The Queen of New Beginnings (by Erica James)

I've been reading novels by Erica James for about twelve or thirteen years now, and enjoyed almost all of them. In the past year or so I started re-reading them, so was very pleased to discover that she had written a new book. I was given it for Christmas and have been reading it in the past week.

'The Queen of New Beginnings' is how Alice considers herself. She doesn't like to think too much about her past, but something has drawn her back to her childhood village, and, temporarily out of work, she agrees to a cleaning job despite some serious reservations...

Clayton used to be part of an excellent script-writing duo, but things fell apart when his girlfriend and his writing partner decided to get together. Right now he's in hiding - on his agent's advice - because of something terrible he did recently, for which the media is hounding him.

Naturally, given the genre, Alice and Clayton meet, and the sparks fly. A nice twist is that Alice - whose talent is for acting and voiceovers - pretends to be someone completely different, and they find each other unbearably rude. To add to the fun, there's a redoubtable old lady called George, an upper-class eccentric living nearby, who takes an interest in them both. An unexpected friendship develops.

As the book progresses, we learn why Alice tries to avoid thinking about her past, as she unburdens herself to Clayton in what turns out to be rather a therapeutic way. We learn, too, why Clayton is so unpopular with the press... although I found that part somewhat unbelievable and exaggerated. I couldn't quite believe in Clayton's ex-girlfriend; some of the other minor characters are caricatures too, but since they took a lesser part in the story, that didn't matter so much.

When things seem to be going well, Alice discovers that Clayton is - as it seems - betraying her confidence in the worst possible way. I found her reactions to this discovery rather overdone, with high drama and not much emotion. But probably inevitable.

The eventual resolution seemed a bit far-fetched too, but overall it's quite a light-hearted book and I don't mind a slight suspension of reality now and then, even in contemporary fiction of this kind.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. Recommended.

Bizarrely, the Kindle edition of this book is more expensive than the paperback, at least in the UK.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 13th March 2011

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