Joanne (Jo) Tracey and I have been virtual blogging buddies for half a dozen years. We’ve not yet met in person but we’re the same age and have similar interests. Well… in that we both love reading and writing and have backgrounds in project management. Jo’s also a music-loving foodie and far more into hiking and travelling than yours truly.
But she feels like a close friend. Despite the not-having-met thing.
Wish You Were Here is Jo’s third book and – as an observer from afar – I can see the growth in her writing and character development with each new release. The thing that draws me to her blog (and her I guess) is a sense of familiarity in her writing: an informality that engages me and draws me in. And her books offer that same level of intimacy.
Wish You Were Here
by Joanne Tracey
Published by Self-published
on October 25th 2016
Max Henderson loves her life in the idyllic English village of Brookford. Her family is nearby, and her job allows her to indulge her passion for growing, cooking and writing about food.
When Max’s husband, James, tells her he’s been transferred to New York, Max is thrilled for him ‒ it’s the role he’s always aspired to. But as excited as she is for James, she’s torn between the thought of leaving her home, the people she cares about and her own ambitions, and the possibility of a new start for her and James. To complicate matters, the New York move is just the first in a series of blows that leave Max reeling.
If Max follows her heart, will she have to leave her dreams behind? Or can they guide her home to the man she loves?
Jo’s books are loosely linked – through minor characters becoming the focus in each new outing. I love the continuity it offers and forethought it shows; giving readers the opportunity to piece together the timeframes and relationships.
This book had a more mature feel to it and I’m not sure if that was where the characters are at in their lives (although they were only about 30ish) or whether Jo’s writing voice is becoming stronger; but there’s a sense of confidence that shines through.
Jo’s characters are always her strong point and this was no different. Maxine (Max / Maxi) was a delight and readers are there for her ‘awakening’ if you like. I loved that Jo puts us firmly in Max’s head as she ponders her relationships with James and best male friend, Richie. She’s prone to a bit of over-analysis… so I could very much relate.
Nothing about Richie felt like a lie; it felt exactly the opposite… yet wasn’t that how things had been with James at the start too? James had dazzled me and taken me over. When I was with Richie I couldn’t think straight, but it didn’t feel like I’d been conquered. Surely that was an important difference? (65% through eBook)
I found James to be a bit of a cliché – something I recall about an ex-boyfriend from one of Jo’s previous novels. I’m not sure if it’s a romance / chick lit novel thing – the stereotypical / extreme characters (like Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’ Diary). You can kinda see what’s coming and it’s obvious they’re a bit of a prick and things aren’t gonna end well…
As an aside but on that note, although it was my first Colleen Hoover book, I really appreciated the character of Ryle in her latest (It Ends With Us) because there’s no black / white there. Just a lot of grey.
Again Jo’s surrounded her leads with a great cast of characters and these were probably the strongest yet – perhaps because we’re offered such an array via Max and Richie’s families and friends.
Surprisingly one of my favourite elements of this novel was the inclusion of Max’s blog posts on a ‘foodie’ blog. Max’s (and Jo’s) voice came through with strong familiarity and her / their passion for cooking and fresh produce were evident through the use of the first person posts.
For something sweet, why not try this tropical no-cook lemon slice? I’m not sure if it’s the tang of the lemon in the icing, or the coconut in the base, or perhaps the jewel-bright colours of the dried fruit in both, that make it taste like summer. Perhaps all of the above? (43% through eBook)
There was a bit more lust and passion in Wish You Were Here but really only the one major sex scene for me to deal with and it wasn’t too scary for this disliker-of-sex-scenes.
Again I cried. It wasn’t until it happened I was reminded that I had done so in both of Jo’s other books and she’s great at building that emotion to that point of ‘conflict’ and exploring that vulnerability we so often avoid.
And finally, Jo again shares her love of travel throughout this book. On her blog she’d talked about the fact she was using a UK holiday last year to inspire this novel as well as her love for New Zealand.
Although I’m a little jealous of Jo’s drive, motivation and passion – I’m really pleased that she’s been able to follow-through with her writing.
Despite my usual antipathy towards romance and chick lit, I very much enjoyed this book. I initially thought t it was going to be a tad predictable as we can guess where it’s heading, but that’s when the real-life stuff kicks in and things get complicated.
Wish You Were Here by Joanne Tracey is now available via Amazon.