All at Sea (by Teresa Ashby)

I don't think I had previously come across Teresa Ashby. But a Facebook friend mentioned that one of her Kindle books was free to download, some time ago, so I popped over to Amazon and ordered it.

'All at Sea' is a novella - a short novel - which I read in just three days. Had I had more time, I could probably have read it at one sitting. It's the story of three women on a cruise, and almost all takes place on board a luxury ship.

Lola, Paddy and Evie are three generations of women. Lola, Evie's grandmother, has always wanted to go on a cruise but is only now having the opportunity, since losing her husband. Her daughter Paddy is also widowed, and Paddy's daughter Evie, who must be in her twenties, is going through a very difficult and stressful time with her marriage; the cruise is partly to help her make some difficult decisions. There are hints that her husband is decidedly unpleasant to her.

The only person to be unsure about why she's there at all is Paddy...  who doesn't actually like boats. We see quite a lot of the story from her viewpoint.

Lola isn't the sad old lady she might have been; despite orthopedic sandals she's young at heart, and  determined to have fun. Evie has no plans to do anything other than make a decision, but then meets a young man whom she rather likes, although she really doesn't want a new relationship.  As for  Paddy, although she, too, has no intention of beginning a shipboard romance, she meets a charming man who seems to be a kindred spirit.

However, this novella is not just a simple romance. Not everything is as it seems.  Who, for instance, is hiding behind the plants? How does Evie fall over, injuring herself and completely forgetting what happened? Why doesn't Paddy's new friend turn up to meet her when he promises to take her to the ball? Stranges of all, who wrote an unpleasant note to Evie's date, warning him off?

In such a short novella, there isn't room for much character development; nonetheless I found myself warming to the somewhat wicked Lola, and also to the stressed and rather naive Paddy. Evie seemed a bit less developed, and the subplots that involved her didn't hold any surprises: by the time the climax came, I had guessed what was going on. Lola, too, while providing some light humour, doesn't have a huge part to play - other than the fact that Paddy is there to look after her.

Still, I enjoyed the story. It's the kind of thing that could have been serialised in a women's magazine, perhaps: not the greatest of stories, but with some substance and a good flow. The writing is good, the conversation believable, and the story moves rapidly with a bit of suspense - but not too much - and a satisfactory ending. My only real gripe is that I would have liked it to be longer with more chance to get to know the characters.

Recommended if you want a quick, light read with a little more than a romance involved. It can only be found in Kindle form, and while no longer free is very inexpensive on both the UK and US Amazon sites.

Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 23rd November 2012

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