Will loving two men tear your heart apart?
It’s the 1960s and Lily Denham is about to begin her studies at Oxford University.
On her first day she meets Harry Gale and Max Farley, two fellow undergraduates who are both full of mischievous charm. The three of them become firm great friends and enjoy exploring everything Oxford has to offer, from riotous parties to punting up the river on sunny afternoons.
However, something threatens to disrupt the fun, because Lily soon realises she’s falling for both of her new-found friends, men who might offer her two very different futures – but who will she pick? Harry is generous and kind, reliable and trustworthy. Max embodies the spirit of the sixties; adventurous and rebellious, but possibly a little bit dangerous as well.
As university ends and Lily struggles to make her mark on the vibrant fashion scene, she must make a decision. But she soon becomes aware that the wrong decision could have devastating consequences for her own future and for Max’s and Harry’s futures, too…
Girl in Red Velvet is book 6 in the Charton Minster Series (The Silver Locket, The Golden Chain, The Penny Bangle, The Wedding Diary & Magic Sometimes Happens).
iBooks: https://geo.itunes.apple.com/gb/book/girl-in-red-velvet/id1224665973?mt=11&at=11lNBs (problem with link this morning)
I was lucky enough to be asked to read and review an ARC of Girl in Red Velvet, Margaret James’ new novel for Choc Lit.
Meeting Harry Gale and Max Farley on her first day in Oxford Lily Denham – christened Red Queen by Max because of the dress she is wearing – soon becomes close friends and drinking buddies with them. Although similar in height and colouring, the two are poles apart when it comes to personality. While Henry takes his studying seriously, Max always needs to test boundaries and live on the edge. His womanising and outrageous pranks soon make Lily realise that although she is attracted to him more than Henry, he would be the worst mistake she could make. Yes, life with Henry seems a far more stable option. But in choosing stable, is she selling herself short? Her personal tutor Minnie Rushman certainly thinks so.
Max loves Lily but never seems to be able to put his feelings into words. When he discovers she has slept with Henry, he knows he can no longer stay and leaves Oxford. Abandoning his degree and finds a new career as a travel writer visiting extreme locations and often putting his life in danger (a sort of nineteen sixties Bear Grylls). Henry and Lily successfully complete their degrees with Henry joining the civil service and Lily deciding on a career in fashion – using her clever dressmaking skills to become as she puts it ‘the new Biba’. Living with Henry and concentrating on her career she feels settled, despite Max’s occasional ‘between travel project’ visits which tend to resurrect old feelings. But then a trip to India to source material for a new collection changes everything…
This is a wonderful story, covering three decades and charting Lily, Henry and Max’s lives and the changes that occur because of the choices they make along the way. The writing flows well and I loved the way the three characters interacted. I have to admit to having soft spot for Max. In the beginning you see him as someone constantly challenging authority and doing the most outrageous things. Then as the story progresses we learn the reason for his behaviour is deeply rooted in his unhappy childhood. Yes, I’m always drawn to vulnerable heroes.
For me it’s the sign of a good read when you actually care what happens to the characters you are reading about. I desperately hoped for a happy ending for all three. Did that happen? Well you’ll need to read the book for yourself and find out I’m afraid….and please do because it’s a great read.
A well-deserved five stars
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Margaret James was born and brought up in Hereford and now lives in Devon. She studied English at London University, and has written many short stories, articles and serials for magazines. She is the author of sixteen published novels.
Her debut novel for Choc Lit, The Silver Locket, received a glowing review from the Daily Mail and reached the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in November 2010 and in the same year a Reviewers’ Choice Award from Single Titles. The Golden Chain also hit the Top 20 Small Publishers Fiction List in May 2011.
Margaret is a long standing contributor to Writing Magazine for which she writes the Fiction Focus column and an author interview for each issue. She’s also a creative writing tutor for the London School of Journalism.
Margaret loves hearing from her readers, and can be found on both Facebook and Twitter.