Two years ago Chloe Townsend was dumped at the altar and had to leave behind everything that mattered to her. Even now she’s finding it hard to move forward. That is until she lands an incredible job, running a brand new boutique hotel. Suddenly she’s starting to put her life back together, and, apart from the fact that her hard-to-please new boss is breathing down her neck, things are looking good. But what goes on in the Hope Street Hotel is a far cry from anything she’s ever dealt with before. This is a pioneering ‘divorce hotel’ designed to make every aspect of breaking up efficient and pain-free. In one single weekend, Chloe’s team promises to take care of everything – legal, technical, emotional – and guests check out carefree and single. No one is better qualified than Chloe to understand what couples need when their relationship is at breaking point, but she soon finds herself having to tackle the heartbreak she’s tried to bury. In particular three couples need her help – Jo and Dave, Lucy and Andrew, and Kirk and Dawn – and the opening weekend is full of revelation, trouble, memories happy and sad, facts that need facing, and some very big surprises.
I’ve been a fan of Claudia’s books for years, they are always warmhearted stories of love and friendship written with her signature Irish charm and wit.
The story is seen primarily from the perspective of the lead protagonist of the story Chloe Townsend, who fled Dublin for the bright lights of London after she was left embarrassed and jilted on her wedding day. Homesick, she returns home after an unique opportunity arises to become the general manager of Ireland’s first divorce hotel. A hotel that helps makes the stressful process of divorce a little bit easier. She is perfect for the role, organised and always in control, she is provides an essence of calm for the guests at the hotel and a shoulder to cry on when things get too much.
The story also concentrates on three couples on the lead up to their divorce and is written in a past and present scenario, so we know the history of the couples and why this is happening. The couples are all great characters, that provide elements of humour and drama that make this story poignant reading. Penny married Kirk when she was very young and was naive to think that this vegan, free loving hippy would love her forever but Kirk was unable to keep his love to himself and suddenly she finds herself in the divorce hotel. Meek and always happy to please, she finally finds her voice and is quick to tell laid back Kirk what she really thinks of him which is hilarious. Jo and David were a couple that I felt huge sympathy for. Jo is a busy, perfectionist businesswoman with a sharp tongue who likes everything to be in order. David is her complete polar opposite, a carefree actor, he enjoys an easy life which seems to stress Jo out. But, as the story develops, we see the true reason behind the couple staying at the hotel, which I found particularly heartbreaking. Finally the last couple are Lucy and Andrew. Lucy is a successful model and girl about town, who fell for Andrew who is quite a bit older than her and his son and daughter hate Lucy as she only a few years older than them. Another sad story, where this time the stepchildren don’t like their new stepmother and make her life hell particularly during the recession.
With a pretty cover and a catchy title, that had me singing Abba for the duration of the story, this book has a wonderful cast, which makes the story genuinely gripping. Cleverly written from the perspective guests of the hotel plus Chloe as an observer and a neutral being, we see the insights into their lives and the mutual heartache that they are all experiencing. I find Claudia’s books so easy to read and enjoy and last year I was fortunate to meet her at an event and ever since, when I read her books, I hear her voice telling me the story in her soft lilting Dublin accent. A compelling story that is hilarious in parts and a tearjerker in others, ‘Love Me Or Leave Me’ is a lovely story that shows with a little bit of time and space, a divorce doesn’t have to be the last resort and occasionally we can all get our happy endings. Another treat from one of my favourite Irish authors.
You can buy Love Me Or Leave Me from Amazon and is available to buy from good bookshops.