorable Bridget in earlier novels and the development of her own very special story proves an unmissable treat for both newcomers and her army of signed-up followers.
This is an author who blends realism and romance in perfect harmony, with the slow-burn of Charlie’s awakening from his mourning proving to be the joy at the heart of the novel, helped along in no small part by the delightfully outspoken, funny and frank Bridget.
Baby April with her ‘full-beam’ smile undoubtedly wins the prize for best supporting actress and Toon, also taking on the role of musical director, has fun with Bridget’s playlist which threads through the novel like a background juke box, picking up on the vibes of her topsy-turvy life.
Written with Toon’s now trademark insight, empathy and eye for comedy, this is a beautiful, emotion-packed story which tackles serious issues but ultimately is as uplifting and life-affirming as a glittering summer’s day.
(Simon & Schuster, paperback, £7.99)