Sign of the Times by Susan Buchanan
Released 16th March 2012
Paperback 373 pages
Publisher Self Published
Source Sent a copy by Susan.
Twelve people. Twelve star signs.
Sagittarius - Holly, a travel writer, visits Tuscany to research her next book. Seeking help when her car breaks down, she gets more than assistance when Dario, a vineyard owner, puts temptation in her path. Disappearing without explanation, he proves elusive. Bruised, Holly tries to put it behind her until a chance encounter brings her feelings to the surface again.
Capricorn – Holly’s fiancé, Tom misses her while she is in Italy and turns to an internet chat room for solace. His construction business is under threat, but could foul play be at work?
Gemini - Holly’s sister, Lucy, a serial man-eater finally meets her match, which puts her long-term relationship and career in jeopardy. Cheating she discovers, can have devastating consequences.
Libra - Holly’s uncle Jack, an eminent prosecutor, juggles a difficult teenage son with his high profile career and finds himself lacking. When his son’s school work starts slipping, he decides he needs to take control, but it’s not long before the balls all come tumbling down and Jack finds his family on the wrong side of the law.
One event binds them all…
I hadn't heard of Susan Buchanan until she contacted me via Twitter asking if she could send me a copy of her book – of course I accepted! I didn't know a whole lot about the book or Susan’s history, so I just got myself stuck into the book with no expectations.
This is a hard review for me to write, I Susan a great deal for her hard work and determination – however I always promised myself that I would review all books honestly and for me this book really didn’t work.
At first, I loved the idea of this story – being told by 12 different people, with different star signs, different personalities and different outlooks on life. It was a new idea, and rather adventurous, but a really interesting idea.
However, in reality I found that there were far too many characters for the story – along with the 12 main characters; you have their family and friends which added far too many complications to it. The first chapter focused on Holly and then it was Tom, followed by Maggie, Jennifer and Ben and then you had Oscar, then Lucy and Carl, then Maria, then Antonia and Jack and finally Czeslawa.
Each of the characters fit together somehow – a bit like in Love Actually. Holly and Tom are engaged, Lucy is Holly’s sister and lives with Carl. Jennifer is friends with Holly, as well as Maggie and is girlfriend to Ben. Antonia is another friend of Holly’s and is married to Jack who is going into business with Oscar. Maria is Holly’s book launched and wedding planner and Czeslawa works for her.
Along with all of these you have various wife’s, ex-wife’s, children, brothers, sisters, husbands, mothers, fathers, neighbours, employees, friends, colleagues, a mistress, hotel owners and her children, and so many others.
Each chapter focuses on one particular character and looks at what is going on in their life at a particular moment. I really liked reading the story from each characters viewpoint and you really got to see this when Maggie and Jennifer went away from the weekend and Jennifer met Ben. You got to see how Jennifer felt for Ben and him for her, plus the outsiders perspective.
Aside from the volume of characters, another aspect of the book that really confused me was the timeline – each new character started at a different point in time and you never really knew where you were with the story. I found the narrative particular confusing when Antoina’s chapter ended with a police officer arriving at her door to discuss her son and with Jack working on a case about an illegal immigrant. Then Jack’s chapter started several months/weeks earlier with him working on a completely different case with Felix booking their family holiday. His did eventually reach the dinner party and I did find out why the police officer was there, but in getting to that it took a lot to figure out exactly where in time you were.
As for the ending, for me there were a lot of loose ends and those that had been tied up were done in a rush. Lucy’s chapter ended with her seemingly in a car accident, in the final chapter the aftermath of this was explained but I felt it was skimmed over. The same with Anotina, Jack and Felix’s situation, the fallout from the police visit was cover over a few sentences. I would have likes to have followed the characters through each of their situations as opposed to briefly touching on it. Yes, it would have made the book longer, but it would have made the story more complete.
I know I sound very negative in this review and I really don’t want to, because aside for the points above, this really is a lovely story. With a view finishing touches or even a second book, the story could be rounded off with all characters getting the ending that they deserve. I think Susan was very adventurous with this story, and maybe she didn't pull it off but, credit where it is due, she did a very good job in trying. As her debut novel, I am looking forward to seeing her develop with her forthcoming projects.
If you are a fan of the film Love Actually, this will definitely appeal to you.