Ellie Kendall lost it all when her beloved husband, Jamie, died in a car accident. She lost the love of her life; all the memories and plans and growing old together vanished in a heartbeat. Her co-workers, friends and family started treating her differently, walking on eggshells and constantly apologizing for her heartbreak. Ellie may have even lost her sanity - because occasionally she still talks to Jamie (and sometimes he talks back). But all that is going to change now. It has been a year and a half since Jamie passed away, and Ellie needs a change.
She quits her job and moves into a sweet little apartment in Primrose Hill, courtesy of her father-in-law and movie star, Tony Weston. Ellie befriends her next-door-neighbour and ex-celebrity, `Daisy Deeva' aka `Roo'. And Ellie reconnects with her Jamie's old friend, Todd. And finally, through luck, chance and Roo, Ellie scores a job as assistant to entrepreneur Zack McLaren. Zack may be drool-worthy, but he has a girlfriend and Ellie isn't quite ready to jump back on that bandwagon . . . unfortunately for Zack.
`To the Moon and Back' is the new novel from contemporary romance author, Jill Mansell.
I have a confession to make, one I am quite ashamed of . . . this is my first Jill Mansell book. I know, I know! It's atrocious. She is one author who has been recommended to me again and again but I've never got around to reading her, until now. And I've got to say - she was worth the wait.
Jill Mansell is the literary equivalent of Richard Curtis. She writes quaint little British romances that appear quite sweet and innocent, but pack an emotional punch and leave you with a swirl of emotions - from outright giggles to pathetic blubbering.
`To the Moon and Back' is a novel about losing love, and the myriad of ways that people cope with the fallout. Mansell writes an interesting cast of characters, all of whom have a trail leading back to Ellie Kendall.
There's Roo, Ellie's hopeless next-door-neighbour and new friend. Roo has started seeing the perfect guy - handsome, funny and good in bed. Except he's married, a fact which won't stop Roo from falling in love with him.
Tony Weston is Ellie's father-in-law. He also happens to be a movie star; one of the few ex-pat Poms's to have made it big in Hollywood. Ellie and Tony are keeping each other afloat since Jamie's sudden death - they're a tight unit bought together by their love for Jamie and caught asunder by their grief. Just as Ellie starts moving on with her life, Tony meets someone new, and he has never felt such an instant connection. Fifty-five is never too late to find true love.
Zack McLaren is a prominent London businessman who employs Ellie as his new PA. It's thoroughly inappropriate and he feels awful; but Zack has the biggest crush on Ellie, from the moment he lays eyes on her. But Zack has a girlfriend. And inter-office relations are really quite inappropriate . . . especially when he can't figure out of Ellie is dating the movie star Tony Weston and living in his Primrose Hill love nest?
And finally, Ellie Kendall has a hole in heart where Jamie should be. They were soul-mates, and they didn't have enough time together. I loved Ellie best of all - she's coping terribly with the loss of her husband, but she soldiers on with wry wit and the dogged determination that tomorrow will be better, easier. But in the meantime, Ellie has conversations with imaginary Jamie. . . she knows it's crazy and deluded, but she misses him and she can't stop conjuring him. Through these exchanges we can see how well Ellie and Jamie fit together. Their banter (even if it is all in Ellie's head) is funny and ingrained with years of `in-jokes' that reveal that these two were best friends as well as lovers.
Fair warning - you will cry. Ellie's story is sad and tragic, made all the worse by the fact that she can't see the good thing that's right around the corner. Zack pines for Ellie while she goes out on bungled dates and tries to get on with her life and love life (much to Zack's chagrin).
I loved Ellie and Zack. Mansell has all the perfect romantic ingredients - unrequited love, pining and tragedy, and always with that dry British wit to carry these two characters through their struggles.
`To the Moon and Back' is a sweet contemporary romance, and Mansell's writing is reverently tender as she explores these flawed characters. She writes complicated and messy people that live in the gray areas. She explores adultery from many different angles and perspectives; sometimes the cheating is reprehensible and unforgiveable, but in other situations the faithlessness has an explanation. She also explores the inability of people to move on, and all the various triggers and prompts that people need in order to put the past to rest and break free.
Jill Mansell's `To the Moon and Back' is superb. It's a book of high emotion - you will cry, and laugh and you will be torn in two by the various moral conundrums these characters face. But at the end of the day this is a feel-good slice of British humour wonderfully coloured by Mansell's tender romance about moving on and finding love after heartbreak.