Party Games by Jo Carnegie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
'Although the countryside town of Beeversham looks picture-perfect, nothing is quite as it seems. Behind closed doors, three women are struggling to lead the lives they want.
Vanessa seems like she simply must have it all - she's beautiful, rich and married to gorgeous actor, Conrad. But beneath the glitz, she is asking herself whether this really is the life she wants to lead - when she has so much, why does she feel so empty?
Meanwhile, Fleur is trying desperately to save the farm that her family have lived on for hundreds of years, when playboy Beau makes her an offer she can't refuse.
And Catherine has given up the high-flying career she thought she always wanted, and is trying to build a wonderful new life in the country. But finding rural bliss is harder than it looks.
Hopes and dreams, loves and losses - and lots and lots of secrets - let Jo Carnegie take you behind the scenes of one very special town.'
A fairly easy read and once past the first few introduction chapters it maintains a good pace. Taking place in the market town of Beeversham the story centers around 3 main characters but has a good mix of secondary characters which are also strong and help the story keep shape and pace.
The story begins by introducing the reader to the main characters: Vanessa, Fleur and Catherine - each of these characters have their own challenges throughout the novel and Jo Carnegie makes each one believable and identifiable. Vanessa married to Conrad Powell an actor are the celebrity element of the town with Vanessa building up the Powell brand, Catherine ex editor of Soiree magazine now living a rather more subdued life in the country with her husband John, and Fleur struggling to keep her parents' farm going after the death of her mother and the decline of her father Robert.
Additional characters such as Beau Rainford the local playboy, his brother Felix local MP and his wife Ginny and a host of other characters who all play a part in the story are introduced early on. All of these are described well and fit into the overall story line; some good bits of humor prevent this from getting too heavy. The town has become a haven for the rich and famous and this element has moved into this once sleepy town causing changes to the local environment with plans for theme parks and additional housing creating a rift between the locals. In order to raise awareness of the big plans and changes proposed the locals hold a fundraiser in the town. Unfortunately there are other events happening in local areas and they need something to attract as many people as possible - one resident comes up with the idea of hosting a big charity game show based on television game shows such as I'm a Celebrity etc. This proves to be a fantastic idea and I was looking forward to this being a big part of the storyline but it was disappointing this didn't receive more focus in the book which is what I thought the title of Party Games referred to.
However this novel is about secrets and things not being what they seem on the surface, the games people play, hidden agendas and mixed emotions. Jo Carnegie takes the reader on a journey of her characters discoveries about who they are, what they want and what they are prepared to do to get what they want. People are not what they seem on the surface and it was interesting to see how these individual struggles panned out.
Vanessa Powell married to actor Conrad has her work cut out with him, spoiled, self centered and a bully she is drawn to Dylan who appears one day offering to do some gardening at her house and who she is instantly attracted to. The Powell's are all smiles and false love in front of the cameras but once the paparazzi have left and the interviews are over they are very different behind closed doors.
The next main character Catherine struggles with moving from London where she was once an editor of Soiree magazine to Beeversham where she is left licking her wounds after a career meltdown. Being a lady of leisure after having such a busy life she finds herself short tempered, bored and dis-satisfied with her situation and the whole thing is not helped when she sees the local celebrity Vanessa Powell ( the reason for her leaving Soiree) lives in the same town and is a constant reminder of all she has lost.
Then there is Fleur who is trying to keep the family farm going after the death of her mother while her father Robert falls deeper and deeper into depression taking solace in drink. The local playboy Beau Rainford has already bought some of their land and built a Manor house on it and Fleur is determined he won't get his hands on the rest of the farm.
All characters are woven together well and although quite predictable it is a good fun read with good story lines that keep the reader interested, amused and wanting to read to the end. This novel has good contrast between the rich and famous lifestyle and aspirations and that of ordinary people resisting change trying to hold on to what is important to them (or what they think is) and of course secrets and lies all good ingredients for an enjoyable read and a well deserved 4.5 stars from me.