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Review: The Gift Of A Lifetime by Melissa Hill

gift-of-a-lifetimeThe Gift Of A Lifetime
Melissa Hill
St Martins Griffin
2016, 384p
Copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Hollywood movies are Beth’s passion. She hopes her life will always be filled with classic movie moments, where magical things happen every day. Her boyfriend Danny has always been the embodiment of her perfect Hollywood hero—though after seven years together the initial silver-screen romance has settled into something more predictable.

Then one morning at work just before Christmas, Beth receives an anonymous gift of a take-out coffee cup with a cryptic message. From there, she is given a series of other gifts and riddles directing her to some of NYC’s most popular landmarks—a treasure trail using unique rom-com-related prompts perfect for a movie-lover like Beth to decipher.

And she is forced to wonder: has Danny realized their relationship needs a boost—or could it be that charming new work colleague Ryan with his intense gaze, flirtatious smile, and almost encyclopedic movie knowledge, wants to sweep her off her feet? How would she feel about taking a chance on a leading man who seems determined to give her the Christmas gift of a lifetime…

It’s not often that I can say this and to be honest I really don’t actually like saying it but I didn’t like this book. At all.

I requested it as part of my holiday reading – I took my kids to see my family up north for two weeks where the weather is infinitely better and imagined lazy days reading fluffy books by the pool. At first glance, this seemed pretty perfect. It looked like a straightforward story about a movie addict torn between her suddenly-distant-boyfriend-of-seven-years-who-won’t-propose and a hot new guy at work who seems more than interested. Add in a movie themed treasure hunt around New York City and it just seemed like perfect, light-hearted fun.

A portion of the way through I began to feel like I was being incredibly manipulated and that the carefully placed few scenes from Beth’s boyfriend Danny’s point of view were supposed to be make me assume one thing – all the vague evidence seemed to point that way. But I wasn’t particularly convinced. And halfway through I said to myself “If this turns out to be X, I’m chucking this book at the wall.”

It turned out to be X. But I was reading it on my iPad, so I refrained from chucking it at the wall.

I’m not going to spoil anything, or reveal who orchestrated the treasure hunt for Beth. What I will say however, is that I actually thought it was a really shitty thing to do, given the circumstances that played out. I’m not a movie aficionado so most of the time the leaps in logic Beth made to figure out clues and move onto the next totally went over my head – it seemed unnecessarily complicated at times, super involved and detailed a lot of running around New York where everything seemed to also go incredibly smoothly and her path toward the next clue was never blocked nor did she have too much trouble figuring everything out.

I didn’t really connect with any of the characters and never really felt invested in either wanting Beth and Danny’s long term relationship to pan out or hoping that Beth dumped him and ran off with the good looking colleague who’d just started working at the same department store as Beth. I found Beth’s burying her head in the sand over Danny’s constant absences from their home, his strange and apparently out-of-character behaviour and seeming withdrawal from their relationship very odd. They’ve been a couple for seven years and she can’t sit down and ask him what’s going on with him and why he’s never around anymore? She just wants to pretend it’s not happening and yet seems to harbour a secret hope that the orchestrator of the treasure hunt is Ryan from work, presumably so that if Danny is having an affair, as she suspects, then she can say oh well, this guy from work wants me anyway!

Unfortunately I just really disliked this (and the biggest reason why I can’t say without spoiling the entire plot). However I’m pretty much on my own as there are many glowing reads on Goodreads so don’t let my dislike of emotional manipulation and “twists” put you off if you’re curious about it. What absolutely didn’t work for me will be what other people love about it.

Book #184 of 2016

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Review: A Gift To Remember – Melissa Hill

Gift To RememberA Gift To Remember
Melissa Hill
Simon & Schuster
2014, 403p
Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster AU

Darcy Archer is 33 and works in Chaucer’s, an independent bookstore in New York. Despite the somewhat low pay, this is her dream job and gives her the chance to spend her days immersed in books. Named for the character in Pride & Prejudice, books and reading, particularly the classics have formed a large part of Darcy’s life.

