Party Games – Mel Carnegie

party-games-jo-carnegie“I’m Vanessa Powell. People think they know me because I’m famous. They think I’ve got the world at my feet and the husband every woman wants to marry. But fame can be a lonely place and the perfect marriage can be even lonelier. Now someone’s come into my life who makes me feel alive. For the first time ever, I’m thinking about what I really want. No matter what the consequences…”

Welcome to Beeversham, a beautiful rural town that has its fair share of secrets – and a cast of vivid characters, from shallow celebrities to disgraced editors and rich bad-boy party-goers.

One of those residents is Vanessa Powell, who, according to Party Games‘ blurb, the story revolves around. Half of ‘Brand Powell’ – namely her and her ‘famous’ husband, Conrad – Victoria is living a shallow, materialistic and empty life. She thinks she’s happy until she lays eyes on their new gardener – hippy outdoor-loving Dylan, who lives in a yurt in the woods and is the complete antithesis of her malicious, plastic husband – and falls in love with him.

Alongside their escalating, torrid romance is the story of Catherine who, despite the book’s back cover, seems to be the main focus of the story. Her upbringing hasn’t been easy; being the daughter of ‘Crimson Killer’ Annie Fincham, who notoriously murdered her boyfriend when Catherine was young, has dogged her throughout her life. Years on, she has a husband she loves, but her life isn’t quite complete. Catherine and John are struggling to conceive a much-wanted child, and their fruitless efforts begin to drive them apart. Things come to a crux when Catherine is picked to run as Beeversham’s MP, and her campaign leaves her with no time to fix her slowly unravelling marriage…

Elsewhere in their sleepy village, Fleur Blackwood is facing even bleaker problems. Since the death of her mother, her father Robert has sunk into an alcoholic depression and their farm is in financial jeopardy. Fleur is incensed when arrogant rich-boy Beau Rainford shows up on the scene with an offer to buy it from them, but as time goes on Fleur comes to realise that she’s developing feelings for the incorrigible party boy. As he slowly woos her, Fleur falls deeper in love with him – but can she compete with the string of immaculate and wealthy women Beau is used to displaying on his arm?

All tangled up in a huge village drama together and amidst their close-knit community, the three women’s stories play out.

Can Dylan and Vanessa ever be together – or will Conrad, who’s turned to blackmailing his wife to keep her with him, win?

Will Catherine win the election – and manage to create the family she’s always wanted, with the man she loves?

Will Fleur manage to keep her and her father afloat on their beloved farm – and keep Beau too?

A story of intrigue and scandal, Party Games watches these three very different women each handle the huge obstacles thrown their way. The blurb is misleading – as Vanessa is perhaps the least dominant and developed story of the three – but Jo weaves their stories together cleverly. It’s difficult at times to keep track of all of the characters – and I struggle to see what exactly Dylan finds attractive about Vanessa, as they never seem to develop that meaningful a connection – but it’s a compelling read, with a cast of colourful and well-drawn characters. It’s also a perfect holiday book, so if you’ve not yet had your summer getaway, make sure you pack this with your beach towel!

Many thanks to Corgi Books for the review copy.

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