The Barbershop Girl by Georgina Penney

In brief: Amy Blaine never has any luck with men, but when English comedian/writer Ben Martindale worms his way into her barbershop, he also finds a way to her heart. But little does Amy know that she’s the subject of Ben’s weekly newspaper columns…

The good: I love Amy (sweet, kind and with awesome baking/fashion sense) and this is my favourite book yet by Georgina Penney.

The not-so-good: I demolished this one and was left with a book hangover. (Also, Ben – you can be an utter tool).

Why I chose it: Wanted to know more about Amy after reading Fly In, Fly Out. Thanks Penguin for the copy!

Year: 2017 (first published as Irrepressible You, 2014)

Pages: 296

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin Random House)

Setting: Mainly Fremantle and Perth, Western Australia

My rating: 10 out of 10

I’ve enjoyed Georgina Penney’s other books, which are set in my home state, but I knew I was going to love The Barbershop Girl as soon as I saw it. Not only do I own several flower hairpieces, but I have serious dress envy for the one Amy, our heroine is reading on the cover. As I read through the book, I realised that I wanted to be good friends with not only Amy, but Ben, the hero. I didn’t want to stop reading their story – it’s funny, sweet and the characters are perfectly constructed.

The story features characters that will be familiar to those who have read Fly In, Fly Out (such as Jo, Stephen and Scott) but the book works perfectly well as a standalone. Amy is Jo’s sister and they are as different as chalk and cheese. While Jo is tomboyish with a penchant for swearing, Amy never swears and wears her 1950s inspired outfits as armour, day in, day out. What both sisters have in common is their horrible upbringing which has left them very close. Amy is grateful to Jo for pretty much raising her and she wants Jo to know that she’s doing fine. Except that she’s not. Amy’s business (barbershop and hair salon) are doing well, but some of her staff have attitudes better left at the door and Amy’s love life has never worked out. Worse, one of her exes insists on making her life a misery every time he’s off swing back in Perth. So when Amy completely fails to recognise a famous opera singer and his famous comedian mate in a bar, she feels pretty useless. She has to apologise – and that’s how Ben Martindale comes into her life.

Ben is funny and lives behind a veneer of utter bastardry – he’s that guy you love to hate but secretly kind of like. He’s rich, says what he thinks and is hiding out in Australia to write and stay out of the British tabloids. Amy isn’t his usual type, but she wins his heart with her dedication to whatever she does. He’s hiding a scarred childhood too, but you’d never know that. And he doesn’t want you to know, so describing Amy under a code name in his weekly columns in a sardonic tone equals affection in Ben’s head. But will Amy agree?

The novel is absolutely gorgeous – it is truly funny and incredibly sweet at times. My only qualm would be the damage caused to an Aston Martin DB9, but at least it’s a fictional one! I truly felt the characters became friends (they were that well fleshed out and lifelike) and I’m trying to fight the urge to go to Fremantle to look for Amy’s salon. (She gives her customers homemade cake and cookies, how sweet is that)? I even found Amy as a fashion inspiration a few days over the last week for dresses and heels! While Amy is an easy person to like, it says a lot that Georgina Penney made Ben, who by his own admission is a bastard, a character to like. Seeing him alone, vulnerable and at a loss helped me as the reader to see there was more to him than just clever words and a flash car. Amy also helps him to see that he doesn’t need to hide as he helps her to see that it’s okay to vulnerable. They are quite similar in some ways.

My time with The Barbershop Girl just flew by. I’m really, really looking forward to hopefully reading Scott’s story one day. He’s a mysterious photographer who jets around the world, surely he has some secrets to reveal?

Mailbox Monday and What I’m Reading 5/12/16

Hi December. You certainly came in with a busy rush! It looks like parties, lunches and dinners are only going to increase in frequency for the next few weeks…hence not a lot of time today to tell you the books I received. Let’s just stick with the books I actually got through the post!

City of Friends by Joanna Trollope (February 2017) came from Pan Macmillan. Stacey has lost her job, and with it the only life she knows. At least she has her three best friends, ‘The Girls’. But they all have problems too and Stacey’s change in situation forces a betrayal to be revealed. Can they still be friends? I’m really looking forward to this!

Another book I was really happy to open was Georgina Penney’s The Barbershop Girl (January 2017). This is Amy from Fly In, Fly Out‘s story through the eyes of British celebrity Ben, exiled after yet another scandal. Ben uses Amy and her family to write about in a London newspaper – but she’s not going to be too happy when she finds out… Thanks Penguin Random House for the book, I’ll take your advice and sit down with a (large) cup of tea for this one!

If you want to check other bookshelves, do drop by the Mailbox Monday blog for links to everyone’s mailbox goodies. Overseen by Vicki (I’d Rather Be at the Beach), Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit), I’m sure you’ll find many books for the wish list!

It’s Monday! What are you reading? hosted by Book Date and formerly by Book Journey and J Kaye. Click on the pictures to read more about the books.

