I first met Mel Sherratt in person at the London Book Fair in 2012 and she told me then about the books she had been writing under her pseudonym while self-publishing her crime fiction. Since then, and as a highly successful hybrid author, she has finally ‘come out’ as Marcie, with Bookouture as her publisher. At the time I met her, Mel was still struggling with back issues, and I was full of admiration for the way that determination and hard work have enabled her to get her books out into the world despite these challenges. What I love about her books is that they all have Mel’s distinctive voice, and her warmth and humour. She writes about people and situations which we can all relate to.
Stirred With Love tells the story of three women, Kate, Chloe and Lily, who are all at different stages of their lives but who are all facing decisions and/or coming to terms with sad events. Their lives converge when they hook up to run a business.
Kate Bradshaw might have beech kitchen units and cream worktops but she is fed up with the regular rows with her husband, Nick, and with waiting for him to come home from football related activities. Her friend, Louise, keeps trying to encourage Kate to leave him. When the opportunity arises for Kate to move away, with a job in a café and accommodation as part of the deal, Kate takes it.
A-level student, Chloe Ward, also sees the advertisement for help opening the café and views it as a chance to branch out from her family and stand on her own feet. After her mother’s death when she was seven she has appreciated her brother and father but nevertheless struggled to find her place in life and figure out ‘who’ she wants to be.
Lily Mortimer is hoping to re-open the café she used to run with her husband, Bernard. Older than the others, and with the option of retiring gracefully, Lily is unsure whether it’s the right thing to do, and whether she can pull it off. She decides to take the risk and see what happens, but realises that she needs help to do it.
This is such a great set-up for a novel. I love books about female friendships, about women who are at a crossroads in their lives and who find the courage to take a chance. The fact they are strangers also appealed to me as it is often the case that encounters with people we don’t know, under the strangest of circumstances, can be life-changing. When the women come together, and start working at the café, you just know that trouble is round the corner. Steele keeps the challenges coming for the three women and this gives the novel a good pace. I warmed to all three women and was rooting for them. When things go wrong, I wanted them to overcome them. Not everyone in the community is happy about the café re-opening, especially with its new ‘vision’ and team.
I was really keen to know how things would work out for Kate, Chloe and Lily. I kept wondering which way Steele would take the plot and there are plenty of surprises along the way. The ending works extremely well in my opinion. I can really see why Mel Sherratt likes writing women’s fiction as well as crime, and she does it brilliantly. This book is life-affirming in the best way possible. Life isn’t all peachy: we see characters take risks and strive to make changes in their lives when things are tough for them. Loved it.
My review copy of Stirred With Love was obtained from NetGalley. With thanks to the author and publisher.
Vicky Newham © 2015