Monday, 13 August 2018

Blog Tour || Martinis and Memories by A.L. Michael - Book Review

Today I am very excited to be kicking off the blog tour for Martini and Memories, the third title in A.L. Michael's Martini Club series!


A fun, feisty novel of love and chasing your dreams.

Bel Hailstone has spent the past decade building her dream - Soho's best burlesque club - from the ground up. But now The Martini Club is under threat and it will take everything in Bel's power to resist encroaching developers and save her pride and joy. 

Amidst the chaos Bel's past comes knocking with the unexpected arrivals of her still-not-quite-ex-husband, her estranged mother and Brodie Porter - the boy who got away all those years ago.

To keep her beloved club afloat - not to mention her sanity - Bel will have to accept help for the first time in a long time, put the past to rest and claim the happy ever after she once thought was lost for good.

About The Author

A. L. Michael is the author of 13 novels. Almost all of them are snarky love stories where difficult women learn to embrace vulnerability. Andi works as a content writer, so no matter what she's doing, she's all about the words. She has a BA in English Literature, an MA in Creative Business and an MSc in Creative Writing. She is represented by Hayley Steed at Madeleine Milburn.

My Review

A few months ago I was lucky enough to be part of the blog tour for Prosecco and Promises, part of A.L. Michael's Martini Club series. I enjoyed that so much that when I was offered the chance to review the next in the series, Martinis and Memories, I was keen as mustard.

Bel Hailstone is very much in control: she's escaped her mediocre life as Annabelle Stone, built her burlesque club business from nothing, and has cultivated an entirely new persona to boot. No longer will she be controlled by her mother, or put-upon by her good-for-nothing husband - she's the queen of the Martini Club and doesn't stand for any nonsense.

However, business is slowing. They aren't attracting the numbers they used to, and developers are circling like vultures, keen to buy her beloved club and turn it into flats. A dreadful review only adds to Bel's misery. Can it get worse? Well, yes, actually, it can. When her ex-husband, her mother and the boy she was infatuated with as a teenager all make unexpected returns to her life, Bel is forced to confront the past she escaped from, while fighting to save the future she had envisioned.

A.L. Michael is extremely adept at writing characters who have been forced to develop an outer shell. Bel is no exception - she openly admits to having created a work identity, including a costume and an accent that fits the part she plays. She also seems to enjoy that she intimidates some of her staff; she has very exacting standards and only accepts the highest quality, from her cocktails to her performer's routines. Honestly, the Bel we are immediately presented with in this book isn't one I found very likeable.

However, the gentle unrolling of Bel's memories give you an insight into the past she has run from, and why the wall has been built up around her. I particularly enjoyed her relationship with her mum - there can be a lot of complexity in the interactions between mothers and daughters. Michael managed to capture this in a highly realistic way: their relationship is fractured, infuriating, and yet they have so much to learn from each other. Past resentments are often huge roadblocks in families, so I really loved reading about these two learning how to navigate their relationship together.

Watching Bel let her guard down, remove the Arabella Hailstone mask and start to embrace the woman underneath her strict, perfectionist, work identity was surprisingly moving. I think a lot of us can relate to having to put on somewhat of an act in life, for whatever reason. I really loved seeing Bel begin to realise that it is okay to ask for - and accept - help, and that you don't need to be in control all the time. Her feistiness and confidence is impressive and all, but a bit of vulnerability actually ends up improving her life, which I think is a really important message to share.

I said this in my last review, but I really love that Michael creates characters who are so well-rounded. It's far too common for the women in some novels to only seem to care about love and romance, but Bel is not that kind of character. She has dreams and ambitions that are incredibly important to her and isn't just waiting around for 'the perfect man'. She also creates some brilliant secondary characters. In this novel Jacques in particular stood out to me. I'd kill for a friend like him, haha!

I also really love Michael's style of writing. It's perfectly paced, engrossing, and as intimate as talking to a friend. There are some books that feel more like TV shows - like you are actually watching the story unfold rather than reading. Michael's books are definitely in that category for me. They are fun, easy reads without being predictable or over-simplified. I can absolutely race through them because I just really enjoy reading them. There was a tiny bit of repetitiveness towards the end of this book, but overall I absolutely loved reading this.

Martinis and Memories is part of the Martini Club series, but can be read as a stand alone novel. For fans of the series, however, the return of some familiar characters is a lovely way to tie the trilogy together.

Be sure to check out the other blogs hosting Martinis and Memories on this tour!

Huge thank you to Ellie at Canelo Publishing for providing me with this copy.

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