Promises, Promises (by Erica James)

I've been reading and enjoying the novels by Erica James for many years now. So I'm always pleased when I learn that she's published another. This one went on my wishlist as soon as I heard about it, and I was given it for a recent birthday.

'Promises, promises' is a deceptively light-hearted story about several rather different people whose lives are connected in unexpected ways. There's Ethan, who is something of a womaniser - but who can blame him? He's married to the shallow, materialistic (albeit attractive) Francine, although we actually first meet him when he's about to be mugged.

Ethan and Francine live in a huge house; Ethan has been a successful businessman until recently. Their cleaner, a young woman called Maggie, is married to Dave, who could best be described as a sexist slob... so Maggie dreams of romance and regularly loses herself in library books.

The third main character is Ella, who is commissioned by Francine to paint a mural in her dining room. Ella is a strong-minded person who is determined to speak her mind. She has just broken up from a long-term relationship with a likeable man called Lawrence due to the continual aggression from his teenage daughter, and the fact that he keeps taking his daughter's side. However Ella gets along extremely well with Lawrence's student son, who would love to see them get back together again...

The novel follows each of these different people in their own lives and while interacting with each other.  It provides wonderful character studies - even if Francine and Dave are both rather caricatured examples of their type. All have made promises, all wonder whether or not they can keep them.

As Ethan's business suffers in the recession, he becomes increasingly frustrated with his extravagant wife and their daughter (who is made in the same mould as her mother); Maggie determines to stand up for herself against her husband and his unpleasant relatives; Ella, who I related to best, has to discover who she really loves and what she wants to do with the rest of her life.

There are several contemporary issues involved in the story, some difficult decisions, and some heart-warming moments.

If I have a criticism it's that the novel was perhaps a little over-long; I found that in the middle I was skimming a bit as there wasn't much happening, but the writing is good, the dialogue believable, and the outcome satisfactory, even if somewhat predictable.


Review copyright Sue's Book Reviews, 6th May 2012

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