IF YOU HAVE NOT READ BILLY AND ME DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW. THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.
‘Love makes the world a better place’.
But that does not mean it is always easy.
Always with Love is Giovanna Fletcher’s fourth novel and is the sequel to her debut novel Billy and Me. Giovanna is busy just like the rest of us: she is a wife, a mother of two and has endless jobs and engagements. Yet she always makes time for writing, and despite being in the limelight, Giovanna also remains down-to-earth. She dedicates this novel, ‘For you, the reader’, and that is one of the reasons I really like her. She appreciates that it is her readers who continually allow her to write books and to do what she loves. As I mentioned in my previous review of Giovanna’s Dream a little dream, what I admire about her novels is that she takes the basic idea of a romance novel and adds a little twist. With Sophie and Billy, the twist is that Billy is a famous actor with a Hollywood lifestyle who could be required to work anywhere in the world, whilst Sophie is perfectly content to live in a small English village working in a tea shop.
When I heard there was to be a sequel to Billy and Me I was very excited. Partly because I would be excited about any book by Giovanna, but also because I grew to love and care for Sophie and Billy and wanted to continue to follow their journey and see what happened after Billy and Me ended. The cover of the novel follows the same style as all of Giovanna’s novels. There is a blue ombré effect as a background, which is pleasing to look at, and in one corner sits a silhouette of Sophie, with a silhouette of Billy sat in the other. Billy is sat writing a letter whilst Sophie is reading one, and envelopes attached to heart shaped balloons float up into the air. A large moon fills the centre of the cover, alluding to the idea that wherever you are in the world, you always see the same moon. On the whole, with the moon and the letters, the idea of the two characters being apart from each other is created. A small tagline confirms this. ‘Los Angeles to Rosefont Hill: 5,241 miles. Can their love last the distance?’ The couple are clearly going to be separated in this novel, probably by Billy’s career, and their trial will be to manage a long-distance relationship.
Initially, I felt apprehensive about reading this novel, purely because when I read Billy and Me I was filled with such strong emotions over what happened, and Billy and Sophie’s relationship was not a smooth ride at all. Thankfully, problems in the relationship were not on the same level in this novel. I think that as their relationship has matured, the kind of problems they faced and their attitude towards them were entirely different. This is something else I like about Giovanna’s novels: the characters always go on a journey and grow within themselves. The whole thing feels more real and I am able to connect to the characters and feel stronger emotions about what they go through, as if I know them.
The novel begins with the couple flying to LA to visit Billy’s family who moved there when he became a Hollywood star. The plot takes place in LA in both parts 1 and 2 of the novel, with some of part 2 and the entirety of 3 and 4 taking place in Sophie’s village, Rosefont. As shown by the cover, the pair become separated by the distance and live very different lives in each location. Billy’s Hollywood lifestyle was a struggle for Sophie in the first instalment and the struggle continues as she sees just how different life in LA is to life in her quiet village. As if the thousands of miles between them were not enough to deal with, Billy and Sophie must overcome other issues: the paparazzi, opinions of friends, busy work schedules and their families views on their relationship and career. Additionally, both the characters must learn that relationships require compromise and that sometimes you have to realise what is most important to you. Overall, Giovanna creates a plot that feels like the real life of two people. They have ups and downs, and positive and negative thoughts about their situation, and ultimately grow as people as they learn from their experiences. The fact that their growth is so clear makes me love the novel because I feel a connection to the characters and really care about how their lives work out at the end. Of course, mistakes are made, the novel would not be so interesting if everything was plain sailing, but that just adds to the fact that Giovanna creates characters who could so easily be real.
Giovanna chooses for Sophie to narrate the novel, just as she did in Billy and Me. I think that this was the right choice because in the first novel it is Sophie that the reader really connects with through her narration, and I felt it was great to be able to reconnect with the same character and continue her journey by hearing her thoughts. Having the story from Sophie’s point of view, coupled with knowing her personal thoughts, creates a deep connection with the character and enables the reader to almost learn and grow alongside her.
Despite the fact that the connection with Billy is not as strong as it is with Sophie, due to not having his point of view as clearly, I still felt a link to the character. Through Sophie we are able to know the more personal details that Billy has told her, and Giovanna can allow the reader to be included in intimate moments when perhaps Billy portrays his true feelings. However, I personally struggled a little more with Billy, and that happened for me in the first novel too. I think that this is because he has a very different lifestyle, and therefore maybe ideals, whilst I am more like Sophie.
When it comes to my favourite part of the novel, I would have to say the ending was right up there. However, for obvious reasons I cannot talk about why or what happens. So, I would say that three other parts stood out to me. The first was when Sophie, her mum and Charlotte (the daughter of Sophie’s mum’s fiancé) went wedding dress shopping. Honestly, I am classically girly and I love wedding dresses so this scene appealed to me. Yet it was something that Charlotte says that made this episode one of my favourites.
‘I think we’re all lucky…I bet Mum and Dean [her mum and Sophie’s dad] are so happy right now. I know they brought us together from their cloud in the sky.’
Another part I enjoyed was Sophie and her mum’s last night in their home. I do not want to say too much about this part as it comes later in the novel, but it is such an intimate moment to be included in. The two are sharing their memories of the home Sophie has always lived in and some of their words are beautiful. Lastly, I enjoyed the wedding scene. Again, I do not want to say too much, but some of the words spoken by the characters are simply lovely and it is one of those moments where the characters are so happy and everything seems right, which makes it a joy to read.
What has always stood out about Giovanna to me, is that her personality goes into her books, and I particularly noticed it with this one. There is a moment where Sophie shares her thoughts on the paparazzi and I felt these may be feelings Giovanna shares, and fairly so in my opinion.
‘…nothing but intrusive and invasive. It’s horrible thinking you could be being watched and documented like this at any time without having the foggiest idea. It shouldn’t be allowed.’
Yet opposing these feelings, Giovanna also gives some very heartfelt romance advice. These appear in moments of need for the two characters, but also in moments that are just beautiful and filled with love.
‘I don’t think any relationship worth having is ever easy.’
‘Nothing is good all the time and absolutely nothing is perfect.’
‘We all come with our quirks and idiosyncrasies – it’s inevitable. But the key to having anything long lasting is finding someone who doesn’t mind the twisted traits you possess. Or who sees them but loves you anyway…’
I spent a long time worrying about what might happen at the end of this novel. I was truly worried despite it being a romance novel (we all know they usually end okay). I think those feelings showed how much I cared about what happened and was totally hooked by the story. Without giving too much away, I will say that I was pleased with the ending and was satisfied that the right thing had happened.
I would definitely recommend this book, mainly to those who are fans of Giovanna Fletcher, and of course, it is important to read Billy and Me first. This is a relaxing read, and I know I certainly like a good romance. What is great is that the story of Sophie and Billy is not predictable like some other romances. It feels as if you honestly cannot say that it will work out by the end of the book, but that keeps you reading. Giovanna creates characters so real that the reader is taken on their journey with them and cannot help but be drawn in to their world.
Always with Love – Giovanna Fletcher, published by Penguin, first published in 2016, 002, RRP £7.99, ISBN 978-1-405-91918-0