I absolutely loved this book!
To say it was “magical would be an understatement”. To those of us who think our time may be past or running out for our own “happy ending” this gives hope. A totally feel good read with so much inspiration and insight.
The Happy Endings Book Club is the second novel that I’ve read from Jane Tara. This book is completely different from Tara’s novel Trouble Brewing– from writing style to character development. Though I enjoyed both novels, I must say that The Happy Endings Book Club is my favorite. The style of this book suits the author so well.
Happy Endings Book Club follows different members of a book club. Each of them are so different but they relate to each other so well. I found this reading easy to read and follow. Perfect for the Christmas Holidays!
Andrea from Love is said this about my novel, The Happy Endings Book Club:
*ARC courtesy of Momentum Books on Netgalley.*
I LOVED this book! Jane Tara pulled me in right away, with her amazingly different characters. I read it in less then a day, because I couldn’t put it down! I felt like you got to know some better then others, but I still felt connected to them all. Your still pulling for them all to get their happy ending. This book made me laugh out loud, (a few times) & really made me think. Which is something I don’t think you find in many books. I truly enjoyed it & will differently be reading more Jane Tara books in the future!
I’m not sure when I started disappearing. One minute I was clearly visible, with the confidence of a woman who knows that. The next… something had shifted. I felt invisible. More than that… I quickly expected that others wouldn’t see me either. They didn’t. Heads failed to turn. I was often overlooked in a queue. But it was more than that. Suddenly my quirky collection of vintage clothing seemed ridiculous. I would enter certain restaurants or bars and feel like a dinosaur. Women around me were getting work on their face. For some it is subtle, but others look ridiculous. Surely that isn’t the alternative to my wrinkles? It was an internal shift as well, not just physical. At a point in my life when I really knew myself, I wasn’t sure what to do with that hard earned wisdom. It wasn’t valued. Youth is celebrated, embraced, feted. Women my age often feel… invisible. Welcome to womanhood in the forties. Not everyone feels invisible, but many do. I know. I’ve discussed this with countless women: friends, acquaintances, and strangers at parties. It’s something I experienced myself, with mounting dismay, until earlier this year I was handed a gift:
What happens when the romance novel hero is legless or blind? Amy Andrews and Jane Tara both think that’s just fine… in fact, their latest heroes are more than “fine”… They are hawt and handsome and everything else a hero should be.
I’ve always wanted to write a bodyguard book. I love that delicious tension where he wants her bad but can’t do anything about it because he’s supposed to be protecting her. Honestly, I freaking love that hands off shit! It just calls to my ever-lovin’ romance soul.
So imagine my delight when my muse threw me one, finally! She’s really been very recalcitrant in that quarter. But, of course, she never just gives generously – she makes me work for it. She’s kinda bitchy like that because suddenly my “bodyguard” was an above knee amputee.
I can’t have a hero who has to protect my super-model heroine from the bad guy be hampered by a prosthetic leg. I mean who ever heard of a one-legged bodyguard? I could, of course, have made him an ex kick-arse para-Olympic running champion but Oscar kinda put the kybosh on that!
So there I was, with my muse insisting and me wondering how the hell I was going to pull it off. But then things started to take shape in my head and before long I knew Blake was ex-military, I knew he’d had his leg blown off in Iraq and I knew after a harrowing couple of years he was in a reasonably good place.
And I think that was the most important thing to me. I didn’t want the book to be about an amputee hero. The book is about an average Joe who falls for a woman waaaay out of his league. It’s a romance through and through. He just happens to have one leg.
It was also important that I made him physically strong and able. He may have a slight limp, he may not be able to run like the wind but he’s fit and work-honed. He crafts wood and his pride and joy is the canal boat he spent a year of his life stripping down to the hull and renovating. Nothing like noisy power tools to help get your head back on straight.
And of course, all this is just code for good with his hands. Because Blake may only have one leg but he is very, very good with his hands!
To date she’s sold over a million books and been translated into thirteen different languages including manga.
