What surprises might life have in store for you?
A takeaway, TV and tea with two sugars is about as exciting as it gets for thirty-something Sophie Stone. Sophie’s life is safe and predictable, which is just the way she likes it, thank you very much.
But when a mysterious benefactor leaves her an inheritance, Sophie has to accept that change is afoot. There is one big catch: in order to inherit, Sophie must agree to meet the father she has never seen.
Saying ‘yes’ means the chance to build her own dream home, but she’ll also have to face the past and hear some uncomfortable truths…
With interference from an evil boss, warring parents, an unreliable boyfriend and an architect who puts his foot in it every time he opens his mouth, will Sophie be able to build a future on her own terms - and maybe even find love along the way?
Conditional Love was Cathy Bramley's debut novel which she self-published in 2013. Since then she has secured a book deal and released her fantastic novels Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm. Now Transworld have re-published Conditional Love and given it a beautiful makeover (just look at that cover! I've finished the book now but don't want to move it off my bedside table it's so pretty!). As soon as it was published, I rushed out to buy a copy. Those of you who are regulars to the blog will know I was a huge fan of Ivy Lane and Appleby Farm (if you missed them you can read my reviews here & here) so I had no doubts I would love this too. I certainly wasn't disappointed, Conditional Love is a special, charming novel that I just can't stop thinking about. It's brilliant.
The story follows Sophie, who's normal, steady life is turned upside down by the sudden inheritance left to her by a great aunt who she never met. She will be the benefactor to a bungalow and a substantial amount of money but only if she meets a condition - she has to meet her estranged father who she has never met. The decision throws Sophie into an awkward position and I enjoyed seeing her journey unfold.
Sophie is a brilliant main character, you can easily relate to her and, I think it'd be safe to say, she's a little lost. I think this actually adds to her charm though - she's dealing with family issues and a break-up all whilst trying to work out what she really wants to do with her life, which is not only realistic, but shows her personality and how she deals with difficult situations.
I did get frustrated by how blind-sided she could be at times though. It was obvious that her ex-boyfriend Marc only comes crawling back to her when he realises she has some inheritance and a property to her name. It's such a shady move and the fact she doesn't click on straight away infuriated me. To be fair, as their reunion progresses he does hide his intentions better and you can kind of see why she'd be quick to ignore the potential issues, but I really wished she'd have taken a stand much sooner and told him where to go.
The setting of Conditional Love is wonderful. It's set in Nottingham, which is where I went to University so it felt comforting and familiar to read about the Christmas market in the town centre and other references to key landmarks of the city. The small village that Sophie's inherited bungalow is in, sounds delightful. A chocolate-box, white picket fence type of area that I would love to see in real life. Cathy Bramley's vivid and well detailed descriptions make the place come to life, and I had a clear idea in my head of what I imagined the village, and her bungalow, to be like.
Relationships play a massive part in Conditional Love. Friendships, relationships & family dynamics are all dominating themes of the story and create some emotional and engaging situations that keep the story fast paced and you dying to find out what happens. I loved the friendship between Sophie and her flatmates, sisters Jess and Emma. They have a lovely way of getting on together and support each other continuously. Even when Emma is being a bit hard on Sophie, it's clearly because she's worried her relationship with Marc will end badly (again) and she'll be hurt (again).
|The original cover-also pretty!|
Then there's the stand-out, slap-you-in-the-face-it's-so-obvious, brilliant chemistry between Sophie and her architect, Nick. After reading an article about Nick, she is taken by his passion for architecture and loves his ideas, so she asks if he will help with the bungalow. When they meet she is surprised that he's young and attractive - not the old, boring architect she had in mind. I really enjoyed watching them get to know each other and from the offset you know they'd be perfect for each other, they just need to see it for themselves! Nick is a great person who I was really rooting for. He's slightly awkward (not the outgoing yet egotistical type like Marc) but he's also kind, caring and passionate about his work. I was eager for Sophie to see what was obvious to the reader - get over Marc and get with Nick! Duh!
Family also plays a big, and mysterious, part in the story. To be eligible for her inheritance Sophie has to meet her father, then man she grew up without after he walked out on her and her mum. She never knew why he had as her mum refused to talk about him and whenever Sophie brings it up, she flies off the handle about it and gets very defensive. Again, I wished Sophie would have stood up for herself sooner - she has a right to know about her Dad and it's selfish of her mum to act the way she does, especially when she ignores Sophie when she finds out they've met up as part of the terms of the will. I enjoyed seeing the family dynamic unfold and how Sophie, and her dad, reacted at meeting each other. It was well-written and the emotions pulled you in, I was SO eager to find out what would happen and I was incredibly pleased with the outcome.
As usual this is an absolutely delightful novel by Cathy Bramley, who is well and truly one of my favourite authors now. She has an amazing ability to create characters who jump off the page and feel like one of your friends, not a fictional character. Her books are full of charm, love and hope and they leave you with a big smile on your face... Cathy Bramley's books are the definition of feel good fiction and I love them!