Just about everyone's heard of, if not read Fifty Shades of Grey - but did you know that a gentle romance involving dog owners belonging to a walking group replaced it as Amazon UK's best selling ebook? That book is Alice Peterson's Monday to Friday Man.
Gilly Brown is devastated after being jilted at the altar by her perfect man Edward. The book starts with Gill running into Edward unexpectedly as he is wedding shopping with his new fiancee. The experience is a shock - Ed has moved on, while Gilly is stuck in a rut, wallowing in her misery. Soon she and Ruskin are on the road planning a move to the country, but unlikely as it sounds, it's the estate agent she consults who talks her into staying in London and taking on a lodger.
Gilly consults a website specialising in matching up those looking for a weekday lodger with those looking to stay in London during the week - the Monday to Friday website. After a few false starts glamorous Jack Baker turns up on Gilly's doorstep and she finds herself attracted to this handsome, dynamic stranger who sleeps in her spare room Monday to Friday but disappears off to another life at the weekend. Jack is a mysterious man though, and all Gilly really knows is that he produces the TV talent show Stargazer, but she want to know more.
At the same time, Gilly encounters Guy through her dog walking group who meet to exercise their dogs - and socialise - in the park each morning. The dog walkers are a colourful, varied group, brought together by their love of their dogs, and dog owners will recognise the bond that springs up between people who would never otherwise meet, as they chat over a shared dog walk. Soon Guy is a big part of Gilly's life too - but he has a girlfriend, so he's out of bounds.
The support we receive from our dogs is clear in this novel, and Gilly's dog Ruskin helps her find love, and even holds opinions about the people in her life. He accompanies her for much of the book, and the dog behaviour described rings true - this is definitely a book written by someone who knows the realities of life with a dog; Peterson's own dog is a Lucas Terrier called Mr Darcy.
Although Gilly lacks a man in her life she has a very supportive network of friends, family and neighbours who sustain her as she makes her journey in search of happiness. Although Peterson succeeds in moving the storyline along, making it clear her heroine is an independent modern woman with a busy life, she also depicts the way Gilly yearns for more and aspires to write, and broods on the unhappy events of her childhood. Many of the characters have experienced tragedy - and perhaps this reflects the fact that the author has had her share of adversity, having her promising tennis career ended by severe arthritis.
Monday to Friday Man is a light, fun, diverting read and is perfect to pack in your holiday suitcase. While it is a romance, it is a gentle one, and I could well imagine it being made into a rom-com, so I won't be surprised if the Peterson is announcing having sold the film rights some time soon. I'm glad that Alice Peterson managed to dethrone E.L. James - personally if one of the characters in a book I'm reading wears a collar and lead I want it to be a dog!
Review by Julie Hill