She loves her kids, her husband, her dogs, cowboys, men in tool belts, cowboys in tool belts and happily ever afters. Please, DO NOT mess with the HEA! Also good books, fab food, great wine and frequent travel – preferably all four together.
She lives on acreage on the outskirts of Brisbane with a gorgeous mountain view but secretly wishes it was the hillsides of Tuscany.
Jane Tara’s blind hero
When starting a new novel I usually have a clear idea of what I’m going to write. I’m not one of those let’s just wing it and see where we end up type authors. My characters are too pushy. If I let them have their own way one of them could go off the rails, party too hard and wake up married in a Vegas jail. My characters are like teenagers… Yes, they have certain freedoms, but they also need a lot of structure…
But the occasional character will stroll in, pretend to be all nice and easy-going… but then actually take the book in a direction that even I didn’t anticipate. I don’t get much of a say.
My latest book, The Happy Ending Book Club, contains one such character. The book has seven intertwined stories. In one of them (my favourite… there I’ve said it!) we meet Patrick. He’s tall, sexy… He’s a musician, he’s funny and smart… he has muscles… Sigh. Oh, and he’s blind.
No, not blind as in Friday nights at the pub blind… he’s really blind. Visually impaired.
He has a disability.
Romance heroes are notoriously “perfect.” Oh yes, they can have emotional wounds, but being anything less than physically flawless is unusual. I spent a lot of time trying to rewrite Patrick… but he was immovable… He made it clear: “Like it or not, this is who I am. I’m blind. Now do your job and write me!”
And so I did. More than that, I developed a massive crush on him. I saw him more clearly than any of my other leading men. His blindness didn’t make him less attractive. It didn’t make him needy. It also didn’t make him “extra special.” His blindness didn’t define him at all. Tilda the heroine recognised that being with him would present certain challenges, but her own issues far outweighed his.
In my mind, Patrick is everything a romance hero should be. For those of you who read my book, let me know how you see him.
Jane Tara has SchizoPENia. She finds it impossible to stick to one genre when writing. While most writers have a ‘voice’ … she has a few … her pen name should be Sybil.
This is a delight of a book consisting of a number of loosely linked stories about important moments in the lives of several women who have an issue to resolve – as you can guess from the title, all the stories have happy endings although they are not all what you might imagine.
Despite the title, books and a book club play no part in the stories – it is merely an artificial device to join the stories. The only time that the book club meets is right at the end, in a rather cheesy couple of paragraphs designed to tie up all the loose ends.
All the stories are individually told but some are told in installments, interspersed with other, shorter, episodes. The author’s premise is that these women all need to change something in their lives, often their perception of things, and that a small change will make a huge difference. Each story is touching and often amusing. Most of them are about very small things in people’s lives but they touch on big issues such as aging, bereavement, forgiveness, abandonment and abuse. Some of them have a mystical, whimsical tone (there are fairies here) but it is very well done and creates a fairy tale air about the book. In at least one of the stories there is some detailed description of sex so this is not just about romance in the abstract – I thought that it didn’t go too far.
I was hooked on these stories and wanted to see these ordinary women experience something new in their lives. I identified with them and rejoiced when they got that happy ending. This is feel-good writing at its best. I received a free copy of this book via NetGalley but I shall seek out future writing by this author. I also (ironically considering the title) highly recommend this book for a book club choice as it is light reading but there would be lots to discuss about each story and what makes the happy ending.
I’m very excited about the release of my new novel, The Happy Endings Book Club. I have a long list of ideas waiting to be turned into books. Some have been waiting for years. This wasn’t one of them. The Happy Endings Book Club sprang from events that happened earlier this year. It was a cathartic reaction to a challenging few months. In many ways, it has been my own happy ending.
In March this year I went to Specsavers to have my eyes tested and to get some new glasses. I normally go to an optometrist in the town where my mother lives. He uses experience over schmancy machines to test my eyes. But Specsavers had a two for one deal and my glasses were on their last legs, so off I went.
The optometrist hooked me up to one of the state of the art machines, and took photos of my retina. She asked a bunch of questions.
“Do you have problems seeing at night?”
