The Beach Holiday, by Anita Hughes

Review published on July 31, 2012.Reviewed by Georgina Donlea

Amanda and Andre have a seemingly perfect marriage, an eight-year-old son, Max, and a home in a friendly small town near San Francisco. One day, however, Amanda walks in to find her sexy French husband with another woman. Without warning, her world is turned upside down, and she decides that spending the summer at a luxury resort in Laguna Beach with her son and mother is the best course of action. There she meets Edward, a silver-haired divorcé who tempts her to believe that there might just be life after Andre.

So far the British summer of 2012 has consisted primarily of grey, cold, rainy days, and I fancied trying something set in a warm climate, that would represent the sun and sand that summer is typically thought to be about. As such, The Beach Holiday certainly delivers. On other matters, however, it was less satisfying.

While Amanda is certainly dealing with a very difficult time in her life, it must be pointed out that there is a huge element of what is fantasy for most people in such a situation. She is an heiress worth millions, due to inherit an impressive family estate in Pacific Heights, is spending an indefinite amount of time in an extravagant suite at a luxury resort, and has a chauffeur-driven Bentley and 24-hour room service at her disposal. Readers of this book who have found themselves in a similar situation of coping with infidelity may well identify with Amanda personally, but are perhaps less likely to do so with her lifestyle. Some may enjoy the fantasy element of the opportunities for a rich woman to lick her wounds, while other may despise her money and materialism.

Andre is cheesy and the cliché of all things French. To me, Edward comes across as slimy, and far too sure of himself, though I am not convinced that this was the intention when Anita Hughes created the character. Amanda seems to be lacking in assertiveness, and is more interested in hopping into bed with a new man, than focusing on Max, who is about to discover that his parents fairytale marriage is coming to an abrupt end. On occasion, Amanda implies that she does not want her son to become spoiled or complacent about the luxury bestowed on him during the summer, yet he continues to be indulged with surfing lessons, milkshakes, and room service or restaurant visits every day. Grace, Amanda’s mother, is a representation of the voice of reason and perhaps intended wisdom, though I found her tedious. The descriptions of Amanda’s designer clothing start to irritate after a while. I am not particularly interested on whether her dress is Pucci or Donna Karan, or whether she is wearing gold bangles or silver ones. However, her dream growing up had been to become a hugely successful fashion designer, so I accept that the descriptions of her clothing and accessories are used as a way to represent the beginnings of finding herself again, rather than the woman that she turned into after meeting Andre. Amanda takes no control in her burgeoning relationship with Edward. He calls the shots, he instigates telephone calls and text message, he decides where they go and what they do, and it is he who dictates the intimacies of their romance. Once again, Amanda annoyingly lets a man take the reins, apparently not entertaining the possibility that her lack of proactivity could have something to do with the collapse of her relationship with Andre.

This book delivers exactly what the front cover promises; a beautiful beachside location, a woman finding herself after a huge and sudden change in her life, and not a lot in the way of substance or depth. The back cover and first page are brimming with quotes of praise for The Beach Holiday, so clearly it is a hit with some readers. I would say it is aimed at women who want an easy-to-read novel while relaxing on a sun lounger, sipping a cocktail, and for this purpose it is absolutely ideal. If, like me, you prefer something to sink your teeth into, then skip it.

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