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2012 Reading Challenge - Palaces and Calluses - Rebecca Woodhead

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Palaces and Calluses (Rebecca Woodhead's debut novel) is a beautifully written tale of self-discovery.

Although it falls into the 'chick-lit' genre and will please those who love that type of book (me!), this isn't just your standard 'girl meets boy, loses boy, gets boy back and lives happily ever after' kind of story. There's a lot more to it.

The story opens with Mary throwing a glamorous, surprise party for her husband Scott, to celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary. Mary, a London socialite, has everything and wants for nothing - or so she thinks. She has a stunning house in Chelsea, the perfect, handsome, mega-rich husband, great 'friends' and money to burn but suddenly, within the space of a few minutes, everything is taken from her.

Mary goes to live with her parents in the Cotswolds and from then on she is on a voyage of self-discovery.  She met Scott when she was 15 and married him when she was 16 so she has no knowledge that there is another way of life outside her glamorous and superficial existence. She's used to having everything done for her. Her life, up until now, has consisted of shopping trips, glamorous events, parties and working hard at being a 'trophy' wife. Suddenly she has to learn to stand on her own two feet and start all over again.

On the way to discovering herself she meets up with a series of quirky, loyal, loveable and not-so-loveable characters. Melissa (her mum), an American who is incredibly laid back and only wants what's best for her daughter; Jackie, a new friend who's down to earth, isn't afraid to tell it like it is and is everything that Mary isn't; Clive, the camp maitre d' whom she meets in the strangest of circumstances and who finds her her first real job; Jeremy, the love interest (not giving anything away);  the evil Edna Hall who ends up blackmailing Mary and threatening the life of Mary's wonderful dog Rock, the collie who is indeed Mary's rock and plays a huge part in her life.

This novel is well written and it's hard to believe that this is actually a debut novel. It's funny, sad, moving and uplifting. There is deceit, romance and intrigue a-plenty. I couldn't put it down once I started it. The author's descriptive writing style really draws you in and I began to feel that I knew each character personally. It's part of the 'Cotswold Chronicles' and at the end of the book there is an unexpected twist (which I really didn't see coming) and the way has now been left open for the next book. 

I can't wait until Part 2 comes out and I will be first in the queue to buy it. If it's half as good as this book it will be a roaring success. 

My recommendation - read this book! You will feel better for it.

Stars out of 5 for this one - 5!!

Until the next time,

Denise x

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