“Yes… my night blindness is a running joke with my close friends.”
“How about glare?”
“I can’t leave the house without sunglasses.”
More questions followed, and then she took more photos. She took me to a small room where I had more tests. Finally she left me alone for a while. A long while. When she returned it was with that look on her face. You know that look. If you are lucky enough to have never seen it in real life then you’ve certainly seen it on Grey’s Anatomy.
It’s the “I have bad news” look.
“You have Retinitis Pigmentosa,” she said.
“You’re going blind.”
I laughed. Seriously. Stop joking around.
“The Royal Society for the Blind is wonderful. They can come over to your house and help with things.”
“What like? The cooking and cleaning?” I’d like that.
“They can teach you to move around your home. They can put in hand rails.”
She showed me the scans of my eyes and the pigmentation patterns I have right through my retina.
“You need to have more tests at the Centre for Eye Health. The guide dog association funds it. They’ll be able to tell you how far the condition has progressed.
The last thing I did before leaving was ask her to write the condition down so I could Google it.
The next week wasn’t pretty. It started with a lot of Googling. Then I returned to Specsavers and asked the optometrist for the scans. She took more (wider shots of the retina) and then put them all on a memory stick for me.
I made an appointment with the Centre for Eye Health, but was going to have to wait at least two months.
In the meantime, I did my own detective work. The pigmentation in my retina certainly looked like the ones with Retinitis Pigmentosa I saw online. But I didn’t want to be one of those people who self diagnosed via the Internet. The problem was… I couldn’t find any other reason for why my retina would have this pigmentation. It clearly indicated an eye disease. Also, there was no denying my aversion to glare and my night blindness, two main symptoms.
It didn’t look good. No treatment. No cure. But worst of all … and this was the terrifying bit, hereditary. Despite no history of it in my family, it can occur. And there would be a 50% chance of me passing it on to my sons.
And this is where I went from feeling like Nancy Drew solving a mystery, to absolute crap.
My body filled with fear that even now as I write this, there is a memory of it in my limbs. I was filled with ice. I sat naked in bed, drinking beer, crying and searching online for a way for my sons to dodge this bullet. And I knew I would do anything, anything, for them to be okay. I would go blind. Let me take the bullet. I was okay with that. But please not my babies.
At this point, let’s rewind nearly twenty years.
I was fifteen and having a medical examination for my scuba diving license. The doctor looked into my eyes with one of those old school thingamajigs.
“You have aboriginal blood?”
I have pale white skin and freckles. “Can’t you tell?” I laughed.
“Let me rephrase that so it’s not a question. You have aboriginal blood.” It was a statement now.
“There has always been a family rumour,” I admitted.
“It’s not a rumour. It’s a fact.” He got down an old book for a high shelf. He opened to a page that showed the patterns in the eye of different races and pointed to one. “That’s you.”
To be honest, I can’t remember the images he showed me, or even much of the conversation that followed. It happened so long ago. I do remember how excited he was. He even called in his secretary to show her. I didn’t take it in. I went home, called my grandmother to tell her, and that was that. It was something that, if true … I was pleased about. Aboriginal heritage.
But now, it was the thing that both my partner and best friend focussed on.
“You’re not going blind. You have Aboriginal eyes.” They both insisted.
So we all researched that. My partner Dominique is an academic. He trawled university sites for any papers on ethnicity and retina pigmentation. We found two small mentions in research papers and a few mentions of a similar thing in Native Americans but not much about Aboriginal Australians so nothing to really hang my hopes on. I had to wait and see.
Wait and see?
I realized how our language is full of sight analogies. I’ll see you later. Look here. Nice to see you. Focus on this. See what I mean?
I began to notice every single reference to sight in our language. And it got me thinking… what does it really mean to see?
If I was going to lose my sight … how would I see things?
How would I see myself?
How does one see, without sight?
For just over two months I obsessively researched sight. I read all about visual potential optometrists, natural eye care and the Bates method. The eye body connection and integrated healing via the Grunwald method. I read the works of about a dozen specialists who were taking ophthalmology into new realms including the amazing Jacob Liberman. Consciousness and vision. Our third eye. I read about blind people who had been taught to see through their chest. Was our vision simply a reflection of our reality? Can light heal the eye? How is the spirit connected? Where is the mind’s eye? Do we even see with our eyes?
