Having already read, enjoyed and reviewed Torn by this author, I was expecting Life Class to be a good read too. And it was.
Genre: Contemporary Women’s Fiction/Romance
Four people hide secrets from the world and themselves. Dory is disillusioned by men and relationships, having seen the damage sex can do. Fran deals with her mid-life crisis by pursuing an online flirtation which turns threatening. Stefan feels he is a failure and searches for self-validation through his art. Dominic is a lost boy, heading for self-destruction. They meet regularly at a life-drawing class, led by sculptor Stefan. They all want a life different from the one they have, but all have made mistakes they know they cannot escape. They must uncover the past – and the truths that come with it – before they can make sense of the present and navigate a new path into the future.
As in Torn, the setting and characters are the main strengths of the story.
The descriptions of places are subtle but just detailed enough for the reader to draw up their own pictures of the area, homes, classroom and studio where most of the action takes place.
This time we have four main characters, sisters Dory and Fran, artist, Stefan and teenager, Dom. The first three are slightly older but no wiser than characters in more conventional romances and they’re all the more interesting for that. They all have their own very human flaws but it’s to the author’s credit that they all still remain sympathetic and likeable. The reader wants Fran to find peace, Dory and Stefan to find love and companionship and Dom to get a bit of a break in his difficult young life.
The plot plays out from each of their points of view in turn. This could get tricky and a lot the narrative is introspective, but Gilli Allan is well up to the job of keeping it all flowing and easy to follow.
There’s always enough going on to keep you turning the pages. What is the relationship between Stefan and Dom? Will Fran be able to find a way back from the difficulties she gets herself into? Can Dory recover from past troubles and get her life back together again? And, of course, there’s the will they /won’t they potential for romance.
My only slight nit-pick is the editing. The author has obviously done lots of research into artistic and medical techniques, but there was way too much technical information included in the story. This could have been cut considerably without detracting from the novel or the reader’s understanding in any way. However, it’s a sign how good the book actually is that it remains a page turner in spite of that.
All in all Life Class is a very good read. Like Torn it’s much more complex and layered than chick-lit, definitely Romance-plus, and it’s all the more satisfying for that.
Type of Read: After darkness has fallen, sit on the sofa, by a log fire, curtains drawn. Christmas cake and mulled wine to hand. Curl up and enjoy.
Life Class is published by Accent Press and is available as a paperback and as an e-book.