By Fine Mayer
140k Twitter followers. Over 1.5 million books sold worldwide. And now, 23-year-old writing sensation Estelle Maskame has launched her seventh young adult book, Becoming Mila, just in time to sweeten her readers’ staycation plans.
Estelle started writing the Did I Mention I Love You? series when she was just 13 years old - and has since turned into a global phenomenon with a loyal readership across the world. Following the bestselling four-piece series, the young author focussed on stand-alones, including Dare to Fall and The Wrong Side of Kai and is now trying her hand at another series: the Mila trilogy. With the first instalment, Becoming Mila, hitting bookshelves this month, the summer holidays just got much more exciting!
With COVID-19 and travel restrictions keeping so many of us at home this year, Becoming Mila provides the perfect escape to another world, or another continent, to be precise. Sixteen-year-old Mila has grown up surrounded by the glam of Hollywood life with an A-list actor as her dad, whose career puts the entire family in the spotlight. When Mila’s public faux pas ahead of her dad’s next big movie causes some unflattering PR, she is sent 2,000 miles away to Tennessee, where Mila has to leave the glitz and glam behind to help her aunt and grandfather on their horse farm. While adjusting to rural life and even reconnecting with childhood friends, there is one person Mila just can’t stand: guitar-playing and annoyingly handsome Blake. As the two country-music fans get to know, and maybe even like each other, Blake’s influential mother reveals secrets of a past Mila never knew about.
This sweet summer romance launches ten years after its author started writing her famous series, a change that is prominent in its writing style. Estelle’s voice has matured, tackling tropes and delicate topics fearlessly but sensitively. As a reader of her books for many years, I am always struck by the atmosphere and vivid sense of place that Estelle creates in her novels, and none more so than Becoming Mila. With this story set just outside of Nashville, Tennessee, the Southern vibes hit the reader from the moment Mila touches down for the summer, so different from the busy city life in Los Angeles. ‘[As] a huge country music fan myself, I thought a Nashville setting would be perfect for a summer romance,’ shares Estelle, so the book features a lot of country music to fit the Southern charm, imagine Taylor Swift’s Fearless in book form! It won’t come as a surprise that live performances by the campfire count as a fantastic Friday night for Mila’s Tennessee friends, and more than one visit is on the agenda to a place called Honky Tonk Central, a real country music bar in downtown Nashville.
What may come as a surprise, however, is that Estelle herself lives in the Northeast of Scotland. Despite the obvious connections between her writing and the US, as indeed all of Estelle’s books are set in North America, the writer lives in Peterhead, near Aberdeen, with her chihuahua pup Bear. The canine theme continues in Becoming Mila through Blake’s mischievous dog Bailey whose fictional existence shows how much Estelle dreamed of having a dog while writing the novel. Now, with Bear cheering her on, Estelle is working on the sequel to Becoming Mila, Trusting Blake, which is due to be published later in the year.
Becoming Mila is a passionate love story that also explores friendship, family dynamics and living in the spotlight. Alternating between two lifestyles, Mila’s tale is reminiscent of a Hannah Montana-esque coming-of-age story that is a must-read for the summer of 2021, whether you spend it at the beach, by the pool or in the back garden.
Find Estelle on Twitter and Instagram at @estellemaskame and find YA imprint of Black and White Publishing, Ink Road Books on Twitter and Instagram at @inkroadbooks