After reading her twenty-seventh novel, You and Me, Always, it is clear that Jill Mansell has truly mastered the art of the romantic comedy. This story of a classic love triangle, set in the quaint Cotswold village of Stanton Langley, is engaging, uplifting and heart-warmingly funny.
Since she was eight years old, every year on her birthday, Lily has opened a letter from her beloved, late mother. Now, on her twenty-fifth birthday, she opens the last, in it learning about her mother’s one true love, Declan. Lily is eager to track him down and find out more about the man that stole her mum’s heart.
Is there a chance Lily’s own heart will be stolen, too? When she meets Eddie Tessler, a celebrity fleeing fame and a media scandal (and hiding out in her friend Patsy’s house) it seems that just might be the case. But, not everyone is happy about Lily spending time with the movie star. Her long-time best friend Dan is extremely put out by the blossoming romance, but will he have the courage to voice his feelings?
I am a hopeless romantic, who was raised on the likes of Jane Austen, and so am an absolute sucker for a good rom-com. I love the tension that builds between the characters as they get it wrong before getting right, I enjoy witnessing people being vulnerable in the face of love, and mostly I adore the predictable, fairytale ending when the girl I’ve grown to like gets the guy, usually the one I’ve been rooting for all along. Mansell knows what her fans want, and she delivers every time.
You and Me, Always is filled with warm, vulnerable and likeable women. Lily is our heroine, then there is Coral, who raised Lily, and Patsy, one of her dearest friends and once babysitter. All of these women show an inspiring strength of character, and I found myself wishing for each of their happy endings. Patsy provides some wonderful comic relief as she struggles through some cringe-worthy blind date disasters, and I think she is a character who will appeal to many a reader. What I enjoyed most about these women was the dynamic between them. Their history is palpable and a reminder that, with the right people around, we can get through, and rebound from, anything.
This book is not without some sadness. There is a deep poignancy surrounding the birthday letters that Lily receives from her mother, and perhaps more so being that this is the last one. Further, how should she deal with finding out secrets about her mum so long after she has died? The thing about sadness is that it makes you champion the happiness of the characters even more, making a happy ending even more satisfying.
Two things happened when I read this book: I found I couldn’t put it down, but at the same time I really didn’t want it to end. Set in a quaint English village, with women you feel you already know, charming men, surprises and hurdles, and romantic tension, Mansell hits the spot. I recommend You and Me, Always to anyone who enjoys a beautiful, well-written, cosy and satisfying women’s fiction read.