A Spanish Lover

51ibpogxyylTwins Frances and Lizzie couldn’t be more different. Lizzie is the traditional achiever with husband and four children, a thriving business set in a fashionable town, and a large period-style family home furnished in the epitome of good taste to show for it all. Her days are interminably busy since looking after everything she’s created with her husband is a full-time job; and when the family finances take a considerable and worrying nosedive, their situation raises serious questions about what they value. Meanwhile, Frances creates a bespoke travel business and whilst seeking out off-the-beaten-track holidays for her clients, she meets and begins an affair with an enigmatic, wealthy – albeit married – Spanish hotelier. It seems that the freedom of choice for Frances is far more liberating and interesting than an indulgent lifestyle, and Lizzie finds she’s suddenly less than fulfilled with her lot.
Again, a misleading title as this novel is much more about the complexities of the family dynamic rather than a casual romance. This is a work-life balance problem versus feminism kind of novel, set in the early nineties. I really enjoyed the way these characters developed and the questions raised by their actions. My only negative was the amount of background detail about Andalusia, although the imagery was vivid and engaging.

Things we Choose to Hide

50544743._SY475_On the rebound at the end of a long-term relationship, Rachel flees to friends in Florence – and falls in love with handsome, albeit secretive, Tommaso. They marry within weeks. It seems a rash decision for such an independent, intelligent woman with career prospects – plans she has no intention of giving up or changing for the preferences of a man bound by Italian convention. And this especially since she’s given up everything to stay in Italy with her new husband; to learn his first language, make new friends, and pursue her photography career in a foreign country rather than on home ground in Scotland.
Unease grows within the relationship when Rachel discovers her husband is keeping secrets. During a low time, Rachel travels to India to revisit the places she grew up as a child. The poverty and spirituality she experiences there and a sympathetic meeting-of-minds through the Catholic priest, Pasha, contrasts sharply with the rich scenery and her privileged, more formal way of life in Italy. As Tommaso’s complex secrets come to light and disaster strikes, Rachel must find great reserves of character to keep afloat, both emotionally and practically. Her reward – eventually – is to discover love in the most unexpected of places.
The great strength and appeal of this book lies in the rich descriptive knowledge the author brings to the locations: the food, the people, and the culture, without detracting from the story. I did sense some detachment from the main character from time to time, where a little more depth might have convinced me more assuredly of her emotions and motivations. Otherwise, a well written novel with ambitious scope. Great escapism.