The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell

Review published on July 18, 2017.

Despite being initially dismayed by the title of this book, I found it to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek take on how life imitates art (in this case romance literature).

We follow the fortunes of two sisters in a small town in Massachusetts in the mid-20th century, running a burgeoning cosmetics business along the lines of Avon. Lilly is a man-eater, flamboyant, fashion-conscious and the driving force behind the sales force of housewife reps; Neave is homely, shy of men and a great reader. Having chewed up and spat out a series of partners, Lilly meets her match in Ricky – a handsome yet controlling and cruel man, but one she just cannot resist. Lilly goes missing and everyone is worried.

Enter the story within the story. Under Neave’s demure exterior beats a passionate heart nurtured from her teenage years by a secreted copy of The Pirate Lover. The pirate in question is a dashing but cool man, his reserved facade hiding his true nature, and he is the only man who can save the heroine from the clutches of his psychopathic brother. Chapters of this bodice-ripper are interspersed with the main action and, as Neave searches for her sister, she discovers that the monstrous Ricky has just such a brother, noble, brave with a hint of sadness, and sure enough he steps up to help her.

The inclusion of a couple of characters from beyond the grave adds a comic element that appealed to me. The writing is fresh and witty, and the setting in post-war America is a perfect choice – the New Look in fashion, the desire for cosmetics and fripperies after war-time austerity, the rise of the comic-book and its superheroes echoing the derring-do of The Pirate Lover. All very entertaining and I think it will please fans of romantic fiction as well as those looking for something quirky and original, not taking itself too seriously.

Sue Broom 3/3

The Romance Reader’s Guide to Life by Sharon Pywell
Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd 9780715652114 hbk Jul 2017

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