Book Review: The Best Man

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Author: Dianne Blacklock
ISBN: 978-1-74261-194-5
RRP: $29.99

Dianne Blacklock is an Australian author living in Sydney and The Best Man is her ninth book. It is only the 2nd I have read but I do have her earlier novels on my one day wishlist.

The Best Man focuses mainly on successful publicist Madeleine Pepper in the lead up to her wedding. She is all set to marry children’s author Henry Darrow, an American she met during a writers festival where he was the only author she was looking after. She and Henry are polar opposites, he is borderline reclusive and comes along at the perfect time to help calm Madeleine’s lifestyle and get her life back on track.

After a long distance courtship Henry relocates to Sydney to be with Madeleine and the two start planning their happily ever after. They are undeniably in love but the differences between them are very pronounced and they don’t seem to communicate very well, or very thoroughly. It is easy to sit back and think that you know the person you are marrying extremely well and if there was anything really big in the past then it would have come up.

Henry is very contained, beautifully mannered, shy, focused on his work and does not approve of public displays of affection. He has not spoken to Madeleine much about his past, bare bones information only and she assumes that’s because there’s nothing really to tell. He likes peace and solitude while he works and is trying hard to make a deadline before the wedding. It sees him close off even further in the last few weeks before the big day.

Madeleine loves Henry, knows that he saved her and helped her come back from the brink when she got a little too caught up in the lifestyle. Since he moved to Australia she has made many sacrifices and compromises for his happiness, believing she owed it to him because he gave up so much to be with her.

Everything is cruising along quite smoothly, both are relatively happy with where they are at and they never argue. It may seem like a wonderful thing for a couple never to argue but it really isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you don’t have an occasional argument then things tend to fester. Differences of opinion don’t get sorted out because they are left to avoid an argument and rather than be solved they tend to grow out of proportion.

Work is pretty crazy for Madeleine, which almost goes without saying in the lead-up to a wedding because you are already dealing with so much. It is to be expected though because Madeleine works as a publicist and the inevitable petering off of erotica begins, which means a rapid shift in the publicity department. There are titles already in the works that will need the focus of their publicity changed, press releases need to be rewritten  and there are authors to deal with.

I have come in contact with many publicists through my work with Beauty and Lace so it was very interesting for me to read about the life of publicists – even knowing that this was a fictitious account. It’s still nice to see that it’s not all brand new books and jet setting to events, wining and dining authors though who wouldn’t love a job where you got paid to do all that. It also showed us the long hours, hard slog and necessity to find the right angle when dealing with any publicity.

the best man

Things get interesting when Henry’s best man arrives from America, the oldest friend Henry has and the first person from his past that Madeleine is to meet. He too is the complete opposite to Henry, extroverted and easygoing and the life of the party. He is completely hot, suave, charming and seems too good to be true. He has every woman he meets eating out of his hand from the minute he lays eyes on them, and Madeleine isn’t totally immune. Aiden brings out a different side of Henry, he seems more casual and more playful when Aiden is around and I think in the beginning Madeleine sees in him a means to greater insight into her fiance.

Being the opposite of Henry makes him quite similar to Madeleine and he brings out the less restrained side of her, which isn’t always a good thing. He encourages her to let loose a little, allowing her demons to gain strength.

Alongside Madeleine and Henry’s storyline we learn a lot about Liv, Madeleine’s best friend and boss. Liv is head of publicity and single mother to twin 14-year old boys. Now that the boys are getting older and more independent Liv is able to get back on tour with authors more often. Her ex is still around though he has never been completely reliable. He has been through a string of partners since the relationship with Liv disintegrated and now he’s beginning to hang around a little more again – Liv has seen the signs enough times to know what that could mean but even she is surprised this time round.

Liv has been single the entire time she has been apart from Rick and she is happy that way. In the beginning a lot of it was because of the boys, raising twins largely on her own was exhausting. Now she is happy and content with her life exactly as it is so why complicate it by bringing a new partner into the mix. A plane trip home from an author tour sees her seated next to a man that strikes up a conversation and is very easy to talk to. He is quite intriguing but it doesn’t matter because Liv is determined not to upset the balance of her life, even after he gives her his number.

These two women go through some quite amazing changes through the course of the novel and it seems sometimes the catalyst comes from the unlikeliest directions. One of the big questions this left me with is how much heartache is worth it if it gets the air cleared and all the issues sorted in the end?

Blacklock’s characters were realistic and likeable. Her women are strong and independent but they are also feminine and flawed. We got to look inside their thoughts and see what made them who they are. Even though Madeleine made some horrendous decisions I couldn’t help but feel for her, in some ways she was so naive to what was going on around her as well as in her head that when the wake up came it came crashing and it saw her open her eyes completely, recognise the issues and vow to do something about them.

A beautifully woven narrative of women navigating an industry that is fascinating to me while juggling their families and personal lives. Another engrossing and emotional read from Dianne Blacklock that covers family, friendship and relationships.

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