Review: ‘Lizzie’s Christmas Escape’ by Christie Barlow (@bookouture; @ChristieJBarlow)

31359737The Official Book Blurb

A gorgeous country house hotel, a liberal dusting of snow, a cosy weekend away…what more could Lizzie ask for at Christmas?

Every Christmas Lizzie promises herself that things will change and she will leap into the new year a new woman. And yet here she is again, at the beginning of December and nothing is different. Her girls have grown up and left home, her husband Henry is slumped in front of the TV and she is alone in the kitchen, seeking refuge in the cooking sherry and talking to her Gary Barlow calendar. She’s also been very diverted by handsome new neighbour Marcus and she knows she shouldn’t be …

So when best friend Ann suggests a weekend away in the country, Lizzie jumps at the chance. Will this Christmas escape give Lizzie some much needed perspective and allow her to mend her marriage? Or will Marcus prove to be too much of a distraction?

When you start to read a book about a woman who tells all of her dreams to Gary Barlow and whose husband forgets their anniversary, you know this is a story that has Christmas trouble written all over it. When you throw in a handsome neighbour who has an Old English Sheepdog, a tragic story and who pays exactly the kind of attention that woman misses and desires, you know you’re heading towards impending disaster.

This is exactly where we join Lizzie Stevens whose husband Henry seems more intent on watching darts than paying her any attention whatsoever. When new neighbour Marcus Bowman drops by in search of direction to the nearest chippy, Lizzie is immediately taken with him. There is something about him, his accent, his looks maybe, that endears him to her and for married mum of two LIzzie, this can only spell trouble.

Lizzie is a woman in crisis. A stay at home mum, her two daughters are off at Uni and with Henry working all the hours in the world she has never felt so alone. The attention Marcus pays her is entirely welcomed. He makes her feel attractive and wanted – all the things Henry used to make her feel but that seem to have petered out of their marriage. Marcus also has a truly sad back story and his vulnerability makes him even more attractive to Lizzie pushing her to risk everything. But is he really worth it.

Lizzie is a character who frustrated me a little. The thing about marriages is that sometimes they take work. The biggest obstacle to success in any relationship is poor communication and yet as things start to go wrong with Henry she doesn’t talk to him about it. She talks to her best friend Ann. She talks to Marcus. But she doesn’t talk to her husband. And all that ensues is pretty well her fault. Call it a mid life crisis, call it extreme flattery on Marcus’s part. Whatever you call it, it’s madness. Everything could have easily been different… but there’s no fun in that is there?

Marcus is a man who seems too good to be true. A lonely widower, he has been hurt in the past and it’s his sorrowful tale which truly pulls at Lizzie’s heartstrings. And he’s gorgeous, and successful and has a really cute dog. He’s perfect. As for her best friend Ann, she has the kind of marriage that Lizzie envies. Happily married to ‘Dependable Dave’, her son Leo is in the Army and she is just about to gain promotion at work. To Lizzie, Ann’s life is perfect. She is certainly a perfect comic foil for Lizzie’s marriage based paranoia.

But the thing is, there’s no such thing as perfect as both Ann and Lizzie learn in the most embarrassing way. When Ann’s mother dies, they plot a couple of days get away so that Lizzie can escape her woes when one of her daughters finds about the time she has been spending with Marcus. What the pair find at their spa retreat takes them both by surprise and a simple couple of days away marks the start of the worst period of the pairs lives.

In some ways, I did feel for Lizzie and Ann. Their idyllic Christmas with family is ruined and for one of them it is absolutely not their fault. Although both are complicit in what happens in Lizzie’s life. There’s a price to be paid for infidelity – she just needs to decide if Marcus is worth it. There are some pretty big revelations towards the end of the book, although I would say that most readers will certainly see at least the one coming from a mile away. Never trust perfection… There is always a flaw.

There are some really comic moments throughout the book, and at times the story will pull at your heart strings. There is quite a bit of cuteness too, at least if you like doggies. Which I do. I think that a lot of married women can probably identify with Lizzie although hopefully most take a more constructive approach to marriage guidance than she did. Will it all come good in the end and will Lizzie and Ann get their perfect Christmases? Well… read for yourself, but it wouldn’t be much of a heart warming Christmas tale if all they ended up with is a lump of coal now would it.

This book is a clear example of the perils of wishing for more than your lot. But is also a story of the strength of friendships, the power of strong women to help each other through adversity and to come out even stronger on the other side. And it has baubles, and snow, and Christmas markets. It doesn’t get much more festive than that.

A festive relationship-challenging 4.5 stars.

Copy of 5 (4)

My thanks to NetGalley and Bookouture for the ARC of ‘Lizzie’s Christmas Escape‘. It is available to purchase at the following links:

Amazon UK

Amazon.com

Kobo

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