What I Read Last Week:

What I’m Reading at the Moment:

Up Next:

Absolutely no idea – maybe a library book.

Summer Harvest by Georgina Penney

In brief: Beth has been through some hard times, so when her grandmother surprises her with a trip to Australia, it’s hard to say no. Amid the beauty of Western Australia’s south, she finds how to be herself again – and perhaps how to love if Clayton has any say in it!

The good: I do love a West Aussie setting and the great descriptions made me long for a holiday!

The not-so-good: We didn’t see too much of Jo (heroine of Fly In Fly Out).

Why I chose it: Really enjoyed Fly In Fly Out – thanks to Penguin Australia for the eARC.

Year: 2016

Pages: 320 (eARC)

Publisher: Michael Joseph (Penguin)

Setting: England and south west Western Australia

My rating: 8.5 out of 10

Summer Harvest is a perfect read for…well, summer. It has that filled-with-light, lazy holiday feel to it, yet it covers some darker subject matter with skill and tenderness. A word of warning though, the story will make you crave a getaway to Western Australia’s Margaret River region (home of wine, cheese, chocolate, fudge and surf)! It’s one of those books that show off my home state to the world and make me proud to be a West Aussie.

The story opens in grey, drizzly England where Beth is living a mundane, day to day existence. Since her double mastectomy for breast cancer (which coincided with her husband leaving her – nice guy), she’s been living with her grandparents. Her only spot of joy is her work as a dog trainer. (It was at this point that I wondered how big a role Beth’s job was going to play in the story because I’m not a dog person – but it’s not much). She’s surprised when her gem of a grandmother gives her a ticket to Australia, the home of Violet’s favourite soap. The only thing is that Louis, her grandfather, got the wrong side of the country and Beth is off to Western Australia. (The better side, really). On arrival, Beth takes off for the south west to have a really relaxing break away from cities and people and…everything. She didn’t expect that a chance meeting with a handsome stranger would end up changing the tone of her holiday… Beth quickly falls into a friendship with Laura and Clayton, but Clayton could mean something much more. But Beth feels she’s damaged a Clayton has a demon or two to deal with (not to mention his father and grandmother being at loggerheads). Can they get it together?

I’m sure you know the answer to that last question, but it’s a really fun trip getting there. Beth seemed to me a bit insipid initially, but I think that’s because she’s so shy and damaged from her experiences that she’s reluctant to reveal herself to even the reader. As we got to know her, she came across as much stronger and meeting Clayton helped with that strength coming to the fore. The jokey way Clayton and his friend Jeff competed for Beth’s affections was a great demonstration of Aussie mateship. Clayton was a great hero, he appeared to tick all the boxes initially, but I liked seeing his more vulnerable, softer and questioning side. Laura (Jeff’s sister and the owner of the cottage where Beth stayed) was a character I’d like to know more about – she’s a bit quirky and full of sensible advice. Perhaps she will get her own book in the future? Penney also writes fantastic older characters, from the fiery Angie (Clayton’s grandmother) to the frank Violet, who was born to gossip. There’s also some romance around the more mature folk, which is handled sensitively but with several fireworks.

Summer Harvest also explores life post-cancer, which is a topic that gaining more interest, both in the lay press and oncology circles. Given that survival rates for several cancers are now better than they’ve ever been, people can expect to live for decades after, if not their full life span. For Beth, who had a double mastectomy and lost her sister to the same disease, it’s not an easy process. Her scars and mastectomy bra revolt her to the point where she doesn’t want anyone (even Clayton) to see them. Changes in body image and sexuality are common post breast cancer (feeling of loss as a woman) but aren’t something that’s talked about that often. I’m pleased that Summer Harvest covers this in detail.

But the story is not all doom and gloom. There’s some hot sex scenes and plenty of good wine, balanced with some very funny moments (think a sheep in a tractor for example). I can’t wait to see what Georgina Penney comes up with next.

Guest Post: Georgina Penney, author of Summer Harvest

0Good morning! Today I have the lovely Georgina Penney dropping by Sam Still Reading. Georgina writes wonderful fiction that combines romance and laugh out loud moments in one of my favourite settings, Western Australia. Her characters are always interesting with a touch of the quirky. Tomorrow morning I’ll share my review of Georgina’s latest novel, Summer Harvest but today I’m talking to Georgina about what she misses about Australia. She’s currently living in Scotland and when deep fried cauliflower cheese came up in my inbox, I was intrigued! Welcome Georgina!

Food in Scotland: Deep fried cauliflower cheese

How it really is kind of true. The Scots will deep fry anything!

