I’m slowly expanding my reading repertoire by selecting a few books I might normally avoid if sticking to my fave psychological thriller type genre. I’ve undoubtedly missed a couple of great novels over the years by assuming they wouldn’t be to my taste.
Last year I read Amy Andrews‘ Limbo. Amy’s best known for contemporary romance but Limbo—romantic suspense featuring a ghost-seeing punk rocker and a PI —was a bit different so I took a leap of faith and wasn’t disappointed. I now follow Amy on social media and while I’m not quite ready to read some of her more traditional romance novels I was interested in this collaboration with her sister (and fellow author) Ros Baxter.Numbered
by Amy Andrews, Ros Baxter
Published by Harlequin MIRA
on January 25th 2016
ISBN: 1760374199 / 9781760374198
Mathematician and many-time Loser in Love Poppy Devine believes in being prepared. So when she discovers she has breast cancer, all she has to do is dust off the carefully numbered bucket list she prepared years before with her best friend Julia.
There are only two problems: Quentin, a gorgeous younger man with rock-star ambitions, wasn’t on her list. And take-a-risk Julia, has suddenly come over all disapproving.
Together with Poppy’s hippy mother Scarlet, the three form an unlikely alliance to help Poppy realise her goals. Sky diving, swimming with sharks, cooking classes in Tuscany, visiting an orphanage in India are all part of the journey. Along the way, Poppy is forced to confront her best friend’s grief, her fraught relationship with her mother, and the fact that she really might be using her last available time on earth to make the most imperfect match of her life.
But Poppy comes to learn that when your days are numbered there’s no such thing as perfect and love really is all you need.
For a novel about dying and death Numbered is actually a feel-good read. Practicalities (such as how they fund their travels – presumably via the wealthy Julia; and Quentin’s band and work commitments) are pushed to the side as the trio go galavanting around the world. It’s almost everyone’s fantasy… achieving their bucket list before their time comes.
There are some great destinations featured in the novel and Andrews and Baxter do a wonderful job of placing readers in the various locations.
The book however is more about the characters and their experiences and growth. For the most part Julia and Quentin struggle to get along… something which understandably frustrates Poppy. But ultimately they realise they need to put Poppy’s happiness ahead of their own (perhaps selfish) feelings. Similarly Poppy and her mother Scarlet are forced to reconsider long-held assumptions about the other.
We’re in the heads of Quentin and Julia, so I guess it’s only natural we identify the most with them. In fact, I *may* have commented on Facebook that I just wanted Poppy to die so Ten and Jules (as they call each other) could get together. Their bickering relationship had all of the hallmarks of intellectual attraction and sexual tension, so I was kinda disappointed when Quentin seemed happy with the more staid Poppy.
In fact, Poppy seems ethereal and ineffectual and I really didn’t feel I had a handle on who she is. We really only see her through the eyes of our narrators so I’m not sure if this was done on purpose – ie. while Poppy’s the pivotal character of the book, it’s more about those around her and how they react to what’s happening to her. Either way I probably would have liked more of a reason to care if she lived or died…
On the other hand, I LOVED Julia. Not only is she a strong and sassy character, she’s a beautiful and selfless friend and we learn of her attempts to reach out to Scarlet while the girls were in school without her best friend knowing she was doing so. I also liked Quentin and appreciated the fact his character was quite complex, which we learned from being in his head. There were no lazy black / white thoughts and feelings, just a lot of grey.
The notion of time running out has the propensity to be maudlin or depressing but Numbered is in fact more about living than dying.
Numbered by Amy Andrews and Ros Baxter will be published by Harlequin MIRA on 25 January 2016.
I received an electronic copy of this book for review purposes.
Do you have a bucket list?