The second full length novel by contemporary fiction author AH Bracken
Set in the fictional town of Somerzoy, ‘Love is the Best Revenge’ tells the (love – hate – and everything in between) story of best-selling romance novelist Lady Marianne Clemenceaux and journalist Tom Underwood. What’s the catch? Lady Marianne, daughter of an Earl, is loved and respected by the local community and a well-established name in publishing. Life’s good until Tom Underwood takes a job at the local gazette and writes an unforgiving article about her, questioning her authenticity and ability to create relatable stories – given her privilege, does she really know how ordinary people live? It’s not really that simple though, as Lady Marianne has a secret: what is she hiding behind her pink aura of perfection and literary glory? Tom Underwood has a secret too: he’s in Somerzoy to rebuild his career and reputation following a journalistic reporting flop in his previous job. Tom’s article bewilders Somerzoy citizens, and they join forces to help Lady Marianne. One of them in particular, Maria – the enigmatic raven-haired town mechanic – seems really keen to seek revenge on Lady Marianne’s behalf. Instantly fascinated by her, Tom Underwood falls in love with her, failing to see her hidden agenda. Unfortunately, revenge is hardly straightforward, and all plans will come crushing down, as Tom and Lady Marianne’s paths finally cross.
While as a reader I am not naturally drawn to contemporary romance novels, I am making it my mission today to explain the 5 reasons why ‘Love is the Best Revenge’ is THE quintessential romantic novel and one to read NOW.
1 | A sympathetic heroine. Maria is a complex character with lots of different nuances to her personality. She is a strong-willed young woman who’s also vulnerable (but not weak), extremely intelligent and capable. Maria’s humanity makes her very relatable, especially when it comes to her constant struggle with her wealthy parents, who refuse to understand why she wants to distance herself from her family heritage and privilege by challenging stereotypes through her tattoos, raven-black hair and by working as a mechanic.
2 | A strong, irresistible (anti) hero. Tom Underwood is perhaps the polar opposite of the irresistible, fascinating male main character you would expect in a romantic novel. However, Tom is also a well-rounded character with very interesting layers to his personality: career-focused and trying hard to restore his reputation as a journalist after believing the wrong person; confident enough to put himself out there and chase what seems to be an impossible romance but sensitive and brave enough to question his own decisions and challenge himself to be a better man. Thanks to these two very strong main characters, Bracken makes you buy into the story immediately.
3 | Emotional tension. At the heart of every romance, emotional conflict keeps the heroine and the hero from being together throughout the story even though they want to be. Again, Bracken did a great job here, creating a tension that’s complex, never dull, believable, and grows from the interaction between the two characters. I must confess that while reading I almost found myself shouting at them to finally stop resisting their feelings and recognise they are made for each other.
4 | A believable plot. The context in which the emotional journey of our characters develops is perfectly believable. In terms of the social aspect, Maria comes from a noble family so that’s probably hard to relate to as it’s further away from our daily lives, but her rebellious, freedom-seeking spirit is by all mean something we can all understand. Tom comes from a middle class, caring family and has therefore a very specific outlook on life, considering privilege by lineage old-fashioned and anachronistic; if you think about how different they are to begin with, what an amazing journey for Maria and Tom (credit to AH Bracken for her narrative skills)! The backdrop to their journey, the small town of Somerzoy, is no different from any small town anywhere in the country, where everybody knows each other and has its own allegiances and conflicts but a perfectly pleasant place to live. I loved all the secondary characters, especially Maria’s best friend Kitty, always ready to stand by her friend and Maria’s relationship with her sister Annabel, who is acutely aware of how much Maria is suffering because she is “so lost and unable to be the person she badly wanted to be”. While some elements of the plot may be a bit far-fetched, this story is aspirational, fundamentally optimistic and provides some much needed escapism.
5 | A happy-ever-after ending. Of course. Maria and Tom do commit to coming together as a couple in the end, as you would expect from this particular genre: happiness is part of the promise of a romance after all!
If to all of the above you add seamless writing, Bracken’s great ability to create an organic flow of actions, revelations and unexpected twists… you are in for a real treat.
About AH Bracken
Happily married and living in Buckinghamshire, UK, AH Bracken is an avid reader of contemporary and historical fiction. Her favourite authors include Marian Keyes, Trisha Ashley, Katie Fforde, Lindsey Kelk, CJ Sansom and Philipa Gregory.
The desire to write finally became a reality in early 2021 when she began work on her first novel, and this enthusiasm also led to the release of ‘In December and Always’, ‘Someone to Cherish You’, and a new novel, ‘Love is the Best Revenge’.
You can expect smart, strong female characters with a story to tell, narratives that highlight difference, adversity and survival; and charming, gentle love stories based on romance and connection (source: www.ahbracken.com).
All books by AH Bracken are available for purchase at: https://amzn.to/3GJVzoG