The fish and chip shop that invented the deep fried Mars Bar is in Stonehaven, only six miles away from where I live. I’ve got to admit I was a little sceptical when first confronted with one (‘rampant snob’ would be a better description) and then I tried it. I think ‘lady moment’ would be the appropriate term. Yum! Since then, I’ve kept an eye out for deep-fried delicacies whenever I’m out and about in the Scottish wilds. It’s almost like being a train spotter. I’m a batter spotter! So far I’ve spotted (and maybe tried, although I’m not admitting anything unless bribed with the aforementioned Mars Bar) deep fried macaroni cheese, cauliflower cheese, haggis, sausage… and almost every vegetable you can imagine. Not to mention the deep fried Cadbury’s Cream Eggs and Snickers Bars. I’ve heard a rumour there is a fish and ship place that does deep fried mussels up the coast. I’m not saying I’d make a dedicated mission but if I was in the area…

What you miss about Australia

The smell! It’s all eucalyptus and dry heat. There’s nothing else like it. The minute I land in Australia I take a deep breath and yep, I’m home.

I also miss the food (are you spotting a trend here?). After scooting around the planet a couple of times now, I can honestly say that Australia has the best food in the world. The variety is amazing, the quality perfect. The ingredients are fresh. From restaurants to home cooking, we Aussies have nailed it. Needless to say I always fill my cheek pouches when I’m back home!

Thank you Georgina! Now I’ve got my eye on deep fried Cadbury Cream Eggs…or maybe some Margaret River fudge or chocolate!

Summer Harvest is now available, so please do go and check it out!

eBook: Amazon AU | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Kobo

Paper book: Booktopia | Readings | A & R Bookworld | Dymocks | Book Depository

Fly In Fly Out by Georgina Penney

In brief: Jo’s life is not ideal – she works long shifts on an oil rig and she’s got a family secret – but when she arrives home to find a naked man in her bed, things are going to change. Drastically. (Read more here).

The good: It’s a fun read that packs a punch – perfect for summer.

The not-so-good: Now I need to read Jo’s sister Amy’s story (Irrepressible You), which means for more late nights up reading!

Why I chose it: The title caught my eye (living in the home of FIFO, you can’t help but be interested). Thanks to Penguin Books for the eARC.

Year: 2015 (Originally published in 2014 under the title Unforgettable You)

Pages: 336 (eARC)

Publisher: Penguin Australia (Michael Joseph)

Setting: Western Australia and the ocean off Mauritania

My rating: 8.5 out of 10

Living in Western Australia, you can’t help but be absorbed in the FIFO (fly in, fly out) lifestyle whether you work in the industry or not. You get used to the sight of hi-vis shirts everywhere, the Qantas Club continuously expanding to meet demand for flights to mine sites and sadly, a cup of coffee being a minimum of $4 (expect to pay around $5 for the good stuff). The mining boom has sent Perth into overdrive and it’s impossible not to reap the benefits (hello Topshop) but it’s only recently that there has been coverage of the negative side of FIFO-ing on relationships, mental health and stress levels.

Jo Blaine is an engineer with a longer commute than most. She’s an engineer on an oil rig off Mauritania and it’s not an easy swing (that’s how long your time lasts at work – Jo is on for so long, that it’s counted in weeks, not days). It’s a number of flights and a helicopter ride to get there from Perth, her assistant is incompetent and she gets the blame, there’s one phone and internet is patchy at best. Plus she shares a room with a snoring guy. It’s not fun. That’s why Jo looks forward to her off swing (time off) – chilling at her beautiful Fremantle apartment accompanied by her cat Boomba (best cat name ever). The last thing she expected after arriving home dirty and tired is a naked man in her bed…especially the brother of her house sitter, Stephen Hardy.

Stephen and Jo go way back. In fact, Stephen is dead set certain that he’s the reason why Jo and her sister Amy had to leave their small town. Even though that was years ago, he still feels terrible about it and aims to make it up to Jo. It takes a couple of swings, but Stephen and Jo get a thing going. But Jo and Amy are hiding a dark family secret that will put all of them in danger – will Jo open up to Stephen? Will she feel that she’s worthy of a relationship (as she’s formerly known as Rabies Blaine)?

I really enjoyed this story – I was expecting something quite light, but Jo and Amy’s secret is dark and the suspenseful elements had me racing through the pages. I wanted to see if and when Jo would confide in Stephen and what the fall out would be. Jo is a very strong character despite her belief that she’s unlovable and far too tough for romance. I like the switching of traditional gender roles and Stephen is much softer. He’s almost continually worried about offending Jo and making up for his slight years ago. Occasionally, I found him to be too eager and too considerate, but he did play hardball when circumstances called for it so he’s redeemed in my eyes.

I loved reading about sites familiar to me – Fremantle, Kings Park and Western Australia’s South West. They were all described lovingly and as a West Aussie, I’m proud that my city and state are portrayed so beautifully in a book. (Though I shan’t be looking at theatre in Kings Park in quite the same way again after a steamy Jo/Stephen session!) Fly In Fly Out is also incredibly funny on numerous occasions – Jo’s nickname of Krakatoa is well deserved with some of the strings of insults/profanities she comes out with!

I look forward to reading the story of Amy, Jo’s sister in Unforgettable You. Amy’s the complete opposite to Jo – keen on 1950s fashion and always beautifully presented. I’m also hoping to read more about photographer Scott, a good friend to both women, whom I’m sure has some good tales to tell.