One icy winter’s day when cycling to work, Darcy hits a man walking a dog and carrying a package. He’s knocked out cold by the collision and after the ambulance takes him away to hospital, Darcy realises that his dog, a beautiful Husky named Bailey has been left behind with no one to care for him. Feeling terribly guilty, Darcy takes Bailey and attempts to find out how the man is and if there’s anyone she can contact to let them know of the accident and also, to relinquish care of Bailey to. Only there seems to be no one and when Aidan regains consciouness, he doesn’t remember anything about his life. The hospital won’t discharge him and so Darcy ends up with temporary custody of Bailey. And the mysterious, well wrapped package.

Because Aidan cannot remember what he was doing, nor has anyone come forward worried about his whereabouts, Darcy takes it upon herself to track down as much information as she can about Aidan, to hopefully help him deliver the package that he was carrying and find people who surely must be looking for him by now. As she slowly begins to construct together pieces of Aidan’s life, Darcy begins to build a picture of a man inside her head – and he’s pretty darn perfect. Apart from the whole amnesia thing, but that’s surely just temporary. Aidan could be the one for her.

I’m almost a little embarrassed to admit I haven’t heard of Melissa Hill until now but a quick check reveals that she has written a lot of successful books. This one looked like a lot of fun and a perfect summer read despite the fact that it’s set in New York around Christmas time and features lots of snow! It’s a really sweet tale of someone trying to right a wrong and going above and beyond the call of duty in order to do so….but even with the best of all intentions, things can go awry!

Darcy has given up a career working for a magazine to take the job at Chaucer’s, much to the disappointment of her aunt. A career woman who raised Darcy from the time Darcy was 12 after her parents were killed, her Aunt Katherine has always pushed Darcy to be ambitious, to secure the good job, to go for the eligible man. But Darcy prefers a quieter life, working with books and then going home and reading books. Given she has my ideal kind of job and lives her life probably much as I would if I were not married and a mother, I found her easy to relate to. Except for the bicycle thing. Riding around Manhattan in snow and ice and freezing temperatures strikes me as slightly mad and that’s probably about the kindest thing I can say for how I feel about it!

A combination of things mean Darcy is running late and takes a traffic risk which leads to her collecting poor Aidan who is in a bit of a hurry himself. Aidan is attractive and nicely dressed and Darcy’s wild goose chase to discover more about him and what he was up to and who might be looking for him sends her into the upper echelons of Manhattan society as she struggles to connect the luxurious Central Park West residence with its priceless art, books etc with the man in the hospital, who doesn’t particularly seem at all overly wealthy. No information she brings him is even remotely familiar to Aidan and even though Darcy finds several phone numbers who recently contacted him, she can’t even find someone who seems to know where he is or anything about him. Even the people who know everyone, don’t know Aidan.

Darcy becomes so immersed in her task that it almost begins to take over her life. She visits Aidan constantly in hospital, trying to help him regain his memory or even just something. I think this is at first fueled by guilt – after all he wouldn’t be in hospital if it wasn’t for her. But she comes to genuinely like him and accepts that she might even have a bit of a crush even though all signs she’s uncovered so far point to Aidan having a beautiful and glamorous blonde girlfriend. She stretches herself further and further to try and sort everything out until she hits a kind of breaking point where she questions whether or not she can separate fact from fiction, real life from the sort of fantasy that she gets from her novels which she begins to wonder if she hasn’t concocted in real life concerning Aidan. Until now, she’d been sort of happy in her solitude but realising that Aidan had no one come forward for him, even after days, made her wonder if she wasn’t just a bit lonely herself.

Despite the fact that this book is a pretty hefty 400p, I raced through it in a matter of a couple of hours and the various twists and turns that Darcy encounters as she tries to unravel Aidan’s life kept me guessing. I do think that the ending was a bit brief compared to the longevity of the rest of the story but overall this was a cute, feelgood read that really held my attention and made me keen to check out more of Melissa Hill’s chick lit.


Book #10 of 2014