"On the morning of Lily's twenty-fifth birthday, it's time to open the very last letter written to her by her beloved mother, who died when she was eight.
Learning more about the first and only real love of her mum's life is a revelation. On the same day, Lily also meets Eddie Tessler, a man fleeing fame who just might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways. But her childhood friend Dan has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie's attentions.
Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily's friends and family become involved. In the beautiful Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, nothing will ever be the same again..."
Reading a Jill Mansell story is like a comforting hug. It's warm and reassuring, makes you happy and cheers you up if you need it. That's exactly how You and Me, Always made me feel when I read it earlier this month.
Picture the scene- Christmas is over. The decorations are down, mince pies are eaten, the back-to-work blues are setting in and everything's a bit... 'meh'. I wanted to read something I could get lost in and would life my spirits, and it didn't take very long to choose this book that was practically yelling to me from my kindle.
The story follows Lily, who, on her 25th birthday opens the last letter from her mum, who passed away when she was younger. Before she died, Lily's mum wrote her a series of letters to open on her birthday, but this is the last one. In it, she talks about her first love (before Lily's absent father) which inspires Lily to try and find the man who meant so much to her mother.
We also meet Lily's life-long friends Patsy and her brother Dan. I LOVED these two, I thought they were both brilliant in different ways. Patsy is brash and outgoing and I really enjoyed hearing about her string of disastrous dates. As well as that she's kind and caring and overall I think is a really great support to Lily. Her brother Dan is wonderful, he's a womaniser but is also funny and handsome, so you can see why! The three characters friendship is lovely to see... they'd do anything for each other and I thought this was the highlight of the story for me.
Then there's Eddie Tessler, an actor who's seeking a bit of quiet time away from the spotlight. When he and Lily meet there's a spark, an instant fizz of attraction that has you intrigued from the offset. He's so different to Lily's small-town-girl life, which makes it so interesting to see how the two work out. I'm not going to spoil anything (what would be the fun in that!?) but I will say that although I'd guessed how this, and Lily's love-life, would turn out - I wasn't disappointed.
Now, with Jill Mansell stories I come to expect a pretty, quaint location and You and Me, Always delivers on this front. The small village where Lily lives sounds beautiful and charming and captured my imagination from the offset. In such a small place though, everyone knows everyone and no secret is rarely left unturned. As the story progresses, you can see the tangled webs that have formed and discover some shocking secrets along the way. They're what make this story a bit grittier and absorbing - it adds a dynamic edge to a lovely romantic fiction story.
Overall, You and Me, Always is a wonderful read. Packed with great characters, a pretty location, friendship, romance and secrets it's what you expect from a Jill Mansell novel and it certainly delivers. I think she just gets better and better each time and this is up there as one of my favourites. It's engaging, funny and emotional and picked me right up out of my January slump! Thanks, Jill!
*A big thank you to the publishers of the book, Headline, for an advance copy on Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.