I spent two months staring into the faces of my children. And my own face in the mirror. Would I not get to see myself age? Like many women in their forties, I’d been feeling invisible. But now I could see myself clearly. I loved every line, every wrinkle. I saw more clearly than I had in years. I stopped to view the world around me a lot more… to stare at the sun.
I reprioritized my life. If I was losing my sight, the last thing I wanted was for the Royal Society for the Blind to come around and teach me how to manage around the house. I wanted to pack a bag and take my kids travelling. Long term. James Holman, the blind traveller from the Victorian era became my inspiration. Coincidentally, years earlier we’d used a quote from his travel diaries for our children’s publishing company, Itchee Feet.
I see the world with my feet.
How did I see the world?
I took a long hard look at my life. Although I’d spent years studying various metaphysical and spiritual paths, I gained greater clarity in these two months than the previous two decades.
It became clear to me that seeing is subjective. And perhaps I’d been blind for years. One thing I knew, whether or not I lost my sight, this was an opportunity to gain greater insight.
I arrived at the Centre For Eye Health at the University of NSW, nervous but accepting. I was a little thrown by the guide dogs motifs on the window, but overall quite positive. What would be would be. I still had that dreadful icy fear in my limbs each time I thought of how this could impact my sons, but I accepted my own fate. I was still hopeful there had been a dreadful mistake, but if not … then I’d write a book about it. I’d write, right?
Dom came into the clinic for the tests with me. It was state of the art visual testing. I’d been wondering if there was any way I could cheat on the tests. I hadn’t even been able to study for them. How would I ever pass?
One specialist handed me over to another. The fancy machines gave way to a darkened room and a blindfold. I made a weak joke that it had been a while since I’d been blindfolded in a room with two men.
Then wearing night vision goggles, the technician placed gold electrodes into my eye and performed more tests I couldn’t cheat on.
I knew the results of these tests wouldn’t be shared with me for a week, and only once they’d been returned to the optometrist. So imagine my utter surprise when the specialist said:
“Your eyes are fine.”
“You don’t have retinitis pigmentosa.”
“Look, places like Specsavers have all the latest equipment and no idea how to use it. The pigmentation presents like Retinitis Pigmentosa in the images, but we knew from the moment we viewed it that it wasn’t that.”
“What is it then?”
“No idea. It’s an unusual pigment.”
Here’s where my partner interjected and told him about the doctor who’d informed me that I had aboriginal heritage. “Could it be that?” he asked.
“Yes. I’ve seen a similar thing in islander boys. And those old-school doctors usually know a thing or two.”
I needed to make sure. “What about the other symptoms. I can’t stand glare.”
“You’re very fair.”
“And I’m night blind.”
“Can you see this?” He waved to me across the still darkened room.
“You’re not night blind. Your tests are fine. I think what you experience as night blindness is simply that your pupil takes longer to adjust to the dark.”
“I’m not going blind?”
“No, you’re not.”
I made it to the car park before I started howling.
The next few days passed in a haze of relief and joy. I realised just how stressful the past few months had been. The possibility of going blind had coloured every waking moment. It took weeks for the fear in my limbs to subside, although the memory of it returns when I talk about that time. It took months to wake and start the day with thoughts other than that.
I turned my Nancy Drew skills to my family tree and uncovered some very interesting things (but that’s another story). I waited for the Specsavers’ optometrist to call with the official results, but she didn’t. I finally called her and she apologized: yes indeed, the results had been back for over a week, but she’d been busy. She had no idea that the specialist at the Centre for Eye Health had already given me the all clear. She just didn’t think that letting me know she’d misdiagnosed me was important.
(Specsavers, if you’d like to contact me about this matter, go ahead. An apology would be appreciated. I seriously considered taking this matter further, but ultimately I can’t stand drama and I’d had more than my fair share for months, thanks to the incompetency of your staff.)
