(Un)like a Virgin – Lucy-Anne Holmes

“Is Gracie in love for the very first time? You know that bit in The X Factor, when the singer tells everyone about the rocky road they travelled to pursue their dream? Well, that’s Gracie Flowers’ story. Gracie is very focused for a woman of almost twenty-six. Her favourite book is ‘The 5-Year Plan: Making the Most of Your Life’. And her five-year plan is going very well. That is, until she is usurped from her big promotion by a handsome, posh idiot; she is dumped by her boyfriend; and discovers her loopy mother is facing bankruptcy…”

This book started off really well for me. I was immediately flung headfirst into the world of Gracie Flowers, who is ever nice and utterly loveable, a bit of a ditz but with a good head on her shoulders and a good heart to boot (the sort of person I like to imagine I am). She’s got her life all sorted out – until things in every aspect of her life start to go awry and everything she’s been suppressing from the past starts to rise up. Feelings of grief at her father’s death and regret at her lost singing career start to surface as, at the same time, Gracie starts receiving wave upon wave of life-changing news.

Lucy-Anne Holmes builds up a great series of events that keeps the reader hooked as Gracie’s relationships with her mother, her best friend Wendy and ‘Posh Boy’ (the man who took Gracie’s estate agent promotion, and someone she finds irresistible) John St John Smythe develop. Unfortunately, the key problem with this novel is that there was just too much going on. Gracie, who used to sing and was tipped for big things until an emotional breakdown, shortly followed by her father’s death, ends her dreams, decides to return to singing. However, she keeps changing her mind and swinging back and forth, much like she does between her two crushes; John St John Smythe and Anton, the pub owner across the road who is a bit older than her and therefore reluctant to get involved with her. The mind changing was slightly frustrating and I found that the many dramatic events that Holmes built up deserved a less abrupt and more fitting ending.

That aside, this novel is everything you need if you’re feeling like a heart-warming chick lit read that more than scratches the surface. Unlike a Virgin will brings a few tears to your eyes with some beautifully poignant scenes and make you laugh out loud with others less poignant ones. I think my favourite thing about this novel was the dialogue – the conversation and narration throughout was natural, witty and made me giggle quite a few times. All in all, It’s a lovely novel whose protagonist handles everything that’s thrown at her with, quite fittingly, a great amount of grace – I just would’ve liked a neater denouement.

Many thanks to Sphere for the review copy.


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