Wednesday 15 May 2013

Gracie by Marie Maxwell : Review and Q&A with the author

I've been a fan of Bernardine Kennedy's novels for many years, and am now most certainly a fan of her alter-ego Marie Maxwell.
Ruby was the first in a planned series of four novels and I enjoyed it immensely, it was published in the summer of 2012 and you can read my review of it here.

The second in the series; Gracie was published by Avon (HarperCollins) in mid April 2013 and I've been looking forward to catching up with the characters for a long time.   Although this book is part of the series, the author provides enough background information throughout the story which makes it a great stand alone story too.

Gracie is Ruby's best friend and although she featured heavily in the first novel, this is her story.  Gracie and Ruby are back home, living and working in the Southend hotel that Ruby recently inherited.  Gracie still has the scars on her heart from the hard times that she lived through when she was younger, but is excited and happy to accept a marriage proposal from long-term boyfriend Sean Donnelly.  Sean works hard and loves Gracie.  This is her chance to settle down and have a family, to love and be loved, probably for the first time in her life.
Gracie's big mistake is to keep secret from Sean the most important thing that has happened to her, the one thing that has shaped her life, and the thing that hurts her so much.  Despite this, the couple begin married life with big dreams and high hopes for the future, until Sean begins to show a side that Gracie does not like.

I loved Ruby; Marie Maxwell's first novel, but I adored Gracie.    As with Ruby, this is a compelling story that does not shy away from some really sensitive, yet very important issues.   It is clear that the author has drawn on her experiences and knowledge when writing this story as it is so real and believable.  The lead characters are, on the whole, strong women who have suffered hardships yet are still fun-loving and hopeful.

The period setting is wonderful, the descriptions of 1950s Southend are rich and evocative and the plot is fast-paced and packed with interesting and well-rounded characters - some you will love and others you will loathe and detest.

Both Ruby and Gracie have been a joy to read, I'm now eagerly awaiting the next in the series which I believe will feature Maggie and will be set in the 1960s.

It is an honour and a pleasure to welcome Marie Maxwell (aka Bernardine Kennedy) to Random Things - I asked her a few questions about books and writing.

      What are you reading at the moment?
Perfect People by Peter James (Kindle) and Dearest Rose by Rowan Coleman (paperback).  I like a cross-section of genres.... my bookshelves and Kindle reflect this, they will also reflect that I’m not too adventurous or literary. I want to read for entertainment so I’m in heaven with a good old Jackie Collins, James Patterson or similar. 
Do you read reviews of your novels?      Do you take them seriously?
Yes I do. Avidly! Sometimes I wish I could stop clicking but I can’t and I do take them seriously although if they’re particularly vicious (and there are always one or two) then I have to tell myself it doesn’t matter. But the majority are good and constructive and I do take notice of the feedback, I need it, writing can be very insular so knowing what readers expect is very important.

How long does it take to write a novel?
I write one a year but that year consists of research and plotting as well as the actual putting of the words onto the paper. And there’s usually that cross-over time when the previous book needs promoting and the new one is creeping towards deadline. A lot of juggling goes on constantly.

Do you have any writing rituals?
Only that I have to have the bits and pieces of everyday life in order before I can sit down and set to it, even if it’s only writing a list! Actually it often is just writing the list, that's enough to satisfy me... 

What was your favourite childhood book?
Probably Enid Blyton’s Island of Adventure. (and the rest of the series) Oh how I wanted to be part of that world. I was quite a solitary child and loved the idea of going off with other children and having adventures. 
Name one book that made you laugh?
I’m ashamed to say I don’t really read humorous books although I do sometimes laugh at biographies. Thinking about it I did laugh most at ‘Stone Me, the Wit and Wisdom of Keith Richards’. He has a way with spontaneous words both good and bad!

Name one book that made you cry?
I read ‘Home for Christmas’ by Annie Groves (Penny Jordan) just after she had died. She was a friend and I sobbed through that one. A fabulous and most prolific author.

Which fictional character would you like to meet?
The mother in ‘We Need to talk about Kevin’. Just to find out what she was really like. I simply couldn’t fathom her out and I’m still not sure if I feel sorry for her or if I blame her. Now I've said it I think I may go back and read it again. Something I don’t often do.

Which book would you give to your best friend as a present?
One of mine? No, not really. Maybe ‘Gone Girl’ the current top seller. I read it when I was on holiday recently, I wasn’t sure about it but I had to finish it to find out the end. I’d love to know what others think of it. It seems to have appeared from nowhere and flown!  

Are you inspired by any particular author or book?
Jackie Collins and ‘Hollywood Wives’. I not only wanted to write like her, I wanted to be her! I was so envious of it all! Note I said envious, not jealous. It was very fleeting but i still admire her tremendously. 

What is your guilty pleasure read?
I don’t feel guilty about any books I read now. Someone laughed on the train a while ago, a stranger no less, when I was reading Jeffrey Archer and suggested I put a brown cover on it. But I like his books, always have. Another good storyteller IMO. I don’t care about his private life!

Who are your favourite authors?
At the moment I’d say Jodi Picoult and Kathy Reichs but it could all change next month. I’ve gone through so many phases over the years. The one’s who have stayed all through are Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper.

What book have you re-read?
I’m currently re-reading Tanamera by Barber which I still love (a novel set in Singapore in the forties) but I recently read Valley of the Dolls and now wish I hadn’t. I loved it so much at the time but sadly it hasn’t worn well.

What book have you given up on?
War and Peace? Not that I’ve tried it recently! I tried to read many many years ago because I thought I ought to so that was probably the wrong way to approach it.

Thank you so much, Bernardine, for answering my questions Good Luck with Gracie!

For more information about Bernardine, her books and Marie Maxwell, take a look at her website here

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