I was pleased the whole episode was over. Focussing on the positive, I would write a book.
And from that, sprang The Happy Endings Book Club.
It’s not the book I thought I’d write. Or expected to write. But I needed to write it. Through the female characters I explored the idea of sight, and what it means to really see.
Each character has lost sight of something important. Paige misses glimpsing the magic in the world. Sadie doesn’t see the beauty inside people. Amanda wonders what she ever saw in her ex husband. Tilda literally can’t see herself. Michi can’t bear looking at her family, while Clementine is blind to what’s right in front of her. And Eva looks for romance in all the wrong places.
Through each of these very different characters I had the opportunity to explore some of the questions I’d been asking for months.
See why this book is important to me?
Like all happy endings, it’s never really an ending. It’s usually a beginning, and this is mine, as I gain deeper insight into the art of seeing.
I hope my new novel The Happy Endings Book Club entertains you. But more than that … I hope you come away from it asking yourself, how do I see myself? How do I see the world? How do I see? This Christmas, these questions are my gift to you.
“How do you see the world? Happy endings come not through events but through a shift in perception.”I absolutely loved this book. Jane Tara brings us seven wonderful women, sorting through endings in search of new beginnings – some directly, some indirectly. A few of the characters are finding new beginnings to end happily ever after. This is such a feel good story with a great message of perception. Humorous, touching, just a joy to read. The characters are endearing and each vignette warms your heart. I know there will be at least one character you will be able to relate to, for me each woman in the story I felt a connection with. This book just warmed my heart, I laughed out loud and teared up but one thing is certain I sure felt warm and fuzzy after reading this little gem.
I will be looking for more writings from Jane Tara, great story, very uplifting, happy reading indeed, downright magical. Loved, loved, loved The Happy Endings Book Club.
Momentum Books provided a copy in exchange for an honest review
This Christmas, the women of the Happy Endings Book Club are about to uncover a world of love and magic as they discover how to have their own happy ending … or beginning, as they’re often the same thing.
Once a month, seven very different women come together to discuss books. They all love a happy ending, but have lost sight of how to get their own. Paige misses glimpsing the magic in the world. Sadie doesn’t see the beauty inside people. Amanda wonders what she ever saw in her ex husband. Tilda literally can’t see herself. Michi can’t bear looking at her family, while Clementine is blind to what’s right in front of her. And Eva looks for romance in all the wrong places.
But things are about to change …
Meet the women of the Happy Endings Book Club as they celebrate Christmas, and themselves, in London, Paris, Vienna, New York, Sydney … and in love.
I love nothing more (apart from my kids, chocolate etc) than setting out on a journey. This time it was India… with a few days in Kuala Lumpur too. This was a work trip, for my children’s publishing company, Itchee Feet. But I travel with my business partner … who happens to be my life partner and my travel soulmate … so business is always pleasure, and travelling is always fun.
The problem with it being so much fun is I’m truly in the moment while I’m travelling. I find it difficult to stop and blog about what I’m seeing. I’d rather continue seeing it.
I did pause to do some writing in a lovely town in Rajasthan called Bundi. I came up with a whole new series of books there. I can’t wait to get started on them. But the rest of the time, I just experienced the place. I’m still processing Delhi. Not sure I liked it much, although I loved the small part of Rajasthan I saw.
I’ll share some of my experiences with you soon. In the meantime, I’m concentrating on the release of my next novel, The Happy Endings Book Club, out December 1st.
I’m in Kuala Lumpur at the moment, staying at this delightful boutique hotel called the Anggun. When I travel with my guy, I search for places with character. And this always makes him laugh… but places with a rooftop bar. I love nothing more than kicking back with my guy and a beer, looking over a new destination from some quirky rooftop bar or restaurant. It’s my idea of bliss.
The Anggun is a wonderful hotel. Spotlessly clean, gorgeous details, frriendly staaff, and in a great area. The room we’re in (below) is small but lovely and surprisingly quiet. Now that I’ve found it, I can’t imagine staying anywhere else in KL. Scored here.