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Happily ever after by Harriet Evans
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Happily ever after (2012)

by Harriet Evans

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I started off actually liking this well enough, as the set-up was very powerful. I particularly enjoyed Elle’s difficult relationship with her brother – that scene at the start when they’re children is simply brilliant. Sadly, we don’t stay in this childhood moment as we’re quickly tumbled into Elle as a young woman trying to make her way in the publishing world

Entirely due to the great start, I was prepared to give Elle the benefit of the doubt and kept my determination going for a good 100 pages or so. Gradually it dawned on me that, no matter how much I tried to deny it as a reader, Elle is simply a doormat, and a dull one to boot. Sorry, but she just is. Yes, I know she’s a borderline alcoholic with an alcoholic mother, and surely medically depressed, but every time there’s a crisis she simply just keels over and agrees with whoever the strongest person in any particular scene is. I have to say it’s never her. If you want interesting depressive and/or alcoholic women in your fiction, you’re better off with Marian Keyes. However, there was one moment when I got rather excited because Elle was about to launch into a very justified row with her bitchy boss, but the moment said boss challenges her, Ellie gives in and just agrees. Sigh …

There’s also an allegedly torrid affair between her and another boss, Rory, whom she’s obsessive about but really I just didn’t believe anyone would be interested enough in her to bother. That goes for the on-off relationship with an ex-colleague too – and the moment when she realises (no serious spoilers here) that he’s fathered a child by someone else has to be one of the great clichés of romantic fiction – so clichéd that I couldn’t help but laugh uproariously. Sorry …

Then the storyline jumps again and we’re a few years on and she’s living and working in New York. Sadly she’s not any more interesting than she was in the UK and for the rest of the book, I did even more sighing. The relationships she has with the two possible men she’s supposed to be with are worryingly unrealistic, and indeed neither man is very nice or even interesting. As a result, the ending is nonsensical. Or would have been if I’d cared enough about what happens to her. If the novel had lost 150 pages or so, it might have been better as Elle wouldn’t have been so intensely boring and irritating. That said, the book covers she’s responsible for in her publishing job sound nice – maybe these pictures should have been included in the novel as they would certainly have been more riveting than our heroine. Oh well.

Verdict: 2 stars. Decent enough plot, but a too dim and unlikeable heroine ( )
  AnneBrooke | Dec 1, 2014 |
I’ve read Harriet Evans before and enjoyed her books, unfortunately I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much. I loved the fact that it was set around the world of books and publishing but from the start, I didn’t like the main character, Elle and didn’t engage with her throughout the book. As a naïve and daft 22 year old, going into raptures over having post it notes and a computer on her desk in her new job, she just didn’t seem believable. As she grew older, I didn’t like the person that she became. She has a difficult relationship with her family, her parents divorced because of her mother’s fondness for alcohol and she doesn’t have an easy relationship with her brother. She keeps the feeling of guilt and failure (in her eyes) most of the way through and a lot of the time I wanted to shake her away from her feeling of responsibility for other people, in particular, her mother. Despite the fluffy looking cover, the book covers some darker issues like alcoholism and how easy it can be to go down that road and how decisions made by others can affect you for life.

Elle does go on to make a success of her career but her feeling of guilt and not belonging have a knock on effect on her relationships until eventually she has to decide which it is she actually wants from life. I did like the book, but I wasn’t engrossed by it. ( )
  Karen-uk | Nov 24, 2013 |
I love Harriet Evans. Ever since I read 'A Hopeless Romantic' (and pretty much grinned all the way through it) I have kept an eye on her writing. So when I had the opportunity to review Happily Ever After, I was pretty thrilled.

Eleanor Bee wants to work with books and when she lands a job working at a publishing house, she gets her wish. She also gets some other things that she didn't bargain for, including an affair with her boss, the man of her dreams. Sadly, Rory isn't quite the man she thought he was. Or perhaps it's fairer to say that he is the man she thought he was - but hoped he wasn't.

I don't like spoilers so I'll try not to give too much way. Suffice to say that given that this is romantic fiction, there's a certain amount of prescriptive plotting: the misunderstandings, the rows that could so easily be averted, the 'one' who isn't the one, the 'one' who is the one but at the wrong time.

While Happily Ever After didn't leave me quite so gushing and warm inside as 'A Hopeless Romantic', nonetheless it was a wonderful read. At one point I really wasn't sure how it was going to end and wondered if I'd totally misread the cues. Thankfully I was left with the happily ever after that I wanted, albeit with a slightly more adult tinge than the fairy tales. Evans writes 'real life' romance at its best. It's gritty, not always straightforward, not always easy reading but always, always with something to make your heart flutter.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my fair and honest review. I did not receive any additional compensation. All opinions are my own. ( )
  donnambr | Jan 12, 2013 |
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For Lynne with thanks for everything and love x x
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A Happy Ending for Me by Eleanor Bee
They laugh at me, the girls in the canteen,
But one day I will laugh at them.
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"A poignant, romantic, and delightful new novel about a young woman who refuses to believe happy endings are real, from internationally bestselling author Harriet Evans. At twenty-two, Eleanor Bee is sure about three things: she wants to move to London and become a literary superstar, she wants to be able to afford to buy a coffee and croissant every morning, and she doesn't believe in happy endings. She saw what divorce did to her parents, especially her mum--happily ever after's fine on the last page of a book, but it just doesn't happen in real life. Elle moves to London. She gets a job at Bluebird Books, a charmingly old-fashioned publisher. She falls out of pubs, wears too-short skirts, makes lots of mistakes, and feels like she's learning nothing and everything at the same time. And then, out of the blue, she falls in love and realizes just how much growing up she has to do. Ten years later, Elle's life has changed in ways she could never have predicted, from moving to New York to becoming a highly successful editor. Because no matter where you go and how much you try to run away, the past has a funny way of catching up with you, and happy endings come in all shapes and sizes"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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