I have been reading the novels written by Erica James since her first one ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’ was published in 1996. With the exception of ‘Gardens of Delight’ which is still sitting on my bookshelf, plus ‘Love and Devotion’ which I still have not obtained a copy of, I have now read all her novels. I regard her work as a thoroughly good read where you can immerse yourself in the story, not great literature but so much better than some of the novels regarded as ‘chick lit’ or ‘romantic women’s fiction’.
I continue to enjoy her work when I want to sit back relax and read a reasonably realistic romance with once again believable characters. We appear to share a love of Italy as Italian locations often appear in her novels, this time Venice.
The protagonists in this novel all decide to cope with changes in their lives by joining a writing group, giving them an opportunity to meet new people with a shared interest. ‘Hidden Talents’ is the name given to the writer’s group and the members were of varied ages and backgrounds, with to start with not much in common apart from a shared passion in writing.
Dulcie Ballantyne is the organiser and leader of the group a sixty three year old who has been a widow for the last twenty two years and has learnt to cope with life in an optimistic manner whatever life throws at her. However as the novel opens her married lover is in hospital as the result of a heart attack and there is nothing she can do.
The first member of the writing group that we meet is Jaz Rafferty a seventeen year old with an intensive desire to write. This is something she keeps secret from her large and exuberant family, of which she is the middle child of five, as she feels they will just laugh at her.
We are next introduced to Beth King a widow from the young age of thirty-two, eleven years ago and soon to become an ‘empty-nester’ when her son Nathan goes to university. She knows that she needs to expand her horizons so has joined Dulcie’s writing group. Since her husband died she has found comfort in writing down her thoughts.
Next we are introduced to Jack Solomon although he does not immediately become a member of the group in the first chapter devoted to him. Jack a local estate agent is struggling to make a new life for himself after the shock of having his wife leave him for his best friend.
The final person to make a commitment to joining the group is Victor Blackmore a pompous sounding prat who was already working on a novel and looking for expert appraisal.
The novel is not so much about the group and its meetings but about the lives of members of the group and how their friendship grows as they support each other through changes going on in their lives.