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Highlights In The Charts

Seven Days In June by Tia Williams

Review by Robyn Hewson

This intoxicating romance from bestselling author Tia Williams delves into the New York literary scene, exploring the intimate and volatile relationship between two famous authors, Eva and Shane.

The novel is portrayed through a dual narrative, following Eva and Shane from adolescence to adulthood and literary fame. Eva is a successful author and proud single mum to twelve-year-old, Audre. After writing fourteen books in her fantasy erotica series, she’s a well-established member of New York’s literary scene. Meanwhile, Shane is adored for his critically acclaimed books but prefers to keep out of the spotlight.

Their story begins in high school, where they form an intense connection over the course of seven days. Both outcasts struggling to fit in, the two strike up an unlikely friendship which quickly morphs into an all-consuming romance. After more than a decade apart, the two cross paths again and are unable to resist the chemistry between them.

Alongside the captivating romance, Williams also delves into the highs and lows of the publishing industry, exploring the lack of diversity and the challenges faced by Black authors. Eva discusses the shock of those in the industry that her fantasy novels featured two Black protagonists and, later in the novel, she faces the prospect of her novel becoming a film, but with the Black characters replaced with white actors.

Seven Days in June is a nuanced portrayal of love in all its forms and a novel that isn’t afraid to explore hard themes like racism, violence and chronic pain. Williams writes with warmth, wit and passion, and it’s easy to devour this story in much less than seven days.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie

Review by Alex Haywood

It’s fair to say there has been a reasonable hype around Bella Mackie’s debut fiction How To Kill Your Family, following her non-fiction Jog On. A seemingly vast departure from fitness and mental health, How To Kill Your Family indulges murderer Grace Bernard in telling the story of her long-standing familial grudge.

Not like any other feud, Grace is intent on killing the entirety of her estranged family after she and her mother are shunned and disowned. A drastic response? Perhaps, but grittily entertaining if you want to know about the intricacies of how your ordinary PR girl goes about becoming a serial killer without even a hint of suspicion. But here’s the kicker, Grace is in jail. Just not for the murders she actually committed – talk about karma.

Despite the subject matter, Grace’s story has a surprising levity. She is funny and witty, notwithstanding the clear rejection of a moral compass, which lends the text an almost warm quality. In short, the situation Mackie has crafted is undeniably intriguing. Despite this premise, I found Grace difficult to invest in. Sure, she’s a murderer, but oddly this didn’t quite feel like enough. She’s a deliberately divisive anti-hero and yet she didn’t quite have enough substance to provoke a response of love or hate. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fun book and would make an excellent summer read but, I feel like Grace lacked depth which was emphasised by the obvious tropes of social commentary Mackie added into her opinions. If it weren’t for the payoff of the final twist, I’m not sure Grace’s story would really be worth 350 pages.

The Idea Of You by Robinne Lee

Review by Lauren Fardoe

Robinne Lee explores an unconventional, implausible relationship between thirty-nine-year-old Solène, a successful mother-of-one, and a world-famous popstar, Hayes. What initially sets out to be an archetypal chick-flick unveils something deeper, examining the true costs of romance.

The novel follows Solène’s journey of self-discovery as she attempts to navigate her already complex life with the added intricacy of dating an internationally-renowned superstar twenty years her junior. It follows her enlightenment as she discovers the downfalls of pursuing what appears to be a fantastical, idyllic relationship. She has initial trepidations about it, which end up prophetic, yet the narrative remains gripping as she reaches dizzying heights and the inevitable downfall. Lee also divulges a lesser-known perspective to fame, the unrelenting lack of privacy.

Somewhat predictable until mid-way through the novel, the protagonist’s priorities fluctuate between her age-inappropriate yet alluringly glamourous relationship, her prosperous art gallery and her star-struck, isolated teenage daughter. This delicate balance creates a captivating atmosphere, inviting the reader to indulge in the guilt-ridden, almost immoral situation Solène finds herself in.

Lee depicts this whirlwind relationship alongside an older woman’s rediscovery of her own needs. The factors of an irate business partner who critiques her decision, a controlling ex-husband and the mounting pressure accompanying dating stardom make her renaissance even more substantial.

The novel ends abruptly, with only the suggestion of the healing period to come. A captivating read which strikes a delicate balance between a fantastical daydream and a genuinely moving ode to self-reflection and the importance of priorities.

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